I recently watched the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, “The Dark Knight Rises”. There’s a lot that can be said about the emotional, psychological, or philosophical elements of the story, but I’d like to focus on the particular element of the business undertones of the story.
Without going into too much detail, there are scenes of massive fights in Gotham’s financial district. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you would know that this highly resembles the scenes of protest that dominated headlines during the “Occupy Wall Street” movement (and many other similar protests in different cities) that popularized phrases like the “1% vs 99%”. I can say that these weren’t exactly elements of the movie’s plot line, but it certainly draws from that real-life experience or, at the very least, the imagery that this wave of protests created.
Has Christopher Nolan immortalized the Occupy protests in history? Has he touched on an element of political development that will be talked about for generations to come, or is it just opportunistic movie-writing?
It’s certainly not the first time that a movie has taken a political event like a mass protest and incorporated it into a movie’s plot line (see, for example, Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump). But this is pegged to be a movie that we will remember for generations due to the size and grandeur of it. So are we looking at a movie that will be remembered by generations to come for its scenes of mass protest? If so, how will the coming generations remember this moment in history: a bright moment in expression of freedom, or an unsettling peek at the ‘dangers of socialism’?
Is “The Decadence of the Corrupt” the way to live? (**WARNING: SPOILER ALERT**)
The movie depicts key elements of socialism in its ugliest forms. The complete removal property rights and its replacement with a questionable court system (with no due process) seems to hint that if the Occupy protesters had their way, centuries of legal tradition and development would be thrown out the window and mocked in a pre-determined trial. Supporters of socialism may disagree with this view, while others might claim that to take the interpretation of the movie this far is a bit far-fetched. But it’s certainly the impression that the movie made on me, and if that’s true at all, then some would likely have a problem with what the protagonist of the story is fighting to preserve: the social system that allowed this disparity between the rich and the poor.
In the end, Batman is successful in destroying Bane’s attempt to destroy the social order of Gotham and, while we do not see the process of re-building what surely became a failed city, one can only assume that “things went back to the way they were before”. Sure, no one is happy seeing poor people struggling to survive in the streets, or being lied to by public officials, but according to Nolan’s latest installment, this is the best that we can do. At least, that’s what he’s trying to tell us. Students of political sciences (like myself) might be reminded of the Francis Fukuyama piece titled “The End of History?”, which sparked a lot of debate and discussion in classrooms and elsewhere. Is Nolan simply reinforcing the idea outlined by Fukuyama: that liberal democracy is the penultimate stage of human development?
It’s certainly a lot to take in. Perhaps this will only be remembered as a movie and nothing else. Perhaps people don’t look to Hollywood for snippets of human history. Perhaps, in the end, this will only be remembered as a man who jumped around in a cape in a fictional city, with no reflection on who we are as a collective society and how we saw ourselves during this time.