Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy deserves its large audience among White Nationalists. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises all comprise a canon in the superhero genre that stands above the rest, perhaps only succeeded by Watchmen in its representation of Right-wing themes and philosophy. Much has been said about the emphatically Right-wing character of Batman’s villains, especially the League of Shadows, but less has been said about the Rightist aspects of Batman himself.
Typical of the superhero genre, Nolan’s Batman protects the liberal system. Batman is nominally portrayed as the defender of liberalism, a “heroic” savior of the neoliberal, cosmopolitan city of Gotham. He ostensibly believes in the democratic system and its institutions that are worth fighting for. All it needs is a little help from a crime- fighting billionaire. In this, Nolan’s Batman is no different from other superheroes, who follow the same narrative pattern of protecting the existing system as its hero from the villain who critiques the system and seeks to destroy it.
Yet in Nolan’s trilogy, this narrative framework is routinely undermined and revealed as a weakness in Batman’s character. A tragic flaw that serves as the habitual source of Batman’s undoing and frustration. Furthermore, unlike conventional superheroes who are portrayed as “heroic” because they champion liberal values, Batman betrays the system he seeks to uphold, acting outside of the rule of law in defiance of liberal notions of justice. Indeed, once the mask is removed from Batman as the “silent guardian, watchful protector” of neoliberalism, a much deeper Right-wing character emerges.
Symbolism & Imagery
The first clue that Batman is a Right-wing character are his appellations the Dark Knight and the Caped Crusader. Both refer to medieval European warriors who adhered to an ethical code glorifying honor, righteousness, and loyalty. Such men are reviled by the Left as exemplified in Obama’s equation of crusaders to present-day jihadists. Other medieval allusions are woven into Batman’s backstory. Bruce Wayne’s family is Gotham nobility, they built most of Gotham, and are its most wealthy and powerful family, emblematic of American-style aristocracy. When Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot by a vagrant in Batman Begins, they had been attending an opera, a hallmark of aristocratic culture. As sole heir of the Wayne family, Bruce is free to engage in higher pursuits as he is secure in his wealth and power like most feudal elites. The mob boss Falcone even refers to him as the “Prince of Gotham” when Bruce confronts him about the release of his parent’s killer in Batman Begins. As such, Batman can be viewed as a contemporary version of a noble who transforms himself into a crime-fighting knight, both of which are representative of historical institutions on the Right.
Notwithstanding his use of advanced military technology, Batman fights with a grittiness that is not flashy or enhanced by any supernatural capabilities; it’s authentic and brutal. He fights with his fists and defeats his opponents through mastery of an ancient style of martial arts, one that employs the psychological (deception and fear) as well as the physical (strength and technique) to overcome enemies. The art of combat, a celebration of virtus, is unequivocally Right-wing and plays a prominent role in the Batman character. Altogether, the aesthetics of Batman harken to pre-liberal masculinity, when men were nobles and knights, fought for their people, believed in grand visions, and pursued higher callings in life. Even the uninitiated receive a healthy dose of manliness, the bedrock of any Right-wing movement.
All of this is set against the backdrop of Gotham, a giant metropolis that signifies an amalgamation of America’s premier globalist cities: New York, LA, and Chicago. These shining cities of liberal utopia are accurately depicted in Gotham. Crime and corruption are rampant throughout the city choking off its lifeblood. The streets of Gotham are dark, dreary, and deadly, bereft of all beauty and awash in the refuse of humanity that liberalism produces but cannot eliminate. Gotham is the future that awaits our Western cities. Even the rich in Gotham are not safe, something we have yet to look forward to in the coming years. Within this dying liberal dystopia springs forth Batman, entrenched in medieval symbolism and masculinity, bringing real change: righteous violence.
The most Right-wing aspect of Batman is his fascist use of force. Batman recognizes that order must be brought about by violence. Violence is necessary; violence is justice. The Left believes that “violence is not the answer,” that criminality and corruption can be solved by displays of acceptance and understanding, or programs that address the “root cause” of such problems. Batman understands that only violence can stop criminality. No social programs will ever stop the criminal dregs of society from becoming who they are. Batman flouts the legal system’s procedures that protect criminals, and defies society’s laws that restrain law enforcement. The actions of Batman reveal the failure of “the rule of law,” which requires a vigilante to break the law in order to uphold the law. Society’s preoccupation with the rights of criminals has disarmed authority from the ability to properly fight criminality. Justice requires force, Batman exemplifies this truth.
We on the Right understand that force in itself is amoral. Its morality depends on who wields it and who triumphs. Liberalism restricts the use of force and violence against criminals because it sympathizes with the criminals, the miscreants, and the reprobates that liberals see as victims of an oppressive white society. Libertarians fear the potential abuse from more violence. On the Right, however, we understand that violence cannot be avoided. It is necessary to maintain civilization. The goal is to find those worthy of the power, those of higher character and justice, those like Batman. This can only be achieved in a society that appreciates violence and virtue, not one of democracy and equality.
