We are two weeks away from the premiere of the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, and the hype surrounding the summer blockbuster keeps building. Given the last film’s openness to interpretation, as a political metaphor, there’s been much talk about interpreting the new film in the same light. Especially, when comparing the film’s villain, Bane, to Bain Capital, the private equity firm Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney helped found and was at the helm of during the 1980s and 1990s.
As The Week so aptly and succinctly summarizes it, one of the things Bain Capital did while Romney was at the helm was to “acquire a struggling company, stabilize it through downsizing, and then sell it for a profit.” While, as The New York Times columnist David Brooks says, this process made for a “more efficient” version of these businesses, it was “brutal and involved streamlining and layoffs,” which means jobs lost and shrinking household incomes.
Tom Hardy, who plays the villain onscreen, used the words “clinical” and “brutal” to describe Bane and his “results-based fighting style.” As Henry Decker at The National Memo put it, think of Bane as a firm, replace ‘fighting style’ with ‘strategy,” and it would sound like an apt description of Bain Capital.
This does not read to me as an explicit allegory of Romney and Bain Capital. Film, like every other form of media, is subject to interpretation by the individual -- which results in a film meaning different things for different people. However, the Bain/Bane metaphor is borne out of the need to draw the comparison.
The film sees Gotham City in upheaval as it’s embroiled in an Occupy-style riot. The class inequality theme is further driven home when Anne Hathaway, as Catwoman, whispers to Bruce Wayne (of the 1%): “You and your friends better batten down the hatches because when it hits, you're all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
So you have Gotham City – long seen as a pseudonym for New York City – as the background, and then you throw in class warfare. That’s an obvious metaphor for real-life, off screen, American issues. Enter Bane, the brutal, clinically destructive villain who terrorizes this city and its inhabitants, amid this time of addressing socio-economic inequality issues, and it's not difficult to see Bane as a monster representing elitist capitalism and those who belong to that class.
Bane represents Romney and Bain because there’s a need for him to. This film is seemingly wrought with political commentary and given the frenzied emotions in response to current American politics, it’s important the bone-crushing monster that is the 1% is given some representation, and Bane is perfect for the role.