Heroes We Deserve

X-posted at culturemonkey

As the critics note, we are currently at what seems to be a peak in the production of high-grossing, critically acclaimed superhero blockbusters — a saturation point, perhaps, of a longue durée that dates from 1989 with Burton’s Batman.*After one notable lapse in major studio backing following the humiliating failure of the first Batman franchise, Hollywood figured out something important: the former objects of camp no longer presuppose the camp sensibility. Scanning the reviews for the Burton/Schumacher series as its latent eccentricities blossomed into a hornier, MTV version of the ’60s television show, one finds a rising chorus of demands for something “darker,” “edgier,” “more adult,” a resistance and even revulsion for the franchise’s aestheticized distance from its material. Overreacting to complaints from parents over excessive violence, Warner Bros. amped up the camp in spite of agonized critics and fanboys, who were reading a lot of Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Even in that first film, the “darkest” of the four, Jack’s Joker was “too over the top,” Beetlejuice as Batman too “weird” and “wimpy.”

Never say Hollywood can’t learn from its mistakes. The producers have figured out how to please everyone: maintain earnestness regardless of the inherent absurdity of the genre, be ‘topical’ by way of empty allegory, be spectacularly violent, never stop moralizing. Meet these requirements, and a great deal of variety is possible: one has free reign to be jokey or serious, bright or gloomy, undisguisedly sexist, racist, homophobic, or none of the above, ‘critical,’ or ‘wish fulfillment.’ Or all of the above. These labels are simply not the creator’s responsibility. Restore the superhero’s propaganda function, in short, and in so doing prove Sontag’s thesis that “pure camp” is always so for the future and not the present.** The comic book-loving nerds of my generation are now faced with the dubious realization of our pubescent dreams: the nerds have taken over Hollywood, and the responsibility thus falls to the Figure of the Superhero to ‘teach us’ something about the “human condition.


Pairing up the summer’s two most critically and commercially successful entries: Iron Man and The Dark Knight, is instructive. One or two professional critics noticed the balls-out obvious apologies for the authoritarian, repressive ‘excesses’ of global capitalism, but the vast majority of the critical and popular response made me feel like I was in a bad parodic update of 1984 — of the very few who bothered to address the films’ unavoidable (or so I thought) pseudopolitics, the smart ones and the dumb ones alike seemed generally pleased.

Neoliberal assumptions (avowed or disavowed) are typical for the output of most mainstream cinematic and critical output these days, and it’s usually not even worth mentioning in the individual case. I bring up superhero movies in this context because they’re just so open about it. And yet a liberal media that would spend half the day spitting on Bush and the evils of multinational corporations can spend the other half hyperbolically puffing a movie that shares, in exaggerated form, the contorted view of reality demonstrated every day by these institutions, some of which produced the films.

What I suspect underlies the general tolerant attitude towards their content is the comforting but kind of really unlikely and unfounded assumption that corporate mass entertainment expresses collective desires — even that it does so better than a production financed independently. We are then able to rationalize objectionable content. The curiously archaic gender roles — the women of IM and TDK essentially spend the entire movie trying to decide who to screw — are of a kind with the racial politics — witness IM‘s moronic (and casually incinerated) Arab barbarians and their helpless Arab victims, TDK‘s Asian menace, its blacks whose humanity is dependent on their obedience to legitimate authority (the ferryboat prisoner’s conscience is portrayed as spiritually profound while all the Joker needs to do to make two gangsters fight to the death, which we see them prepared to do on all fours, is drop a stick and say ‘go’): they must be ironic, or ‘really’ a clever auto-critique. As chabert describes here, the meaning of what we see is deferred to a menu of metaphysical choices provided by the film itself — positioning ourselves in relation to these ambiguously warring ‘philosophies’ is what gives the calculatedly shocking imagery its significance for us as individual viewers. But one need not approach the film in anything like an intellectual way, analysis is optional. Should one be unable or unwilling to process an image or line of dialogue, an alibi is always in play for shrugging it off as a completely meaningless special effect: “it’s just a comic book movie, man.”