In Nolan’s trilogy, the villains reinforce the conclusion that Batman’s use of force is just and that he should use more force not less. In The Dark Knight, Batman deploys a city-wide wiretapping device to finally locate the Joker despite the liberal objections of Lucius Fox who sees it as violation of sacred privacy rights. Batman is proven correct in his fascist use of force as it successfully results in the Joker’s location and capture, demonstrating the value of force when used for the right purpose. Earlier in the movie, the necessity of uninhibited force is again justified when Batman travels to China and kidnaps Lau, the mob money launderer, and brings him back to Gotham for trial. The law had become not only a shield but an enabler of criminality as Lau exploited the law’s limits on jurisdiction and extradition to advance his criminal empire. Only through force unbound by the law does Batman render Justice against Lau.
In this respect, Batman pays heed to Ra’s al Ghul’s counseling from Batman Begins that “criminals mock society’s laws.” The irony is that Ra’s al Ghul delivered this pronouncement in light of the need to kill extrajudicially, which serves as the final test for Bruce Wayne to become a member of the League of Shadows and “demonstrate his commitment to justice.” In the Nietzschean figure of Ra’s al Ghul, the killing of the condemned by the righteous is the ultimate expression of justice. Bruce Wayne objects to such a test, asserting that the execution of a murderer should only be delivered by a court of law. Wayne’s refusal to kill is arbitrary. Although Wayne recognizes the necessity of being freed from legal limitations, he quixotically believes that killing alone requires judicial sanction—the demarcating line between just avenger and unjust vigilante. In Snyder’s rendition of the character in Batman v Superman, Batman’s refusal to kill is rightly done away with. However, Nolan uses the refusal as a critical mistake.
The Joker lays bare Batman’s “self-righteousness” as utterly foolish, and exploits it just as Ra’s al Ghul warned: “your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.” The Joker willingly allows himself to be captured by Batman knowing that he will be taken into custody unharmed. Once inside the interrogation room, the Joker delivers his punch line that both Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes have been kidnapped and bound in separate warehouses, and Batman must choose which one to save before they are both blown up. Batman chooses Rachel but inadvertently saves Harvey, as the Joker lied about their locations. Rachel dies, and Batman loses his closest friend and love interest. He also fails to “save” Harvey Dent who turns into the madman Two-Face in the aftermath. If Batman had simply executed the Joker earlier when he had the chance, such a loss would have been avoided, but sadly he lacked the “courage to do what is necessary” to defeat evil.
Another dimension to Batman’s character worth examining is his worldview. The killing of his parents motivates Wayne to transform himself into a crime-fighting superhero to clean up the streets of Gotham. Initially, he is consumed by rage after the release of his parents’ killer and embarks on a seven-year journey of criminality in an attempt to make sense of a corrupt world. His crimes land him in a Bhutanese prison where he is rescued by the League of Shadows, a traditionalist order that trains Bruce to become a member. Under Ra’s al Ghul’s tutelage, he learns to sublimate his rage towards the higher cause of justice and vengeance. Although Wayne objects to their radical vision, the League of Shadows imparts to Wayne a warrior ethos that animates his actions.
Bruce fights to uphold liberal institutions, but his actions and motivations derive not from his belief in egalitarian morality but rather from a warrior code that is one-part League of Shadows and one-part his own moralistic fabrication. The net result is a warrior code that recalls the spirit of chivalry: protecting the weak, fighting injustice, defending the city. But is also deeply flawed as it perpetuates a corrupt system. Understood in this light, Batman fights for Gotham not because he believes in egalitarian ideals, but because he wants to defeat criminality, the source he perceives as the cause of his parents’ deaths.
This rejection of equality is openly hinted at in The Dark Knight when Batman impersonators question Batman’s supremacy as sole vigilante: “What gives you the right, what’s the difference between you and me?” to which Batman dismissively responds “I’m not wearing hockey pads.” Bruce Wayne also mocks the lifestyle of our cosmopolitan elites by relying on an outwardly hedonist image of Bruce Wayne who spends his time lavishly drinking and consorting with bimbos as the perfect cover to avoid suspicion in a society that glorifies such vanities as normal. Batman does fight for the system and not against it, but he stands apart from the system, motivated instead by a warrior ethos unbound by society’s rules that make his actions admirable but ultimately frustrating.
Ra’s al Ghul diagnoses such a warrior ethos that fails to do “what is necessary to defeat evil” as a weakness derived from the denial of the Will. In a scene that appears inspired by Nietzsche, Ra’s al Ghul instructs Wayne on the primacy the Will as they spar on a frozen lake:
Ra’s al Ghul: Your parents’ death was not your fault.
[Bruce attacks Ra’s al Ghul with his sword]
Ra’s al Ghul: It was your father’s.
[Bruce furiously attacks Ra’s al Ghul, but is easily defeated]
Ra’s al Ghul: Anger does not change the fact that your father failed to act.
Bruce Wayne: The man had a gun!
Ra’s al Ghul: Would that stop you?
Bruce Wayne: I’ve had training!
Ra’s al Ghul: The training is nothing! The will is everything!
