I just finished a post about the idiocy in some of the reactions to the new Batman movie, and then I read on Opus that Rush Limbaugh has also allegedly bought a(nother) one-way ticket on the crazy train. Quoth El Rushbo:
Have you heard this new movie, the Batman movie, what is it, The Dark Knight Lights Up or whatever the name is. That’s right, Dark Knight Rises. Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in The Dark Knight Rises is named Bane, B-a-n-e. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran and around which there’s now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time. The release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire breathing four eyed whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?
As you may imagine, Rush’s notorious film-related foolhardiness has quickly become a punchline. From Grantland:
Continuing a long, proud tradition of saying crazy shit, Rush Limbaugh is now claiming that Bane, the TDKR villain played by Tom Hardy, is so named as a swipe at Mitt Romney. [...] Sure, but Bane is a character from the comics, and has been around since 1993, and so probably was not dreamed up by Christopher Nolan to take shots at Republicans. And, like, if Nolan really wanted to sway an electorate with the power of his movie magic, wouldn’t he have just named his bad guy “Mitt Romney”? Then you’d have millions of “brain dead pop culture people” standing in a voting booth being all like, “Well, you know, I would vote for Mitt Romney, his fiscal policy is sound and his health care plan is much more logical than Obama’s, but then again he tried to kill Batman.”
The Guardian took a similar potshot as well, linking to one of its own bloggers, Catherine Shoard, who suggested that the film has entirely the opposite message:
The Dark Knight Rises is a quite audaciously capitalist vision, radically conservative, radically vigilante, that advances a serious, stirring proposal that the wish-fulfilment of the wealthy is to be championed if they say they want to do good. Mitt Romney will be thrilled. What’s strange is that quite so many of the rest of us seem to want to buy into it.
And it’s a message of which Shoard obviously does not approve. Fair enough, I suppose. Critics are paid to criticize, after all. Interesting that she managed to link Mitt Romney to The Dark Knight Rises without being lambasted by her newspaper, though. Not only does she backhand the film for being so Romney-esque in its vision, but she backhands the audience as well, much as Limbaugh did in his comments. Of course, Rush being Rush, he used words like “brain-dead people,” and framed the whole thing as a Leftist conspiracy to target Mitt Romney in particular, as opposed to being Right wing propaganda designed to brainwash “the rest of us” into swallowing the film’s “bells and whistles feudalism.” Which is to say, apparently people on the Right and the Left can read things into a piece of entertainment. That’s not so strange, is it?
Well, it is if you take the film’s makers’ word for it.
Here are some quotes from the New Zealand Herald. Christopher Nolan on Limbaugh:
I’m not sure how to address something that bizarre, to be honest. I really don’t have an answer for it, it’s a very peculiar comment to make.
Morgan Freeman on Limbaugh:
Chris wrote a fictional story that didn’t have any political thoughts in mind, so it’s like art or something you know, it’s all in the mind of the beholder.
For the time being, let’s set aside our crushing, collective disappointment in the fact that Freeman’s response is barely subliterate. I believe that Nolan had no plan to link Bain Capital to Bane the Bat-breaker, for a myriad of abundantly clear reasons. Yet I wonder if Nolan would agree with his own star that there were “no political thoughts in mind,” or that everything about art is entirely “in the mind of the beholder.” Perhaps he would, to be charitable. But Nolan seems far too canny to be that naive or thoughtless about his own work. Even if it is true that Nolan intended no particular political message with Dark Knight Rises (which I doubt), it can still be political in the sense that it is now an artifact of its time and place. To that end, anyone who wants to use it as part of a politically-aware piece of criticism can do it with a claim to legitimacy, whether they’re praising the film’s politics or condemning them. On Opus, Jason Morehead was quick to point out that both sides immediately tried to bend the film to their own uses.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to watch the trailers and not catch some sort of political subtext, as the movie (apparently) touches on matters of social unrest and wealth inequality (director Christopher Nolan had even contemplated shooting scenes at the Occupy Wall Street protests, but decided against it). Even so, this sort of pop culture name-dropping being done by both sides of the political spectrum is just sad and lame, like a dad trying to be “hip” and hang with his kid’s friends.
And that actually brings us back to Rush Limbaugh. You see, Rush Limbaugh may be an idiot, but the people dogpiling on him are guilty of the same brand of idiocy that landed El Rushbo in the crosshairs in the first place. Anyone who listens to the entire clip (or reads the entire transcript) will discover that this crazy conspiracy theory did not originate in his addled mind:
Now, there’s a story in the Washington Times Communities today: “Is Mitt Romney…Batman? — Opponents of Mitt Romney have noticed that the name of Batman’s villain in the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises is homonymous with the name of an investment firm that Romney founded in 1984.”
Here’s the story Limbaugh cited. Limbaugh said in so many words that he didn’t understand the point of the story, which is unsurprising to anyone who has listened to his oft-incoherent rants. The point Amanda Read (who seems to be a conservative) was making is that it’s not Bane who is the Romney corollary, but Bruce Wayne, and it appears that she was reacting to stories like this one in the Wall Street Journal (or the Examiner article cited in Morehead’s blog entry) in which some Democrats are cited making the link between Bain and Bane. And one of them is Jon Stewart, who appears to be doing little more than going for an easy laugh. Which is to say, this crazy conspiracy theory started with left-leaning Democrats and/or comedians, not a right-wing Republican. The point that I believe Rush was trying to make in his usual blustery, hazy, cogency-challenged way is that there are many liberals/Democrats who may attempt to draw a thematic link between Romney and Bane. This isn’t a hard point to make, but I guess being clear and succinct doesn’t make for good talk radio. (At least, not if you’re filtered through the fabled Golden EIB microphone.)
To cap it off, Chuck Dixon, who created Bane (with illustrator Graham Nolan — no relation to the film’s director) for the Knightfall storyline back in the early 90s, is a conservative. His reaction to the Bain-Bane link?
Bane is a force for evil and the destruction of the status quo. He’s far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you’re looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney.
So what have we learned from all this? Basically, Rush Limbaugh is an idiot; the people dogpiling on Rush Limbaugh (not including Morehead) are idiots; the liberals who actually created the Bain-Bane link are idiots. Even Morgan Freeman is apparently an idiot sometimes, which breaks my penguin-loving heart. It’s about a quarter to one in the morning, and I just spent the last two hours writing a blog post about all these idiots, which probably makes me an idiot, too. This movie had better be good.☕
Update: Apparently, the myth that Limbaugh originated the Bane-Bain link continues to proliferate. io9 writer Lauren Davis takes for granted that this whole thing started with El Rushbo, and even when a commenter points her to the transcript, she still doesn’t get it. Sigh.