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Co-opting Occupy Wall Street: "The Dark Knight Rises" vs the 99%

by Anthony Kaufman
December 20, 2011 11:04 AM
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No disrespect to Christopher Nolan, who I'm sure has his anti-capitalist political leanings in the right place, as revealed in the new trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises," which has bloggers all over the web salivating about the film's ominous call for class warfare: “You think this can last?" says the would-be Catwoman. "There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne.... when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” But this is Hollywood, my friends, and at its best, the film will communicate a conflicted message; at its worst, it will make us all forget what OWS is really about.

Sure, all that talk over the summer about the film shooting at Occupy Wall Street and the trailer's not-so-veiled attempt at raising the spectre of income inequality and some sort of revolutionary uprising -- not to mention the ironic use of a child singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the destruction of an all-American football game -- suggests the film's political undercurrents.

But remember, Nolan's 2008 edition “The Dark Knight” offered a muddled political message, arguably heroizing pre-emptive attacks in a post 9/11 world. Maybe Nolan was trying to raise some questions about America's aggressive policies in its fight against terrrorism, but maybe not. Maybe people just walked away thinking the Joker was really kick-ass.

All this is to say that the movie can't be trusted, and we must look elsewhere to find the narratives that describe Occupy Wall Street. Hollywood isn't history, and never has been. And as much as Nolan is an auteur, and I'll bet he can get away with a lot, the entertainment industry demands a return on its investment, and the new film has to be a capitalistic enterprise.

Frankly, it is the equivalent of the 1%.

So where should we look for a more appropriate rendering of the OWS movement and Time's Person of the Year, a representation that comes more faithfully from the 99%, if you will?

A new documentary project "99% (The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film)" seems to understand what it takes: Currently embarking on its Kickstarter campaign, the film gathered together 60 filmmakers across the country, with people joining in from Denver, Portland, LA, Boston, Seattle, Philly, DC, Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh, Austin, Dallas, Rhode Island, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland.

Among the project's contributors are Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley (Battle for Brooklyn, Horns and Halos), Ava Duvernay (distributor of independent black films via AFFRM), Aaron Yanes, as supervising editor (Padre Nuestro, Tyson) and producer Tyler Brodie (Another Earth, Terri). I've written about the film before in a previous post, and the more I think about it, I'd rather a handful of indie doc filmmakers show me OWS than another confusing Hollywood allegory.

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  • Ralph Moran | December 24, 2011 6:21 AMReply

    I would suggest pointing out some of the occupy movements in cities that don't often protest, to demonstrate the passion and outreach it has created.

  • Audrey | December 28, 2011 4:02 PM

    Ralph, we're holding a public screening of some submitted footage on Saturday Jan 7th, 7:30 pm EST - at - we've got lots of smaller/spread out Occupies in the film. If you can, join us. (This is for the 99% Film - not The Dark Knight... ; )

  • Ras | December 21, 2011 2:29 AMReply

    Lol this article is a joke. Ultimately this movie is about a superhero fighting crime at its core. To judge and ultimately criticize this film and the people making this film for its political undertones (or is it overtones) which doesn't suit your belief is just pathetic. Writing this article base off of a two minute trailer of a movie that hasn't even come out yet and trying to tied it to current political events is just desperate attempt promote your pathetic ideals that nobody really cares about.

  • Rohan | December 20, 2011 9:34 PMReply

    The film has some political subtext. I agree with you on that. "The Dark Knight" also has some political subtext, and most of its story was centered on "The Joker," who as a terrorist in a way was terrorizing Gotham. The new film has "Bane" played by Tom Hardy, who is again, a character terrorizing Gotham; his focus is merely on gaining the power by taking the Batman out. "The Joker" was a man with no plan unlike "Bane." That is what Mr. Nolan is going to bring. So. the story and concept of "The Dark Knight Rises" has nothing to do with evoking OWS.

  • anthony | December 20, 2011 3:55 PMReply

    Rohan, whatever Mr. Nolan stated doesn't change the fact that the film clearly has some elements of "class warfare" in it, and the marketing materials have pushed the notion that the film has some political subtext to it, evoking Occupy Wall Street. So the point of the post is simple: Don't trust the politics of Hollywood.

  • Rohan | December 20, 2011 11:48 AMReply

    Wait a minute!

    This article is kind of confusing. What exactly are you trying to say here, Mr. Kaufman? Christopher Nolan does not have to bring the OWS story in his script. He wanted to shoot OWS when the production team was ready to hit New York City, and later they changed their minds, for OWS stands for something more important and that is what Mr. Nolan stated. The team discussed it and realized that the protesters are there for something far more important than a film. The article is pointless as far as I see or I didn't comprehend the concept behind your article.

    The documentary, 99% is a film shot to introduce us to the main purpose of OWS, and that's why it's titled, 99%. The Dark Knight Rises and OWS is not relevant at all.

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