Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
It’s almost finals week, and as the stress increases, so does the need for some escapism. So let’s talk about Batman. Pointy mask things, effective utility belt and an unnecessarily deep voice, Batman has been an icon for DC Comics since his inception in 1939.
“Hey you liberal columnist, Batman doesn’t have anything to do with politics or ideologies, all he does is beat up people dressed like penguins and jesters.”
How observant, but alas, wrong. Characters throughout the Batman universe routinely exemplify political themes and often, actions of the characters mirror the political landscape in the real world. Good thing we have Batman’s fists of justice to protect us. See that, political already. Oh and spoilers, so be ready.
In the most recent movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” direct parallels can be drawn between the anarchical state that the villain, Bane, introduces and the class struggles of today. Many critics (like all of them) have observed that the Gotham City Bane creates after he buries the police force and destroys all but one bridge out of the city harkens to a radical leftist state, one where “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you … the people. Gotham is yours.”
I guess it doesn’t matter that he is going to blow the city up after a few months. Hey Bane, if the city is ours, can we not die in a nuclear fusion explosion?
That Bane holds tribunals for the rich, gives the city to the people and effectively destroys all methods of governance is radical. But the roots of these actions can be seen in multiple aspects of other movements. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement was one such event, and both it and Bane attempt to highlight the blatantly obvious socioeconomic gap within our own society, though OWS wasn’t led by a man with a crab on his face secretly planning to kill everyone.
The OWS movement was something of an anomaly, in that the characterization of the movement by media outlets was patchy at best. Conservatives and liberals alike not only had no idea where the movement was going, but also denied any claim to it. It is exactly because of this ambiguity that some believe the movie to be “a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street.” This notion is a mischaracterization of not only the movie itself, but Bane and Batman as characters as well as the OWS movement.
The basis for Bane’s actions lie in his desire to destroy Gotham, and that he uses class struggle and the gaps in economic status as the justification for such destruction does not mean that the recognition of such a divide is a necessarily violent thing. Americans pride themselves on the semblance of equality for all (except for gay rights and marriage, immigrants and gender) but when confronted with the idea of economic equality, we balk. Bane plays on our inability to face the issue, and uses it against Gotham and Batman.
Additionally, Batman’s own values can be seen not only as moral codes but codes that can be applied to political processes — less in the dress-up-in-a-leather-bat-costume way and more in the way of dealing with criminals. There have been so many instances where he could take the life of the villain, and chooses not to in favor of the belief in rehabilitation. Despite his ardent adherence to not killing, he often must come to terms with the fact that the villains keep escaping and keep causing chaos.
Whether that is a reflection of the Gotham prison system or not, it can be paralleled to our own debates over the death penalty. Maryland is about to become the 18th state to outlaw the death penalty, and in doing so the state shows a shift toward a rehabilitative system of punishment, as compared to one that seeks out retribution.
Throughout history, literature and art have been ways of examining events that happen in our own world. They provide the opportunity to comment on society and culture. Batman, despite being a super hero, despite being fictitious, despite being a man who goes out at night, dressed like a bat, to fight crime, is simply another way for us to look at ourselves. Politics, Batman, same thing.
This is Zachary Antoyan, wishing the days when it was this nice outside were California Appreciation Days, in which school is cancelled. Have a great week, and kick some finals ass for me.