Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Darker the Knight the Brighter the Star

I kind of enjoyed The Dark Knight. Of course, the 'philosophy' behind it was a crude and simplistic justification of the importance of 'law and order' in capitalist society. Both it and Batman Begins can and should also be read as an ideological legitimation of the 'war on terror', with Liam Neeson's 'League of Shadows' -or whatever they were called - as a representation of Al Qaida (they come from Asia and like terrorism) and Michael Caine's butler Alfred dismissing The Joker with 'Some men don't want anything logical like money. Some men just want to watch the world burn' - is also another perhaps slightly more subtle attack on dem' 'evil doers' who apparently constitute the main threat to world peace today. Doug and Lenin in their reviews of the film explain all of the flaws in the film in a much more compelling and convincing way.

However, I disagree with Lenin's description of Batman as in some way a kind of 'fascist' film. Yeah, its about a 'billionaire playboy with a penchant for sadistic violence' but if glorifying violence and hard 'super-heroes' make a film 'fascist' then half all all Hollywood action films must be in someway 'fascist'. But then, how to explain their popularity? If Batman was in some way 'fascist', surely people would not come out of the cinema and tell their friends 'yeah, its alright - go and see it' in the numbers that people must have been doing to make it the massive box office success it has been. Politically and morally, the underlying message of the film may be more than dubious - but if we are going to have Batman films made, I for one would rather have Christian Bale keeping Batman quite a dark character in the manner of the early Tim Burton films rather than Hollywood serving up shit involving any of the following: Val Kilmir*, Chris' O Donnell, George Clooney** or Jim Carrey. Artistically, both BatmanBegins and The Dark Knight work reasonably well as films, in my opinion. And for Marxists, artistic merit should count for something.

* Though Val Kilmir was quite good in Heat.
** Clooney has probably been involved in one or two good films too in his time, though he is sadly well and truly being used as a poster boy for imperial power over the question of Darfur.

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3 Comments:

At 1:50 pm, Blogger Philip said...

If Batman was in some way 'fascist', surely people would not come out of the cinema and tell their friends 'yeah, its alright - go and see it' in the numbers that people must have been doing to make it the massive box office success it has been

I don't see that it follows, necessarily. Even assuming that most people don't care for "fascism" in their lives, that's no reason to assume that they might not enjoy a bit of it in the cinema.

 
At 9:00 pm, Anonymous Jack Stephens said...

Good blog post snowball. I really hate the oversimplification on the film The Dark Knight (which in-itself is a simple movie) on how it is a fascist film that praises Bush.

There's a great article on the Socialist Worker (U.S.) that basically says The Dark Knight kinda has it both ways.

http://socialistworker.org/2008/08/06/the-dark-knight-has-it-both-wa

 
At 12:30 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

'that's no reason to assume that they might not enjoy a bit of [fascism] in the cinema.'

You may well have a point, philip. After all, as Trotsky noted, 'there is a little bit of Hitler in every exasperated petit bourgeois', and given the credit crunch and general pressures of neoliberalism, the number of petit bourgeois around who are exasperated is probably on the increase. They might just like a little bit of fascism at the cinema.

However, I still am optimistic enough to think the great mass of people would not embrace a film if even it was a little bit fascist.

 

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