Superhero movies are ideal for this sort of operation because they are what we might call post-genre. As A.O. Scott writes in the second linked article at the top of this post, their ‘laws’ are the abstract ones of the corporate PG-13 ‘blockbuster.’ A hero is born, develops into an ideal self-image, inherits fortune along with an inevitable enemy who must be defeated via increasingly lengthy, bloodless explosions, etc. Given those requirements, all existing genres are fair game. IM is a little bit science fiction, a little bit Top Gun/Iron Eagle, visual borrowings from mecha anime, splash of romcom patter, pinch of Jackass (in a couple faux-amateur handicam shots of Stark hurting himself while testing his military hardware). These elements are not so much blended as they are thrown together, so that the film shifts around spastically in tone and style despite the grinding forward motion of its 3-act machine. TDK labors under a more consistent directorial hand, but its plot structure is similarly incoherent. About the only stabilizing force available for readings of either film comes from its foregrounded ideological formulas, which are both horrendous, but as I said earlier, optional, the films keeping themselves ‘open’ for more ‘complex’ interpretations. They’re for kids and adults.

The apparent openness of interpretation is more true of TDK than IM, since most of the latter’s appeal is predicated on us being charmed by Robert Downey Jr. We watch him progress from bad-boy pop star captain of the military industrial complex to good corporate citizen, with a heart of liquid fusion (or something like that). In the comments of the post above, chabert remarks on the unreconstructed ’40s era mores assumed without irony by a number of recent mass entertainments. I would have said ’50s, as it seems clear to me that fantasy today is determined by its reaction to crisis; that decade’s tropes, the power of technology despite (and even because of) recognized dangers, the insecure overstatement of moral and political superiority over monstrous enemies, the total subordination of women and ‘minorities,’ have been cropping up all over the place, from the queasy nostalgia of David Lynch to their seamless blend with ‘realism’ in IM and TDK. As Voyou writes, we seem to be experiencing a “repetition-as-farce of the ’50s” in a number of areas, an experience perhaps of the failed realization of an older dream of the future.

IM views the War on Terror and the energy crisis through 1950s-colored glasses, much like the original ’60s character did for Vietnam and the rise of multinational corporations; its solution is to take the heroic-yet-faustian scientist figure out of his lab coat and literally meld him with the product of his alienated labor, only conceivable if he is also a capitalist. The film never stops playing up his personal power, making him out to be a hip pop mogul a la Steve Jobs. We see, however, that this flashy, superficial power is predicated on some major blind spots in his consciousness (i.e. his weapons are used to kill people). His path to true power (and moral vindication) is to master his personal limits. He builds his own Iron Man outfit, he completely binds his company to himself by rooting out the Jew-Arab conspiracy initiated by his co-CEO (not kidding, also his name is Obadiah), he shifts his company’s business away from weapons (which can be ‘misused’) to privatized renewable energy (which clearly can’t). He ends in a position of absolute control of his much-enlarged personal effects, the power journey going hand-in-hand with the moral journey, a necessary connection demonstrated by Stark scrupulously avoiding ‘collateral damage’ while blowing up Genghis Khan-quoting Arab terrorists, generating clean energy (the same substance that powers his heart!), and resisting the urge to pull a Mr. B on Gwyneth Paltrow’s ingenue secretary. Once all these trials are completed, we get the basic difference between IM and TDK — Stark can ‘come out’ as Iron Man. Maximum power=maximum accountability — though retaining secret paramilitary backup just in case — in other words, the old Clintonian boom years restored.

