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Old 10-23-2012, 01:41 PM   #632
Nave 'Torment'
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Default Re: Characterization of the Knight - Nolan and Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman - Part 2

Well from a Marxist point of view, I guess he wouldn't ever consider hiring someone for his work either. That's exactly what the bourgeoisie does with surplus capital--hire others to do their labour. My understanding of Marxism is still vague (so any help from you guys would be highly appreciated), but I see that mindset as defining a man by his labour. A capitalist/bourgeois/materialist class promotes labour as a means to get something done: capital, status, or product, while encouraging the working class to hold that their meagre work is in itself worthwhile. It isn't because it's a justification of the "exploitation" at work here. On the other hand, Marx defines labour as something one needs for survival and practical purposes, while on another level, defines labour as something through which there can be social betterment. So you have activists in the proletariat who are struggling for a utopian cause.

For Bruce, "labour" is his activities as Batman: his "vow" to rid the city of criminals. The same, I assume, is for Gordon. Bruce Wayne, despite being a billionaire owner of Wayne Enterprises, is NOT a capitalist mogul in this trilogy! He's the opposite and carries a very astute Marxist mindset with him.

In addition to the utopian cause, his "class" is simply the community of "good people" in Gotham that he's fighting for. Marx refers to the bourgeoisie as a class that is able to exploit another class because of its surplus income, through which it can hire others to do their "labour" and is therefore perceived as corrupt. Similarly, in The Dark Knight we see Bruce insisting why there cannot be anyone else who does his crime-fighting for him -- he can't just hire someone to be Batman because he isn't being a capitalist pig here who lets someone else do his bidding (I'll get to the idea of identity in a bit).

Now, since we've seen that in bourgeois mentality there is an emphasis on labour as status, and similarly in the socialist mentality it is perceived that the bourgeois is the ruling class because they've "controlled the means of production," that is, they have "controlled labour," the definition of labour as identity (and therefore profession as existence) precedes both the Marxist and the Capitalist perspectives to labour. In other words, it comes down to labour for the sake of survival. Why does a man work? On one hand, yes, it is for survival, but on another he could've chosen any other line of work to achieve that survival, therefore there is something fulfilling in his occupation that makes him choose his line of work. Now, you could say that it's because it's the only work he can find. And that's valid also, because then you can argue that a man works and is connected to his labour because that's the labour he's most capable of doing. It doesn't have to be only because he's "naturally born" for it; one can develop any set of skills and "nurture" the skills for labour later in life. So it comes down to what the man simply does. In other words, it's not who you are underneath (that sort of mentality and focus on abstract principles would be a bourgeois value, since sitting around and talking about inner-awesomeness is a bourgeois luxury), but what you do (labour) that defines you.

Let's take it a step further. The ultimate utilitarian/pragmatist/Batman-parallel from political philosophy was Machiavelli and his whole doctrine of "the ends justifying the means." Now, that's immediately both a bourgeois and a Marxist sentiment. It's bourgeois because Machiavelli uses that logic to justify exploitation; it's Marxist because Machiavelli uses that same logic to aid his society. The concept of a leader isn't explicitly written out in Marx (so far as I've read him, I could be wrong) since the focus is on community and shared experiences. Now, Batman never says that what he does -- fighting crime -- cannot be done by Gotham's citizens, as a citizen of Gotham he pretty much keeps that sentiment intact. But what he does insist is that no one else can ever be Batman because that's his identity. And in Machievelli's The Prince, there is this idea that The Prince is engaged in an activity and no one else in the world can do. It is, in Marxian terms, his own labour, that requires sacrifice (self-sacrifice is an act of dehumanization that goes back to a ruling class conspiring to alienate and isolate the workers so that they lose their humanity, so it's no good to me in this debate). Machiavelli's idea of labour that no one else can commit, is very well reflected in Batman: "you can make the choices no one else can make, the right one" Alfred says of Bruce's role.

Labour constitutes identity in all three perspectives. For the bourgeois, it constitutes status and something they are "ignorant" of; for the Marxist, it constitutes that basic set of skills with which the man can serve his class and acquire his rightfully-earned survival; and for the Machiavellian Prince, it's that one work that he alone is capable of doing. In other words, a man works because his labour defines his identity. But this labour isn't simply his profession during the day, that is, it isn't simply the Bruce Wayne persona. As it constitutes identity, "labour" can be defined as something that a person is doing in every waking moment of his life -- so a surgeon isn't a "doctor" or someone "who helps other people," he / his labour is the actual ACT OF SURGERY. But that extends to his other "activities" as well, such as say, being a father, an heir to Wayne Enterprises, a husband, as well as a citizen of Gotham City. Similarly, Bruce is Batman the crime-fighter, the detective, the symbol of heroism, as well as this man who has trained himself to his peak.

When he stops being Batman that doesn't necessarily mean he stops his labour or his activity, because even when you're not doing something, you are being yourself -- being conscious alone constitutes identity constitutes labour. It's just not one single thing, but everything that a person does throughout his life. Therefore, even in TDKR when Bruce isn't being Batman, he's still Batman. He's just doing something else as Batman because logically speaking "no one does nothing." He is still engaged in his identity. When Rachel said "there will not be a time when you no longer need Batman" that's just crazy talk because "not being Batman," that is, not being engaged in one's labour, would mean "to not exist." It's like saying "I'll fall in love with you after you die."

Celtic mythology has a story about "the coming of Lugh," where the eponymous young man walks up to a king's court and asks for admittance. He is denied, the gatekeeper tells him that he requires a specific skill (labour) in order to be admitted. Lugh says he's a carpenter, but the gatekeeper tells him that the king already has a carpenter; so Lugh tries again and says he's a smith, the gatekeeper again says they have a pretty good smith. This goes on for some time and Lugh essentially tells the gatekeeper about one skill after another until the gatekeeper tells him that they have someone for each of these skills. Lugh responds: do you have someone who possesses all of these skills and abilities? The gatekeeper says no, and he proceeds to go to the king and allow this "master of all arts" to enter the city. The story extends further but my point is, that like Lugh, that's labour. Not just one thing, but everything that a man does in his life, even the trivial things, can be gathered up to represent his labour and therefore his identity.

THAT'S Batman for you: a character split into three parts becoming one whole, Bruce Wayne the playboy, Bruce Wayne the orphan/detective, and Batman the crime-fighter.

In other words, he never stops being Batman until the day he dies.

(thanks for reading -- I had to take a week's worth of "time out" from work to recover from a recent medical set-back, I'm better now, but all the inaction was driving me insane. I had to write it out like this. we all have Batman in our belfry).


THE JUSTICE BULLETIN published some of my thematic analysis on the symbolism in Nolan's superhero saga.
I call it Heroic Archetypes. You can read the parts on Batman Begins in the following links:
(pt 1; pt 2; pt 3; pt 4; pt 5; pt 6; pt 7)

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