Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I understand and sympathize with most of the complaints being directed at "The Dark Knight Rises." But I loved the movie anyway, is it perfect? No. But it was still a great movie, and I thought all the character motivations and dynamics made perfect sense.
But now I need to talk about a complaint I've been seeing that, frankly, I think comes from some pretty dark places. A lot of people don't like how Bane's character arc in the movie came to an end. They're hating that it turned out he was taking orders from Talia al Ghul. They hate that he teared up a little at the end when Talia revealed her story to Batman, and they hate that he died from a cannon shot from Catwoman. Where this is all comes from is a darker aspect of comic book fandom that often leaves me ashamed of being involved with the hobby.
I've talked about misogyny in comic book fandom before. For the most part, superhero comics are the nadir of male power fantasies, both superhero and supervillain alike. Us male fans read these comics and sometimes wish we could be these characters? I've wanted to be Batman, Spider-Man, Magneto, Ra's al Ghul, Norman Osborn, and others at various times in my life. Bane, on the surface, represents this beautifully. He's incredibly big, he's incredibly strong, he has a commanding presence. He is always the toughest man in the room, and he's tearing down the pillars of society around him. For many an outcast nerd, this is the ultimate power fantasy.
When Miranda Tate reveals herself as Talia, our perception of Bane changes. We find out that everything he did, he did out of loyalty and devotion to this girl he's been protecting and loving since the day she was born. Like her, he was born in the Pit. Born in Hell. He protected her so she could escape and was scarred for it, and her father, Ra's al Ghul later rescued him from the Pit only to excommunicate this monster for embodying too many painful memories and loving Talia. His whole life centered on and around this woman. He tears up and cries as she tells this story. And when that happened, the male power fantasy crashed for many audience members, because many of them have probably cried too when being beaten up by bullies or picked on and are ashamed of it.
Bane wasn't robbed of a damn thing. He broke the Bat, while Talia broke Bruce Wayne. Nothing changed except we learned about what motivated him. I've seen more than several people say the crying robbed him of the inhumane coldness that the Joker had. Well, here's the thing, Bane is not the Joker. He is his own character. Every villain in this series had their own distinct personalities, and traits. This is a good thing. The revelation of Bane made him a much more three dimensional character. Yes, he was driven by hate of society, but he was also driven by love for this girl. In a sense, he was both her Alfred and her Batman rolled into one. It fit the themes of the movie perfectly. Alfred watches over Bruce Wayne. Gordon watches over John Blake who watches over the orphans. Batman, no matter who wears the cowl, watches over Gotham. And while I'm at it, Talia loses both of her parents violently and decides to finish her father's work to purify the world by destroying Gotham just as Bruce tries to finish his father's work to save Gotham and both are watched over by their own protectors.
Then he got killed by Catwoman, on one of the Bat-cycles who fired a cannon at him killing, when he tried to finally murder Batman. And the same people who were angry about him working for Talia got angry at this also. I've actually seen a few people talk about how ridiculous they thought it was that Bane fell at the hands of a woman, and that it robbed him of his power. I of course call poppycock on this, the way I saw it, it took heavy artillery to stop him because he was such a physically powerful foe. Selina's gender had nothing to do with this.
This is the 21st century guys. Catwoman is an awesome character. Talia al Ghul is an awesome character. Black Widow is an awesome character (yes, I've seen similar complaints there). Get out of your parents' basement, open your eyes and see that women can be and are just as strong as men, and even the strongest woman can be stronger than the strongest of men. Yes, Talia was Bane's superior, but that didn't cheapen or diminish Bane at all, he still did everything he did even if Talia "was the League of Shadows" and not him. Comic books can be and should be female power fantasies too.
The art above is the property of Szikee.