Batman = Bush?

On a tip from commentor ying.

VERY MINOR SPOILERS for the film The Dark Knight.


Taken in whole from Wall Street Journal:

What Bush and Batman Have in Common

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That’s not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a “W.”

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Conversely, time after time, left-wing films about the war on terror — films like “In The Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “Redacted” — which preach moral equivalence and advocate surrender, that disrespect the military and their mission, that seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism, have bombed more spectacularly than Operation Shock and Awe.

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense — values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right — only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like “300,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Narnia,” “Spiderman 3” and now “The Dark Knight”?

The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?

The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of “The Dark Knight” itself: Doing what’s right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They’re wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don’t always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, “He has to run away — because we have to chase him.”

That’s real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised — then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Perhaps that’s when Hollywood conservatives will be able to take off their masks and speak plainly in the light of day.

Mr. Klavan has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. His new novel, “Empire of Lies” (An Otto Penzler Book, Harcourt), is about an ordinary man confronting the war on terror.


Some people like Batman for his uncompromising stance against crime. Some people like Bush for his uncompromising stance against terrorism.

Many people hate Batman for his vigilantism. Many people hate Bush for his unilateral actions.

The criminal underworld of Gotham hate and fear Batman for his effectiveness in crushing their unlawful operations. The terrorists of the world hate (and fear, though they would never admit it) Bush for his effectiveness in killing more than 20,000 of their fighters sent to Iraq.

Batman’s campaign caused a temporary increase in casualties, as the mob and the Joker struck back with a vengeance. Bush’s crusade caused a temporary increase in casualties, as the terrorists and their supporters struck back in the name of jihad.

But after the darkest hour, Batman’s victory brings Gotham into a new dawn of peace and order. Bush has brought peace and order to Iraq, but we are still in the darkest hour as Bush’s victory may yet be snatched away by the defeatist rhetoric and intentions of a potential successor.

In the end, Batman is outcast and hunted for pushing against the status quo – which was to let crime run along as usual while the populace cowers in submission. At the end of his two terms, Bush is one of the least popular Presidents for pushing against the status quo – which was to appease terrorist demands while they blow up the cowering populace.

See also how another box office winning superhero show, Iron Man, featured an unrepentant crusade against terrorists in Iron Man Review at No Apologies in Killing Terrorists.

And compare to the terrorist-pandering, self-defeatist antics of Redacted, Stop Loss and other films which flopped spectacularly in Brian De Palma’s Redacted Rejected by Audiences.

Finally, a lesser-known factoid: Conservative Republican strongman Leahy Coburn who bravely fights against Democrat bullying in Congress had a guest appearance in The Dark Knight! How’s that for prophetic?


Hey, did the South Park guys read the same article? To wit:

Actually, we had this one storyline where Bush was going to show up at the end and take the blame – like Batman does in Dark Knight. Because people need someone to hate. And we’d make him this heroic figure who takes the blame, because that would just f*** with people.”

PS See also The Sacrificial Presidency of George W. Bush.

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “Batman = Bush?”

  1. KHarn Says:

    I didn’t see the movie, but you hit the spirit right on target.

  2. Charles O'Meara Says:

    i hate to spoil the right’s little pseudo-intellecutal analysis, but the problem with the logic expressed in the wall st. journal editorial is that militant muslims could read this movie in reverse: bush = the destabilizing force in the world, bin laden = the lone voice willing to take action. you could take this editorial and subsitute ‘bin laden’ for bush and muslims would say ‘yeah, that’s a great editorial’. despite the high flown verbiage and attempts to discredit left wing thought with a quasi intellectual analysis of art and politics, this editorial is so full of holes you could drive a hummer through it, if you can afford the gas to do so

  3. Scott Thong Says:

    Ah, standar leftist arguments. Lots of accusations (holes that a hummer can be driven trhough), smears (pseudo and quasi intellectual), and moral equivalence (Bush = Bin Laden)…

    But short on the facts and actual debate (where the holes are exactly, how exactly Bush rather than Al Qaeda goes around planting bombs in hospitals and kidnapping civilians for extortion).

  4. hutchrun Says:

    Haha I spilled some coffee. That islamo irish nut really is pretty dumb. Long time since I heard a “dumb irish” joke

  5. hutchrun Says:

    In the Pennsylvania primary, Barack Obama rolled up more than 90 percent of the African-American vote. Among Catholics, he lost by 40 points. The cool liberal Harvard Law grad was not a good fit for the socially conservative ethnics of Altoona, Aliquippa and Johnstown.

    But if Barack had a problem with Catholics then, he has a far higher hurdle to surmount in the fall, with those millions of Catholics who still take their faith and moral code seriously.

    For not only is Barack the most pro-abortion member of the Senate, with his straight A+ report card from the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood. He supports the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion, where the baby’s skull is stabbed with scissors in the birth canal and the brains are sucked out to end its life swiftly and ease passage of the corpse into the pan.

    Partial-birth abortion, said the late Sen. Pat Moynihan, “comes as close to infanticide as anything I have seen in our judiciary.”

  6. Joe Kwiatkowski Says:

    Makes me want to see this movie to see if I agree with the Bush=Batman assessment. I also am curious to know how well the late Heath Ledger did as ‘Joker’. At the moment, Jack Nicholson has a big lead over Ceasar Romero, but it must be remembered that Romero did his Joker under the overall ‘camp’ premise of the 1960s series. Actually, the best overall ‘Joker’ may have been the interpretation of him in the cartoon series done by Warner Brothers in the early 1990s, with Mark Hamill of ‘Star Wars’ fame doing the voice of the Joker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: