“The Dark Knight Rises is brainwashing propaganda”

Controversial American radio personality Rush Limbaugh has stated that the newly released Hollywood blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises is attempting to brainwash simple-minded movie-goers in order to bring to the forefront Barack Obama’s presidential agenda. Limbaugh claims that by naming the villain of the summer popcorn flick Bane, connotations of the financial services company Bain Capital – founded by presidential candidate Mitt Romney (amongst others) back in 1984 – will be drawn. Before we all shake our heads and dismiss whatever Limbaugh has to say, perhaps it’s worth examining a little more closely because as ridiculous as it might sound…he may just have a point.

Rush Limbaugh receiving an award.
By Nicolas Shayko, via Wikimedia Commons

First off, it’s worth noting that Limbaugh has frequently proven himself to be an extreme right wing conservative controversy magnet. It almost seems like the man is incapable of opening his mouth without saying something ardently offensive to non-white middle aged men with comfortable income based in the United States. He’s a man with a lot to say and much of it lacks any coherent rhyme or reason, not to mention often lacking in suitable research or evidence with which to back up his points; but that doesn’t mean that his point, in this case, is entirely invalid.

The Dark Knight Rises is the final act in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. For a super-hero franchise, Nolan has been more than willing to delve into political matters previously. Batman Begins was clearly, from execution, a post 9/11 production with terrorism being the big bad word on display and public destruction being the cause that united the costumed vigilante Batman with the police forces of the movie. Within The Dark Knight, though, the political perspective got a little more skewed. Terrorism was still present with the Joker menace terrorizing Gotham, but Batman himself seemed to tackle issues that the American Government has trouble with, illegally extraditing a Chinese national from their country of origin in order to prosecute him for his Gotham City based criminal activities, not to mention the wiretapping of every phone in a city to ‘bring down the greater threat’.  By having Batman take on elements of the Bush administration, Nolan is arguably suggestion one of two things: Either Batman is more of a villain in this story than he seems to be, or that Batman is a right wing conservative, like Mitt Romney, like George W. Bush and like Rush Limbaugh

So where does Bane fall into all of this? Bane is an interesting villain because he is not above using economic sabotage. By all means he’s still a terrorist who will commit atrocities to achieve whatever goal he has but in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is willing to attack the stock exchange leading many characters into poverty. Throughout The Dark Knight Rises, social warfare appears to be ongoing, but in a more literal sense with Bane liberating the poor and pushing them to loot and tear Gotham apart from the inside out. One of the action scenes from the movie even appears to take place on a fictional Wall Street. The Dark Knight Rises is very much a political film, factoring in the economic crisis that we all experienced just a few years ago and exaggerating the results to the scope of a superhero film. But the lens this time appears much more liberal than conservative. Much more critical of companies like Bain Capital who thought they could take so much and leave so little for the rest. Ironically, the man who is giving normal upright citizens the chance to lash out is the villain Bane, so it is possible that once again Batman will come forward as a very conservative character.

What of the name ‘Bane’, though? Was that purposefully chosen for Obama’s propaganda machine? Well, probably not. Bane has been a character in the DC comics universe since 1993 and was even briefly featured in the 1997 film Batman and Robin. Bane has never been above economic terrorism but it has hardly ever been the character’s sole motivation, so it appears unlikely that he was named after Bain Capital.

That Christopher Nolan or Warner Bros. ever intended or considered the parallel between Bane, the villain, and Bain Capital is possible, if unlikely, regardless of what Rush Limbaugh immediately assumes. Even so, it’s interesting to see how a propagator of mindless controversy can occasionally hit upon a relatively valid point.