Libertarian Perspective on Politics in “The Dark Knight Rises”

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! Within this post are comments about specific story plot points that are in the film “The Dark Knight Rises”. Do not read further if you have not seen the film. You have been warned. In the event of an actual emergency you would have been directed to put your head between your knees and pray for God’s mercy upon your wretched soul before you died a horrible screaming death of insufferable pain. Wait… what was I talking about…

Oh yeah, “The Dark Knight Rises”.

Anyway, in the movie… Did I give the SPOILER ALERT? I Did? Okay, good.

In the movie, the villain, Bane, gets almost all of the police of Gotham City trapped underground. He then establishes a sort of mob rule order, wherein everyone owns everything and the wealthy are punished for being wealthy. Who can guess of what political system I am reminded by this? Anyone. Yes, you there, the cute girl on the front row. Socialism. Yes, good girl. You get to stay after class for your reward. My what lovely round…

Sorry, I got distracted for a moment.

Anyway, ah, oh , yes, so now can can anyone tell me of what other movie this scenario in “The Dark Knight Rises” is a reminder? Anyone? Yes, you there with the smug sneer. “Reds”, no, I have never seen it. Anyone else? Yes, you there in the back with the bored look on your face. “Doctor Zhivago”. Yes, well done. What? No, you may not stay and watch the cute girl on the front row get her reward. Hm? Fair? When you get your own blog you can pretend to be a professor and pretend to have a cute girl in the front row that you can reward for arbitrary reasons.

Where was I? I was trying to keep this whole blog thing from the same old tedious me spouting my op… I mean, I was talking about socialism in “The Dark Knight Rises”.

In the movie, what Bane establishes is closer to a communist revolt than socialism proper. The people rise up to overthrow the municipal government and the wealthy, and he gets away with it because he has trapped the people who would protect the government and property rights, the police, in the sewer system under the city. Which is, in part, silly, because if he had played his cards right, he could have used the city government to take over all the property. Just ask the government of New London, Connecticut.

Anyway, we see in the film people taking over other people’s property, and as Christopher Nolan rightly surmises is inevitable, a sort of people’s court where people are punished without due process for being enemies of the people. They are summarily judged and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, the one element Nolan has left out of the film is the murderous executioner. Instead of being shot or killed, the punished victims merely have to walk out on to thin ice until they fall through.

Anyway, interestingly, there is nuclear bomb that is going to go off regardless of what the people do. Bane explains at one point that he wants the people to have hope so that they will fully despair when the end comes. I cannot say what Christopher Nolan and the other screenwriters were thinking of as they wrote this out, but through my libertarian mindset I see a commentary about how totalitarianism, even when coming from a supposedly populist uprising, is not going to make the people safe.

That said, the fact that the police are kept sealed up and then released finally to rescue the city from what Bane has done is also interesting. It looks like commentary that people need government to provide order for them. But what I see is the idea that government cannot protect you, and if you depend on the government for order and protection, then you will be defenseless if terrorists attack.

And who are the heroes of this story? Aside from a handful of police who escaped the sewers (and who accomplish little by themselves), the very much outside of government Batman and Catwoman (even though they do not call her that in the film). The Batman does not depend on government to protect himself. Catwoman seeks to escape the government after a fashion, to clear her name from government computers so that she can live a life and not have to worry about law enforcement coming after her. These are the heroes of the story.

There is one other person to be considered a hero within the story. The young cop known in the film as John Blake. And what happens at the end of the film? He throws away his badge, and leaves the police force. What does he do after that?

Did I give the SPOILER ALERT? I did? Good.

John Blake discovers the Batcave. The implication is that he takes up the mantle of the Batman. Why? Because he wants to be that symbol that Bruce Wayne started out to become. The symbol that tells people to be courageous.

Maybe it is just my bias, but I see all this as very libertarian.

Yes, cute girl on the front row, what is it?

You think it is very libertarian too? Mm. Good girl. You get to come to my office this evening for another reward. I can tell you are going to be a straight A student.

That is all for class today. Class dismissed.

4 Responses to “Libertarian Perspective on Politics in “The Dark Knight Rises””

  1. Hmmm….interesting (love your sense of humor). I didn’t see libertarianism…but you make some good points. The politics of Nolan’s trilogy are confusing – he sometimes comes across as ultra-conservative (cowboy diplomacy, taking out terrorists, spying on the populace to fight crime, an elitist/capitalist hero with unending wealth, etc…) but then he has this Fritz Lang-like streak where he seems to suggest the only way to keep true peace is through the arm of The State (in this case the police, who are trapped underground while anarchy rises) which kinda goes against neo-conservatism’s anti-government streak. (Or heck, maybe just neo-cons are confused!) Then there are all the allusions to the French Revolution. But I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about politics – I was too busy staring at the pretty girl in the front row to listen to the professor. At any rate…a lot to chew on….

    http://theschleicherspin.com/2012/07/23/orphans-terrorism-and-dickensian-economics-in-the-dark-knight-rises/

    • Well, I am biased to see libertarian overtones where possibly none were intended. I know “Avatar” was a movie with a liberal-minded pro-environmentalism and anti-corporation message. But what I saw was a film that laid down a good argument for the protection of property rights.

      Anyway, TDKR seemed very libertarian to me. Individual responsibility, the faults of mob rule, the inability of government to prevent evil from happening. That the hero is a wealthy man who uses his resources to become something he hopes will inspire people also helps. And who is the villain? Someone who wants to control people and impose an authoritarian rule that manipulates people through fear of power. The opposite of libertarianism. Whether you see the League of Shadows as socialist or fascist, they are attempting authoritarian rule, and Batman, the individual stands against them, protecting the people from them.

      • You make a compelling argument – but I saw an Individual rising so that he could restore power to The State.

        • Excellent point. One could certainly view it that way. But why was he returning power to the State? The people were not without government. They had a mob rule, authoritarian government. They had order. A dictatorial order based on fear, but order nonetheless. What was the threat?

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