In between the right wing of American politics stomping up and down about Hollywood liberals like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, occasionally they take a break and instead summarily hijack a beloved film for their own political means. As opposed to successfully producing content that is undoubtedly in line with their politics, guys like Rush Limbaugh and Brietbart are quicker to repurpose an already well-packaged product.
That’s exactly what Brietbart.com did with Christopher Nolan’s second foray into Gotham, praising The Dark Knight for its clear anti-terrorism pro-Patriot Act stance. This became a major talking point throughout the news and blogosphere as the film’s popularity grew. And for folks as far right as Limbaugh, it must have felt like Christmas.
I mean, here we have a film that justifies the entire eight years under President Bush’s White House…or so Rush would say. As you doubtless recall, after Heath Ledger’s the Joker wreaks havoc through the streets, Batman’s only chance to stop him is to use a device that eerily echoes the kind of spy tactics Eric Snowden has accused the NSA of utilizing. For a brief period, it does appear that Batman is willing to suspend the notion of private citizenship for the good of the people.
It’s almost a decent argument for the right to make. However, several aspects of the film, as well as the right’s reactionary behavior toward the final film in the trilogy, almost instantly nullify it. Shortly after the one-time use of the Bat-superspy computer, it is made to self-destruct. The faith put in Bats is repaid in full only because he vows never to do it more than once, unlike the real-life NSA counterpart. As for the film being anti-terrorist, this seems less like a partisan issue (nor should it be) and more like an “I don’t want to die issue.”
Also of note is the fact that Nolan never came off as much of a politically polarizing figure. Rather, like any good artist, Nolan’s batfilms merely reflect the fears of the era without falling on either side of the debate.
Things only became less convincing in 2012, when The Dark Knight Rises was released. While Brietbart’s website stood tall and supported the film’s seemingly anti-occupy Wall Street attitude, Limbaugh went on a long, ill-informed rant about the villain’s name. He claimed Bane (Tom Hardy), a major player in Batman’s rogues gallery, was named after Bain Capital, the Venture Investment firm co-founded by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This could be seen as an honest mistake, as no one could expect a man like Limbaugh to be an avid comic book fan (or, some would argue, a fan of words that didn’t start with “Oxy”) but was only compounded when real-life horrors took centrestage.
The slaughter at a screening of the film in Aurora, California was almost immediately politicized by both the right and left the moment shooter James Holmes put his weapons down. ABC news reported that Holmes may have ties to the right-wing Tea Party. Soon after, Brietbart.com blogger Joel Pollak not only called out ABC, but claimed Holmes was a registered Democrat. As it was later revealed, Holmes was never even registered to vote.
Neither side issued any form of apology for their errors. Like former Senator Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting a year earlier in Tucson, Arizona, no one on or near the beltway cared to admit that if any guilt could be ascribed to politics, it was only keeping the level of debate on either end so acrimonious that the crazies would eventually want a say. Tragically, their say involved lead, not words.
From what we know, it sure as hell didn’t have much to do with a movie.
Sure, there have been attempts by conservative filmmakers to make their own statements, but rarely – if ever – have they had a successful box office run. The most notable example in recent years was David Zucker’s abysmal “comedy” An American Carol, in which a Michael Moore-esque filmmaker gets his comeuppance after being visited by General Douglas MacArthur and George Washington. Carol currently holds an 11 percent approval rating from critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
You have to feel a little sorry for conservatives in Hollywood. Their biggest-name supporters with the exception of Clint Eastwood come across as has-beens and never-weres like Ted Nugent and Meatloaf. Their public rhetoric tends to come across less like dignified rebuttal and more like frightening calls to arms.