Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

Is Batman really a conservative?

18/07/2012, 01:55:56 PM

by Anthony Painter

Robert Colville argues zestfully that Batman is a conservative in this morning’s Telegraph. My first reaction was that it’s a strange type of conservative that so flagrantly disregards the rule of law. The whole point of the vigilante, Batman, is that the law cannot protect itself. Therefore, it needs shadowy figures who operate outside of it to save society from itself. It trashes the whole notion of rule of law – it’s difficult to think of anything less conservative than that.

It might well be that Batman seeks conservative ends – order, hierarchy, defined social relations, rule by status. But the means are distinctly non-conservative.

In the Dark Knight he establishes a private panopticon in order to defeat the terrorist, the Joker. Sure, he hands over the access to this system to Lucius Fox, his wise and principled technologist. Access is given not to prevent its use but to facilitate its use – he just doesn’t entirely trust himself. Fox ultimately destroys the system but that’s not at Batman’s instruction.

There are definite signs in the same film that Batman aspires to conservative means as well as ends – he just can’t quite trust them. He wishes to get out of the game and hand over safeguarding of the city’s welfare to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s energetic District Attorney. We are not sure whether he’s thinking straight as this has the advantage of clearing the way to him re-opening his pursuit of Rachel Dawes (who refuses to countenance a marriage to Bruce Wayne while he is still playing at Batman.) Nonetheless, he enthusiastically embraces Dent as a figure who can restore the rule of law.

It all goes terribly wrong as Dent is turned by the Joker into the gruesome Two-Face. In a Michael Corleone fashion, just when he hoped he might be out, Batman is pulled back in. Dent is the greatest hope for the law being able to take care of itself. It fails and so the vigilante is needed once again. Upon, Dent’s death, Batman conspires with Commissioner Gordon to take the blame for murders perpetrated by Two-Face (Dent) as the people of Gotham would not be able to cope with the crimes of their latest saviour, Dent. Propaganda is not beyond our conservative super-hero.

So our Batman is a conservative who doesn’t believe in the rule of law. He is a protector of liberty who wants to turn every mobile phone into a recording, imaging and tracking device. He upholds a people’s values by manufacturing reality. If he is a conservative then it would appear that he’s a conservative in the George W Bush mould.


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