The Politics of Batman


Nearly every movie (and not to forget, literature) can be relied on to express political idealism.

Art is art.

There is a reason why the phrase "bleeding hearts and artists" exist and it’s not just because of Roger Waters.

Art is a medium of self-expression.

Over two millennia ago there was Asinus aureus (The Golden Ass) by Apuleius. A story about a man named Lucius who through his fascination in magic gets turned into an ass. This provides him a looking glass into class divisions and how the lower realm of humanity is exploited by the rich

Half a century ago we had classics like Salt of the Earth, that showed us the importance of the labor movement.

Today we got The Boondock Saints, where the movies opening statement derides the "indifference of good men."

In the Disney/Pixar film, A Bug’s Life, there is a heavy emphasis on the importance of solidarity.

In Spiderman, Uncle Ben reminds us that, "with great power comes great responsibility."

And yesterday I was pleased to hear Lt. Gordon, in The Dark Knight, say something to this effect: "I don’t need idealism to score political points. I work with what I got."

In other words, lofty ideals about how things can and should be is not enough and certainly not as important as working with what one has now.

This is the common argument of reformists.

And it’s not that idealism isn’t important. We need to be able to see beyond our noses. To have ideals about what we want. We also need to be grounded to the present so we can best see how we plan to get there.

There were other valuable moments in the movie (i.e. Batman’s views on heroes, the scene about the decisions on the boats, etc) that could be used culturally to reach people, but I will probably need to watch the movie a few more times to synthesize it.

The point is that the culturally shared values are there. The idealism is there. But as Lt. Gordon so eloquently pointed out, what is needed to score political points is direct action.

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