Padraig notes in the comments here that Bruce Wayne’s buyout of his own company (his repression of finance capital) makes him an old-school conservative, not a neoliberal. Stark does the same thing. So they are both, in a reactionary way, skeptical about capitalism (aren’t we all). IM is organized around the fantasy that military power and accountability (and personability, charm) can and indeed must be seamlessly blended through a reassertion and consolidation of natural and ethical limits, but TDK is structured by a series of interlocking thought experiments, the universalization of predetermined binary ‘choices.’ The film’s much-vaunted ‘shades of grey’ are an effect of the complex ‘moral calculus’ needed to function in such a constrained environment, where you can’t even blow up one little apartment building without elaborate justification, a challenge which mirrors the intellectual effort necessary to take this movie as seriously as its critics seem to. That it is considered more “serious” than IMIM is a “guilty pleasure” or an “entertaining romp,” TDK is a “pulp epic” of “boundless imagination” — is evidence of the stronger cultural cache of deterministic ‘pessimism.’ We’re presented with a bunch of high-powered decision-makers with entertainingly conflicting and destructive worldviews, not necessarily as points of identification (we’re shown that Batman, the Joker, and Two-Face are all irresponsible assholes) but as points of departure for our own analysis. I’m reminded of a wikiquote from Slavoj Žižek colonizer of academia for the pop culture machine:

Žižek: Yes, and the age of philosophy in the sense again that we are confronted more and more often with philosophical problems at an everyday level. It is not that you withdraw from daily life into a world of philosophical contemplation. On the contrary, you cannot find your way around daily life itself without answering certain philosophical questions. It is a unique time when everyone is, in a way, forced to be some kind of philosopher.

Beyond the ‘entertainment value’ of things blowing up on huge IMAX screens, beyond the collector’s appeal of the pop cultural references, the only value of these movies is equivalent to their ideological function: that we can use them to think about the world. The Batman film especially gives us the ‘tools’ to believe that we are ‘some kind of philosophers.’ We’re supplied with easily digestible nuggets pulled from headlines and pop filosofy with which to examine and ‘problematize’ our lives with the dilemmas and theories of Great Men: the ethics of extralegal power, chance vs. anarchy, the surveillance state, “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” (another romcom setup!), all products of the clash of concepts. Any complicating factors which might come from a different engagement with reality are removed. One could say I’m being fussy, as this is all pretty standard convention for the creation of fairytales, but then, “why so serious” if it’s assumed we all know better?


As always, the way to understand ideology is not to ask ‘what does the film think,’ nor ‘what can I think through the lens of this film,’ but ‘what does thinking ‘with’ the film prevent me from thinking.’ These behemoths are not interested in making ‘arguments’ (that’s our job), their job is to reinforce premises. Not because their creators have malicious intentions, but because it is important for their financial backers and consequently for them to ensure that those premises remain profitable. For example, the baseline pessimism and dependency that supports big-screen violent fantasies along with the notion that it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” is comforting, enabling to all kinds of fantasies, and serves as ground zero for a set of trained assumptions about the world, along with the opinions, laudatory, apologetic, or critical, derived from them. This is one definition of ‘popular.’

Movies featuring Batman and Iron Man are art in the same sense that this is art, with the important exception that Jeff Koons really exists. They are carefully planned and promoted media events; the buzz is the art, the actors’ personal lives are art, the criticism is art, the advertising is art. The profit is art. Everyone’s opinion is potentially valuable. Discussing the ‘object itself,’ relying on the tools it provides us with, is sort of quixotic in this context, inescapably minor and cliquish no matter if the critical lens is in the high culture modes of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and political theory or the sewers of fanboy mythography (not to mention the middle ground, allegorizing with headlines). Doing so just identifies the speaker with their discursive order: nerd, cult studs academic, movie critic, political moralist, etc., and helps establish a system of exchange between these ‘fields’ and the Hollywood production line. Given the increasing ‘popularity’ and ‘purity’ (openness/emptiness) of the object, what more can one reasonably expect?

Corporate cinema has pushed the superhero, a product of a genuinely popular (though not universal) culture, beyond the limits of what it can encompass. As an entirely derivative studio subgenre the superhero movie seems about to commence its very own fake self-deconstruction phase, repeating a cycle that had already run its course in the comics world by the time Batman came out in the late ’80s. What it needs is its Don Quixote, what it’s getting is its Unforgiven. That’s what they’re selling: who’s buying?

*1978’s Superman, aside from its inevitable (and like Phase 1 Batman, increasingly campy) sequels, didn’t really start a trend, and so I count it as more pioneer than progenitor. Evidently there were still more than enough non-comic book, but equally homoerotic/phobic superheroes for Hollywood to entertain us with.

** OTT, 300 is going to be amazing in 12 years or so, if any of us are still alive.
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45 Responses to “Heroes We Deserve”

  1. traxus4420 Says:

    Apologies to everyone who commented on my last post, whom I left hanging. I feel like it’s too late to properly reply. I hope you found something else to do.

  2. I have had very mixed feelings about this movie since seeing it – my first reaction was that it was ‘fascist’ but the more I think about it, the more meanings it takes on – but I think it was deliberately contrived to do that. Whatever our ‘intellectual’ vanities, we are encouraged to participate in the movie as an event. It encourages repeat viewings , word of mouth buzz and those more profitable DVD sales (I can see the holographic metal box-set alreay). Along with its hype, acclaim and the endless discussion of it, the movie is a deafening noise.

    It is the perfect Hollywood machine – so much/too little plot and incident it becomes incoherent, violence and power as spectacle but savvy enough about its ‘demographic’ it can create flattering illusions of being left-wing, right-wing, liberal, mystical, dialectic or whatever (discussion boards invoking Nietszche, Milton Friedmann, Leo Strauss, Walter Benjamin, Heidigger, George Lukacs, Aleister Crowley, Michel Lacan etc. etc. to discuss a cartoon character in a rubber suit). Oscar-nominated/winning actors coupled with a smart-ass ‘indie’ director to give this huge merchandising operation a surface sheen of being ‘serious’ (with ‘dark’ being as meaningless as ‘cool’ as a term of praise). Ugly, sadistic imagery choreographed to beat/seduce the viewer into sumbmission. No characters per se – just archetypes explaining what they are (as if we wouldn’t know from 70-year old characters), in case the 13 year olds get bored between car chases. Technological fetish (in and outside the narrative). Racial stereotypes supposedly balanced by a ‘magic negro’ – to absolve us of our fevered pleasure in conservative backlash fantasies. Witnessing characters we would hate in real life (ambitious law and order politicians and their psychotic financial backers/enforcers) ‘struggle for their souls’. Vaguely defined villainy as an immovable mysterious force from nowhere (see also I Am Legend (and its variants), There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men – those oscars love their demonic forces, don’t they?).

    In short, a masterpiece! Can’t wait to see it again…

  3. tat’s great,

    but this:

    “Bruce Wayne’s buyout of his own company (his repression of finance capital) makes him an old-school conservative, not a neoliberal.”

    No no, this is what Carlyle does, taking companies private with borrowed money is top drawer finance capital bizniz, just as important as taking companies public; two equally important methods, but to really be sure of making money doing this you have to have a lot of extra-financial (political) influence, power, ways of getting taxpayers or the shareholders of other outfits to assume your risk.

  4. I mean “they are both, in a reactionary way, skeptical about capitalism (aren’t we all).” only in the same the way the Bush family is. Competition is the structural condition but no capitalist actually favours it, it arises from everyone trying to not compete, to attain sure things and monopolies. But only the really upper level of capital can do this, and that’s basically what these figures are doing as well; while the idea is if you don’t have shareholders to whom you have a fiduciary duty you can run a business “morally” or less than evilly (which is kind of true, since you wouldn’t be breaking any law by reducing your sharevalue or profits if you’re the sole shareholder) but big ventures in taking public companies private is a major trend and not about the entrepreneur, like ben and jerry or the body shop founder, getting their companies back after.

  5. oh and yeah, it’s the fifties; the only forties-ish thing is really the corrupt politicians, the revolving door of gangland and government; the fifties cold war american pop culture has a lot of faith in and reverence for democratic institutions – weak and flawed sometimes but honest and worth preserving. ness and capone.

  6. (crossposted from here)

    This really is the definitive post on Dark Knight. But a few quick thoughts. First, I think Acephalous’s attempt to rehabilitate the film from attempts to understand it solely as a “balls-out obvious apolog[y] for the authoritarian, repressive ‘excesses’ of global capitalism” is instructive, and definitely worth reading.

    Second, Ryan writes that we are currently experiencing the”repetition-as-farce of the ’50s”—but this doesn’t strike me as a new phenomenon. Isn’t it more the case that postwar American culture is perpetually returning to the ’50s as a site of degrading, doomed unity?

    This is to say that Jameson’s claim that WWII is the moment of highest American nostalgia par excellence is, I think, fundamentally correct, with the revision that it’s more the period from Dec. 1941 to August 29, 1949, the day the Russians exploded their first atomic bomb. The ’50s are the memory of “the good ’40s” combined with and juxtaposed against the reality of 8/29/49—they are the dawning but perpetually unfinished recognition of how it all will go / is going / has already gone wrong. In other words, the ’50s themselves were a repetition-as-farce the first time around of the ideologically unacceptable, apocalyptic shock at the end of the previous decade—and we find ourselves going back to the ’50s for answers whenever we get shocked again.

    That’s why, when 1973 is the year of disaster for American capitalism, Happy Days premieres in 1974.

  7. traxus4420 Says:

    “There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men – those oscars love their demonic forces, don’t they?).”

    yeah, i was thinking about those two while writing this. there is an obvious difference in craftsmanship (batman has glossy but kind of boring cinematography, the fight scenes are as incoherent as everyone says) and intelligence, but it’s hard to pin down what else, if there’s any fundamental difference in attitudes.

    “big ventures in taking public companies private is a major trend”

    thanks, i was totally unaware of the majorness of this trend. interesting.

  8. i’m sorry, am i being obvious? in case not:

    “Private-equity firms like Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which came to fame in the RJR buyout, and others largely unknown outside Wall Street now possess more than $2 trillion in buying power. In addition to Kohlberg Kravis, the new brand names of finance are Bain Capital, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and Texas Pacific Group. The companies they own include Toys “R’’ Us and Hertz.

    The deal-making prowess of the big private-equity firms means that they have become Wall Street’s most important clients. Beyond Wall Street, the role of private equity as an investor has reshaped industries from energy to retailing to Hollywood.

    The buyout spree is expected to run on. Some big public companies, fed up with scrutiny from investors and regulators, are now selling themselves to private-equity firms. And private equity is increasingly able to take on bigger deals. Firms raised more than $260 billion worldwide just this year from big money managers like pension funds and university endowments. This month, Blackstone Group raised $15.6 billion, creating the world’s largest private-equity fund.

    “I get calls all the time from C.E.O.’s,’’ said Cristóbal I. Conde, chief executive of SunGard Data Systems, which was acquired by a group of private-equity firms last year for $11.3 billion. “They think they need to consider going private. They can’t ignore the possibility anymore.” ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/25/business/25buyout.html

    public companies have some drawbacks for capitalists, like meddling regulators and shareholders; its not “more capitalist” or “more neolib” to go to the public for financing.

  9. (and as it happens this film, the dark knight, was made by the warner partnership with private equity firms; that partnership’s first film, in fact, was Batman Begins. A sort of heroic autobio of the film’s own financing.

  10. “Legendary Pictures
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Legendary Pictures logo.Legendary Pictures is an American motion picture production company based in Burbank, California. The company has a 5-year, 25-picture agreement to co-produce and co-finance with Warner Bros., starting in 2005. Their contract with Warner Bros. expires in 2010. Legendary Pictures’ first full-length feature with Warner Bros was the comic book movie, Batman Begins, soon followed by another comic book adaptation, Superman Returns.

    Legendary Pictures is the first company of its kind to pair major motion picture product with major Wall Street private equity and hedge fund investors and was subsequently named Media/Entertainment Deal of the Year by IDD Magazine.

    Legendary Pictures investors include ABRY Partners, AIG Direct Investments, Bank of America Capital Investors, Columbia Capital, Falcon Investment Advisors and M/C Venture Partners.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legendary_Pictures

  11. (i’m sorry if i missed some sarcasm; only to say, going private is the hottest newest sexy kepitalist thing, and it gets into the movies, like going public and the trading floor was the sexy kepitalist thing in baby boom or trading places or wall street.)

