Is the Dark Knight pro-Bush?

Incidentally: Please keep Zack Snyder away from Dark Knight Returns.

Andrew Klavan wrote a controversial essay in the Wall Street Journal saying that The Dark Knight is, in fact, a thinly-veiled tribute to President George W. Bush, who, in Klavan's mind, is another leader who, like Batman in this film, has done what has been right instead of what is popular, and is willing to exchange taking the heat now in exchange for ultimately being validated by history:

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.

There's been loads of discussion on this in plenty of places (like here, for example,) but we'll add our two cents: looked at a certain way, there's an element of conservative fascism to just about every vigilante superhero, whether it's Batman, Iron Man, or conservative icon Dirty Harry (and yes, some may see some Dirty Harry references in TDK.) Also, the themes of doing what's right as opposed to what's popular and suffering for your own cause are not without precedent in literature. 

But at the same time, the claim is flimsy, and falls apart under even cursory examination. The Nolan brothers (who co-wrote the script) don't strike us as particularly interested in political themes, even if the cell phone sonar system seems eerily reminiscent of our modern culture of snooping. Ultimately, if Bruce Wayne really was like George W., he probably would have fired Lucius Fox (rather than trusting him to correct his abuse of power.) And does it really seem to anyone like Bush is choosing to play the villain as some sort of rallying point for the American people or anything like that?

The film doesn't exactly celebrate Batman's deeds; it casts them as something horrible he was forced to do. He catches the Joker, but it hardly feels like a victory. And really, on top of it all, as has been pointed out elsewhere, it's really only nominally a Batman film. The story the Nolans seemed more interested in telling was that of Harvey Dent, that of a fresh-faced idealist brought down by circumstances. And that tale is the same across all party lines.

But: perhaps we're wrong - feel free to rebut in the comments. 

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