Bane as Bain: There’s Nothing to See Here

Let the pundit pontificating begin. The third and final film in Christopher Nolan’s superb Batman trilogy is due to be released this Friday, and already the dogs are barking about its political nature. The Dark Knight Rises features a character named Bane, who is apparently concerned by economic inequality and isn’t opposed to resorting to terrorism to make his message known. Sound familiar?

Conservatives, after being tipped off by liberal bloggers about the homonym nature of Bane and Bain (as in Capital), have been tripping over themselves trying to sound all conspiratorial and savvy to pop-culture. Even Rush Limbaugh got into the silliness by asking: “Do you think it is accidental that the name of the really vicious firebreathing, four-eyed whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?” Um, no Rush, it is not accidental. The word bane means “a cause of great distress” and it fits perfectly the character’s demeanor and goal. Not to mention that Bane, the character, was created nearly 20 years ago by comic writer Chuck Dixon. Either Dixon is a brilliant prognosticator, or he chose the name because the definition of the word fit the character. I’m thinking it’s probably the latter.

Democrats and Republicans alike need to stop finding a partisan message behind every tree. There’s no doubt that director Christopher Nolan is sending a message with his film (all directors and films do this), but trying to turn a script written more than two years ago and filmed more than one year ago into a modern parable about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is beyond ridiculous. The themes discussed in the movie may contain echoes of modern events, but this is simply because the political climate has been charged with terrorism and income inequality (the “banes” of modern America) for years. Viewers may be able to read modern events back into the film, but saying the film itself is about modern events is overstating the case. Actor Gary Oldman (who plays Commissioner Gordon in the trilogy) states the situation well: “At the time, I don’t think two years ago, two-and-a-half years ago, that you can predict that. You can take the temperature of something, but you can’t — as brilliant as Christopher Nolan is, he doesn’t have a crystal ball. So, it’s very much culture and our consciousness, isn’t it? Our subconscious, where we’re at in the world right now. So, you can read in rather than read out.”

Oldman’s fellow actor in the film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, said this: “I think it will start a lot of conversations, and that’s a good thing; that’s really what a movie ought to do. A movie like this shouldn’t necessarily propose the solution to our economic crises, but to get people talking, that’s good.” Indeed it should: getting people to talk to each other rather than past each other. Looking for boogeymen in the film doesn’t constitute conversation, whether it is coming from the left or the right.

All of this highlights a deeper problem with modern political debate. Both sides are only looking to reinforce their own view, rather than even considering the points the opposition is making. Commentators get paid to speak, even if they have nothing of particular value to say. Rush Limbaugh needs to talk for three hours every day; even if that day’s events doesn’t warrant three hours of analysis. Sometimes a non-story gets mistaken for a real story and takes on a life that it never should have had. Bane as Bain is just such an example. Move along people, there’s much more to see up ahead. There’s nothing left to see here.