This week, Bane, the masked supervillain from The Dark Knight Rises, and Bain Capital, the financial firm co-founded by G.O.P. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are both very much in the news. It’s one of those great quirks of fate that make life feel like it’s one unbroken Abbott and Costello routine, and in a perfect world, the only fallout from the homonymic coincidence would be conversations like this: “Did you hear about Bain?” “Bane? Sure! Evil, right?” “Well, it probably leans to the right, but evil’s a strong word.” “Well, Bane does hate millionaires.” “You mean Bain makes millionaires?” Annnd so forth.
Alas, it’s also the summer months of a presidential election year, a.k.a. The Silly Season in Politics. So in the run-up to the opening weekend for The Dark Knight Rises, commentators from across the political spectrum have decided it would be great fun to link Tom Hardy’s garbley-voiced performance in Christopher Nolan’s sure-to-be-a-blockbuster with the alleged corporate shenanigans of Romney’s former firm.
On the right, Rush Limbaugh had this to say today on his radio show (via MediaMatters):
On the left, a Washington Examiner blog post from Monday quoted Democratic advisor and former Clinton aide Christopher Lehane sharing a similarly specious piece of cultural insight. Before you read on, please know that a couple slight plot SPOILERS follow:
Limbaugh and Lehane are far from the only pundits suggesting that Christopher Nolan and President Obama are somehow in cahoots. To a degree, one can see how this sort of connection could be made, given that The Dark Knight Rises‘ story focuses on the One Percent of Gotham City. Nolan himself said as much in this week’s EW cover story on the film:
But if any of these political junkies bothered to dig even just a little into the mythology Nolan’s crafted for his Dark Knight trilogy, they’d see that, if anything, Bruce Wayne could be interpreted as a coded reference to Mitt Romney: A man of great means and family privilege struggling to marshall his wealth for the good of people everywhere, while nefarious forces around him deliberately misinterpret his intentions and try mightily to tear him down. Bane, meanwhile, spends most of the film attacking the monied elite, not epitomizing them.
As any respectable member of the brain-dead pop-culture crowd can tell you, though, stories that deal with mythic heroes and villains are pretty well designed to be interpreted in different ways by whomever is consuming them. Is Catwoman a commentary on the perceived moral elasticity of ambitious women living in a profoundly sexist world? Or is she, you know, sexy and cool and stuff? Besides, if you’re going to craft a conspiracy theory connecting Bane, The Dark Knight Rises, and the respective Obama and Romney campaigns, you really have to start back in 1993, when the character of Bane first appeared in the Batman comic books and Romney began considering his eventually unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. Obviously, the far-thinking folks at DC Comics created the character of Bane as a fail-safe cultural cudgel just in case Romney ever decided to run for public office.
By the way, here’s what Nolan had to say to EW about anyone suggesting a “political” reading to his Batman trilogy:
You can check out Nolan’s full interview in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, available on newsstands and tablets now.