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The Definitive Explanation of Why Donald Trump Is Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

June 10, 2019
The Definitive Explanation of Why Donald Trump Is Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

A couple weeks ago in the TRIAD (you should subscribe!) I did a little riff about how Donald Trump’s tendency to attract all the best people reminded me of the Joker from The Dark Knight:

We have Trump Superfan Shawn Brooks.

We have Trump Superfan Cesar Sayoc.

We have Trump Superfan D.C. McAllister.

We have Trump Superfan Alex Jones.

We have Trump Superfan Laura Loomer.

And Milo. And Julie Kelly. And Michael Cohen. And Roger Stone. And Jacob Wohl. And Charles Johnson. And at some point you start thinking about that scene in The Dark Knight where Batman stops Harvey Dent from trying to kill one of the Joker’s henchmen:

Batman: His name’s Schiff, Thomas. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic, a former patient of Arkham. The kind of mind the Joker attracts.

You see lots more of these types flocking to the Joker throughout the movie. The punk kids who help him take out Gambol’s crew. The crazy 18-wheeler driver. The big fat guy who lets the Joker sew a bomb into his guts.

Well, reader Matthew Thomas has countered with a compelling argument that Trump is actually Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. Here’s MT laying out is argument in all its glory:

When TDKR came out it was good! But it felt a little off. It’s themes, such as they were, didn’t resonate the way the first two movies did. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were about the war on terror and the sacrifices made to win it. At the time of release though, TDKR looked like it was riffing on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Which, as villains go, is . . . meh. Goofballs shitting in a park, do not an existential threat make.

Then came Trump.

Yes, yes, it’s been pointed out a million times already how Trump’s populist rhetoric mirrors Bane’s. But it’s more than that.

Start thinking of TDKR as a metaphor for 2015 and 2016 and everything clicks into place thematically.

What’s the theme of the TDKR? The perils of complacency and the vital importance of having a fear of death.

And what happened in in 2016? Democrats, after 8 years in office, got complacent. They thought they had a Blue Wall. They thought they had demographics on their side. They thought for sure Trump would be the best candidate to run against.

They did not fear death.

In TDKR, most of the city administration and police higher-ups think “it’s peacetime.” Later Batman fixes himself up, physically, dons his suit, and then goes to confront Bane. Kind of like the way the Democratic party dusted off Hillary Clinton, propped her up through the primary, and sent her to confront Trump. And in the end, both had their backs broken. “Peace has cost you your strength,” Bane says as he taunts Bruce. “Victory has defeated you.”

Then you have the GOP. Or as I like to think of them: The real life John Daggett. Reince Priebus, Ted Cruz, and a lot of the establishment thought they could control Trump, use him, and then wait for him to implode or go away, even as they supported him behind the scenes. (Thanks again, Reince.) But in the end they weren’t really the ones in charge. The horror on Burn Goreman’s face after Daggett’s neck is broken mirrored that of a lot of Republicans who didn’t think it was possible Trump could win.

As for the media, they turned out to be dead ringers for Catwoman: Largely amoral. Doing whatever was in their best immediate interests. Oh sure, the media hates Trump today, and Catwoman does eventually turn on Bane, but not before helping him first. Billions of dollars in free media, friendly visits to Morning Joe, endless coverage of Benghazi, and Hillary’s emails. They have been, shall we say . . . adaptable.

Speaking of emails. What does Bane do in his Blackgate prison speech? Oh right, he reads off damaging information about Commissioner Gordon, illicitly obtained during the latter’s brief capture. I’m sure John Podesta can relate.

The release of the prisoners from Blackgate? What a neat metaphor for the alt-right and conspiracy theory crowds, who have been liberated by Trump’s victory and now fly their freak flags proudly.

And what does Bane do when he takes over Gotham? He blows up nearly all the bridges and tunnels leading out of the city (hello tariffs, strained alliances, immigration restriction, and America First!).

Responsible people have been warning for years about Democrats expanding the powers of the executive, eating away at minority protections inside of Congress, such as judicial filibusters—the “pen and phone.” The imperial presidency stuff. Then came Trump. “Your armory, gratefully accepted!”

And then there’s Talia al Ghul. Bane is a villain, but the villain of TDKR is Talia. There’s a couple ways you could read her as a metaphor. She could be a stand-in for Putin. Or for Bannon. Or for the rise of nationalism, writ large. Both Trump and Bane are ultimately hollow vessels. They don’t really believe in what they say. It’s not clear that they believe in anything, actually. They’re basically sock puppets.

TDKR is the movie we deserved, but not the one we needed in 2012. It was ahead of the curve by 3 or 4 years. Probably entirely by accident. But if it continues to be predictive of our reality, then that puts us somewhere in the middle. The first half of TDKR takes place over days or weeks. The middle section, where Batman is healing in the pit and the responsible people in Gotham are in jail or trapped underground, takes place over the span of months.The film isn’t totally clear about the chronology, but we’re led to believe Bane spends quite a bit of time as a warlord before Batman returns to stop him. And all of the resistance against Bane’s rule during that period is shown to be pointless and easily rebuffed.

And that seems about right for where we are right now, too.

Thank you for attending my TED talk.

Mind. Blown.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.