  12. traxus4420 Says:

    shit! no, i in fact didn’t know how much of a trend privatization was. i wrote that comment really fast without checking for unintentional irony. my now heightened embarrassment should be apology enough. i was treating it as a confused reaction to the financial crisis by rejecting the standard cliche about ‘going public’ as the money thing to do, without much in the way of content. this makes the whole private/public dilemma these movies seem so conflicted about a bit more interesting.

    am reading about the sarbanes-oxley act right now…

    G C, thanks for the complements, that seems right about the ’50s as a fucked up security blanket.

    i don’t get how acephalous’s post makes a counterargument to the ‘manifest content’ of the movie as an apology for capitalist excess — sure there’s nuance, some give and take, but as i think even he’s arguing, the core assumptions don’t change, no matter what our attitude toward them. you can go back and forth about whether it’s ‘ultimately’ pro or anti bush, but whatever your individual take there are some underlying ethical and political frames that are being retrenched, not just reexamined. for me it manifests as strain, overzealousness that should be comical except we’re ‘too close,’ a struggle to own the cracks in a rusty old facade unfortunately still relied on by hollywood blockbusters just as much as the state.

  13. This is very good. Looking at the first picture of the Batman villains I wonder what people who didn’t know Batman would make them just from the cues you get. Penguin is sort of degenerate capitalist in the Rockefeller/Mellon mold or degenerate Britisher. Riddler’s kind of a commie hipster. Joker’s sort of Cab Calloway burlesque (as is Catwoman, not pictured, in a different register). If you had enough villains based on enough historical stereotypes you could analyse new Batman product based on what they were chiming with in historical Batman.

  14. Russian tanks have entered South Ossetia – BBC

  15. Penguin is sort of degenerate capitalist in the Rockefeller/Mellon mold or degenerate Britisher. – That’s sort of like you, isn’t it, Luke

    Traxus it is not at all entirely true that this movie abandons the camp key as Christian Bale’s queeny appearance remains pure camp, but overall your argument is fairly riducilous when you consider that socialist societies, like the Yugoslav one, regularly produced megabucks spectacles designed to extol the virtue of the Party and the Partisan combating the Fascist. Actually Batman looks relatively tame and naive in comparison.

    Any case the sheer amount of writing and commenting on this media event in the lefty blawgosphere testifies mostly to our deeply ingrained need as humans to indulge in fantasies, rather than anything political, and if the corporate hacks which you denounce so vehemently wanted to sell their product they couldn’t have found a better audience than you and Colonel Sherbert.

  16. the queasy nostalgia of David Lynch

    Lynch-bashing may be au courant around some leftist blogs though the reasons for said bashing are not readily apparent (I havent seen TDK, so I will refrain from kvetching at this point. Burton’s Batman was batman (and joker} enough).

    Lynch avoids any obvious ideological stance perhaps, but then so does Kafka. If he is some nihilist-rightist or crypto-fascist, I don’t perceive it: maybe his flicks are too private or dark or something (or ugly), but certainly not ordinary corporate product. He mocks the American yokel , rich or po’ ah would contend, and thankfully avoids the obvious liberal appeals. Wild at Heart seemed sort of scary beat-like, really: what a smarter Kerouac might have written (then Ti Jean probably gulag meat for some), or maybe Ray Chandler if a heroin addict. Existential road song maybe. Quite more powerful than Burton’s pop goth stuff. Twin Peaks at least tweaked consumerland for a while: the random weirdness at least an amusing change, though yes sort of ugly and maybe pointless (or is it narcissistic). His portrayal of femmes (whether in flcks or TV) a nice change from the usual sentimental fare. He paints a ho as a ho at least (and noirish aspects maybe offend marxistas: marxistas may offend us………)

  17. traxus4420 Says:

    THat’s good, Luke — Batman has consistently the best villains out of anyone, wikipedia has a list:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_villains

    a fun fact i recently reminded myself of is that hugo strange was the first recurring batman villain, an evil psychoanalyst (among other Victorian pseudoscience-y things).

    parodycenter, i am able to view the film as camp, it just seemed to me that no one else was doing so. thanks for making me feel less lonely in the world. thanks also for reminding me of the evils of socialism, which i had completely left out of my post.

