Despite the efforts of a domestic terrorist in Aurora, The Dark Knight Rises lived up to its title and climbed to a spectacular success at the box office. The Batman is on everyone’s lips, ensuring his place in American pop culture for generations to come. A few respectable commentators and a legion of hack writers have been swept up in Batmania, publishing their thoughts on the last film’s political implications. Is The Dark Knight Rises a tool of the right-wing propaganda machine to quash the Occupy movement? Is Bane a stand-in for Bain Capital and Mitt Romney? Why even bother asking these questions about another dumb superhero flick?
Those issues have assuredly been talked to death on countless Yahoo! comment boxes and juvenile flame wars by now. I’m more interested in examining what the character of Batman means as a cultural icon. Who is this man whose likeness or logo appears on every other kid’s t-shirt or bedsheets, or on billboards and bus stop posters across America? The thought that prevailed in my mind above all others as I left the theater that opening night was this: that Batman is not quite an American icon at all.
Sure, Bruce Wayne is a natural-born American citizen. Gotham City is geographically somewhere in the United States. But the connections end there. The following thoughts will examine Batman as a character and reveal why he is truly the Dark Knight… and why he is not a classically American hero, but a medieval, aristocratic one. Continue reading →