Getting back to the plot summary of The Dark Knight Rises provided by Zizek:
In the last post, I was thinking about how the story structure as detailed by Zizek exposes important details that, despite being placed elaborately on the table, are not actually addressed once Zizek moves into the more directly interpretive section of the essay. I find this a bit puzzling, and I can’t help but think that it makes his analysis less unpersuasive than incomplete.
But there are also some important elements that are either left out or oversimplified.
For example, nowhere in the plot summary does Zizek mention that both Bane and Tate are perfectly aware that the fusion bomb, nominally kept as a backup in case outside forces try to remove Bane and his army of mercenaries and released prisoners from power, is actually set to explode no matter what happens politically. This seems so crucial, and so obviously relevant, that, again, I am more puzzled by its absence than anything else. The “truth” of the bomb’s inevitability renders the “dictatorship of the proletariat” established by Bane rather politically odd: what, after all, is the point of Bane’s “revolution”? My initial thought is that Bane’s staged event reflexively comments on the experience of watching the film, especially in IMAX: we feel the spectacle’s powerful pull on the senses and emotions as a “real” world onscreen even as we know it’s being staged for psychological impact on spectators, if you will. Wayne, I’m assuming, is the target spectator of Bane’s insurrection, given the psychological torture Bane intends for him as he is forced to watch Gotham consume itself from the depths of the prison. Likewise, what the film audience “worries about,” to use Zizek’s parlance, might then actually be the cynical incitement of violence in the face of real social unrest, rather than social unrest and protest movements as such. As a target of Nolan’s violent spectacle, I certainly don’t come away feeling threatened by the violent potential of OWS–rather, I am worried about the intervention of moneyed interests whipping up violence in order to hijack democratic social processes and impose dictatorial power in the name of seeking justice. I readily grant that the flawed state of democratic process in Gotham is certainly an important factor in all of this, especially given the “extraordinary powers” granted to law enforcement by the Dent act that suggest a less-visible mode of state violence that we in the Patriot Act era of the US are all too familiar with. But we also know that Commissioner Gordon was in the process of trying to address the contradictions of the Dent Act solution when the conversation was rendered moot by Bane’s activities. And that is so key to me: the film (like Zizek, like many of us, perhaps) doesn’t know how to have the public conversation Gordon wished to pursue, and the issue is never addressed or resolved because Batman et al are preoccupied with fending off total annihilation and the consequent death of millions of people (a much more straightforward issue that we as audience members can almost certainly unite behind).
I also take issue with Zizek’s passing reference to the function of Selina Kyle, whom he describes as “steal[ing] from the rich in order to redistribute wealth, but finally rejoin[ing] Wayne and the forces of law and order.” Zizek implies an easy capitulation on Kyle’s behalf, but her actions strike me as being far more complex. Kyle betrays Batman personally by handing him off to Bane, and she does this not in the name of redistributing wealth, but because there are threats against herself that she must negotiate, and she wishes to act in her own best interest. You could say that, by sticking around in the end to help Batman after multiple letdowns, she “capitulates” somehow to the ideologies of Batman’s project. But in the betrayal scene, Kyle sticks around to watch Batman be brutally beaten by Bane, and you can see the conflict grow in her as she does so. In the end, I think, Kyle doesn’t want to see him die, and the implication, of course, is that this is at least in part because she loves him. But that doesn’t mean that Kyle has suddenly become a card-carrying member of the capitalist oligarchy. More on Kyle later.
[…another break is required; another post will follow soon.]