[Ra’s al Ghul bests Bruce once again]
Ra’s al Ghul: The will to act.
This Nietzschean Will is constantly denied and suppressed by Batman. His failure of the Will is ultimately the most important Right-wing critique offered in Nolan’s films, most strikingly the disasters that follow when Batman captures the Joker instead of executing him. A knight’s moral code of chivalry serves little good for the protection of a system that rejects all the values a chivalric code was meant to uphold. In the end, Batman’s worldview is self-defeating. Wayne can never save Gotham because the corrupt system never changes. Wayne refuses to “become who you are”—the Prince of Gotham, its ruler—and instead believes that lesser men like Harvey Dent should govern the city. A knight can fight against the forces of corruption, but only a king can change the system to end corruption and injustice.
Batman’s denial of the will, makes his character rigid. His belief in Gotham’s institutions denies the heroic nature within him that his villains attempt to bring out.
The Joker taunts Batman to release the inner beast, to free himself entirely from society’s norms as the Joker has done. He points out that society already considers Batman a freak like him, so why bother following their rules. “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules” the joker says, to live according to one’s Will, to be authentic. Western man has subjugated our Dionysian self to Apollo, always making sure that actions proceed from a reasoned plan, which the Joker delights in destroying. A little chaos is needed to reignite tribal man; he’s just ahead of the curve.
Similarly, the villain Two-Face who starts out as Harvey Dent, envies Batman’s power. He instructs Bruce Wayne on how the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint an absolute ruler during war, which was considered an honor for the man chosen. Harvey in a sense wishes to be Batman, to take control of the city by force, whereas as Batman would rather be Harvey Dent, who attempts to change society through the system. Two-Face implores Batman to be Gotham’s hero, but Batman shirks from such power. The juxtaposition, as with the Joker, is an explicit call for Batman to use more force, to take control of his city.
The villains Bane and Ra’s al Ghul of the League of Shadows challenge the very identity of Batman as just and morally good. Both villains rail against Batman’s desire to save Gotham. Batman is not justice but injustice. Gotham must die. It must be destroyed so that it can be reborn anew, cleansed of its decadence. The only justice that can be rendered is Gotham’s reckoning, and by standing in the way, Batman is unjust. In Batman Begins, Wayne describes his vision for Batman as an incorruptible symbol of hope, to inspire people that “good” will win out. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane ridicules Batman as worse than an empty symbol, a symbol of despair:
There’s a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth . . . Hope. I learned that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed Its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to stay in the sun.
Bane is directly challenging Batman’s sole purpose and declaring him not a symbol of justice but of self-delusion and despair. Justice rests upon truth, but Batman would rather perpetuate a lie that Harvey Dent was Gotham’s white knight than tell the truth about his murders because “people will lose hope.” In contrast, Bane’s whole message is about truth, the harsh truth about Gotham as a lost city of decadence and corruption that must be eliminated. Bane reveals the truth about Harvey Dent to the people: “you have been supplied with a false idol to stop you from tearing down this corrupt city.” Batman is thus shown to be a deceiver standing in the way of truth and justice. The League of Shadows show Batman for what he is: a fruitless charade that merely prolongs the decay. Rather than wait out the decay as civilization crumbles, Bane and the League of Shadows accelerate “progress,” allowing democracy to be fully realized by handing over the rule of the city entirely to the people. “Gotham is yours. None shall interfere, do as you please” Bane tells the denizens of Gotham, releasing the masses to consume themselves and tear apart the city as its final destiny.
This is why Batman’s villains are far more memorable and interesting than Batman himself. They are free to pursue their will, whereas Wayne is trapped in a fool’s game where nothing materially changes, one that the Joker finds irresistibly amusing: “You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
While recovering in Bane’s prison pit, Batman hallucinates a vision of Ra’s al Ghul. It is a subconscious admission of his failure:
You, yourself fought the decadence of Gotham for years with all your strength, all your resources, all your moral authority and the only victory you achieved was a lie. Now you understand Gotham is beyond saving and must be allowed to die.
Even though Wayne rises from the pit to save Gotham one last time, he knows Ra’s al Ghul is right and that he has failed. He can’t let Gotham be destroyed on his watch, so he performs his final deed and then passes the buck to somebody else and leaves the city for good. Wayne is destined for heroic nobility, but he is insincere. He does not remain true to his calling of justice, failing to do what he knows to be right and necessary out of misplaced self-righteousness. He lacks the will to act, the will to power. Maybe one day a truly heroic Batman will emerge, one that uses his superhero abilities to rule the people not serve them.
Nonetheless, Batman conveys an altogether Right-wing impression that can be admired and appreciated for its traditionalist outlook and approach. The medieval symbolism and imagery, as well as the depiction of righteous violence all invoke important Right-wing attributes concerning masculinity, discipline, and order. Where Batman falters, his villains are there to offer compelling foils and to shed light on the right path to take. The Nolan Trilogy offers a total work of art dedicated to a fascist superhero in need of his King. In the coming ethnostate, we can look forward to a Batman who finds him.