The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Misogyny Rises

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.


  1. You can tell most of these whiners didn't even read the comics with Bane past "Knightfall". In Gail Simone's "Secret Six" run, Bane had a similar, protective friendship with Vandal Savage's daughter, Scandal. Or even earlier, when Bane and Talia were lovers and Ra's even considered him at one point as an heir. So, while I don't know if Nolan was inspired by this or not, it's not new for the character.

    Either way, Bane and Talia were still worthy characters to end the trilogy on. Far better than, say, the Riddler.

  2. AMEN. I am appalled that so many of these comic buffs can be so sexist. A smart, beautiful woman can't have power and be strong? A big, strong man can't be HUMAN? I personally thought the Cat and Talia were improvements as characters over the generic Rachel Dawes anyway.

    And c'mon, the Joker is the biggest inhuman monster in this series. How could any other villain be just like him?

  3. I agree with everything said in this post. Female characters, both superheroines and supervillainess, can be just as cool and badass like their male counterparts. Why women can't be strong, powerful, tough, smart and have commanding presence? Why should women be weak, powerless and dependent on men? Some of the toughest characters in comics, films or animated series are women. Characters like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Elektra, Psylocke, Silver Sable, Catwoman, Talia al Ghul, Black Cat, Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman, Madame Hydra a.k.a Viper or Madame Viper, Katara, Toph Beifong, Azula, Korra are female, but they are also very cool and just as powerful as males. My favorite female characters are Madame Viper, Wasp, Ms. Marvel and Black Widow from "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes", Katara and Azula from "Avatar: The Last Airbender.

    And why some people complain that Bane became the loser after he teared up and cried as Talia told her and Bane's story? Why can't big, strong man have emotions or feelings. He is not an alien, machine or fantasy creature, but A HUMAN BEING WITH EMOTIONS. Bane was badass throughout the movie and his motivation made him even more cool. Why some people only want cold-blooded, crazy, sociopathic villains like The Joker or The Red Skull from "Captain America" or Carnage from "Spider-Man?

    By the way, Greg, can you do these top 10/20/30 lists:

    Top female characters

    Top female heroes

    Top female villains

    Top "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes" villains

    Top "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes" best and worst episodes

    Top Marvel best animated series

    Top Marvel worst animated series

    You don't need to do all of the lists, only one or two.

    1. I don't "need" to do any of them. In fact, I find the use of that word a bit presumptuous.

      That being said... a couple of your suggestions do interest me. I'll think it over.

    2. "need" is especially presumptive when you don't bother to sign your name to a post.


  4. Well first off I'm not in my parents basement...................I'm homeless. :p

    Second off I think some people WANTED this to be better than The Dark Knight Rises, and when they feel it wasn't they started looking for excuses.

    But I agree with all of what you wrote. Just because a character shows vulnerability doesn't mean he looks bad. Hell my favorite character on Young Justice is Wally West, mostly because I have alot of the same mannerisms he does, but just because he doesn't get portrayed as faster than Impulse, or that he doesn't use his speed to be a better ass kicker like some think he should. Doesn't mean I think he's being portrayed wrong.

  5. Hey Greg, you should read IDW's Transformers comics starting from when James Roberts and John Barber took over a few months ago. Don't you miss enjoyable TF fiction?

  6. I loved the fact that Bane was taking orders from Talia and felt that it was the right way to go. It was a great twist and one that really made the movie for me. Great post.