  18. traxus4420 Says:

    J, i’m used to ordinary corporate product, being mostly he product of liberals, NOT being obviously ‘nihilist-rightist’ — that’s what surprises me about the obviousness of the more recent superhero movies (beginning at least with the flag-waving in Spider-Man).

    Lynch gets away with it because of his strangeness. he can present the ’50s-flavored nostalgia, misogyny and racism as ‘our’ unconscious desire, manifested by his crazed genius. he can masquerade as one of bland corporate america’s few authentic products by stylizing the fantasies of bland corporate america. i agree he does it really well, good enough to have a shot at canonization, i’m not calling him a hack, just a creep.

  19. I think it really is a problem currently that people presume the world will end before the current world order will, and, until you pointed it out, i didn’t really see it in these films, but it’s there, it’s just presumed that the end/rapture/apocalypse is coming.
    and i think the one thing that sorta struck me is that rachel, despite the mostly passive role she gets, in batman asks an important question, when will bruce wayne be able to live without batman?
    she points out that it’s not the city so much as the man that needs the symbol and the violence, and that he never will be able to live without batman—but the more important question that results is, when will the viewers be able to live without batman, without heroes that presume the end is nigh? when will it be time for us to turn to brighter lights and symbols that work from the notion that hey, things WILL work out, we just maybe have to do it together…

  20. oh and hey, the media is not liberal last time i checked (see films like ‘the myth of liberal media’ or just listen to amy goodman)—the bush bashing just seems to be a chance to go with the flow and show everyone that the media is not conservative, when hell yes it is

  21. The Batman theme also concerns urbanism (which you hint at): “Gotham” stands for babylon, for the American metropolis does it not (and with Fritz Lang overtones at well–at least Burton’s B-m had that vibe). Much of the bashing around the gauchblogs seems to overlook that aspect: the filmmakers sort of exploit the heartlander’s anti-urban perspective. That ah vaguely Mumfordian reading may booor the pomo left, but seems somewhat relevant: big cities, certainly downtowns, are frightening, nightmarish places for many commuters out in the burbs (not to say in more rural locales). …..

    COnsider the skyscrapers, the nocturne scenes, shadows everywhere, moody muzak: dystopia. And the perps on the streets reinforce that. Batman (even say the original strip, or Burton’s) may not be so fascist except in the sense of fatalism or antipolitical. Batman himself–the Knight connotation can’t really save or improve or redeem Gotham. He stops various injustices but there’s always something new. Sure its corporate, strictleee commercial, but rather despairing in a way: pop-Wagnerian really (and at least with some edginess–better the original Bat than Coens Bros wackier crypto-neo-con flicks, sort of Seinfeld for the ahht-house crowd).

  22. traxus4420 Says:

    J – where the new batman diverges a bit from the old gotham-as-dystopia formula, as has been noticed now and again, is its cleanliness. it’s almost all shot in downtown chicago, which is pretty much grit-free. i would read nolan’s versions as indifferent to the attitudes of the heartland, all sorts of movies are set in safe, nonthreatening cities and still make money. burton’s not so — he makes gotham a horror movie set, the first scene has batman saving tourists while visually referencing dracula. opposite of nolan, burton is constantly suggesting that maybe gotham isn’t worth saving, at least for traditional law & order reasons.

    comparing the movies to the comics (the early ones at least), there’s a question of scale. in the movies it’s always the entire city that’s being threatened, to justify the inflated budgets; no one cares about mere robberies and serial killings. so the ethical dilemmas are easily analogies for the dilemmas of statesmen, accompanied by all this pomp and circumstance. played down in burton, which stresses the fantasy aspect, the difference from reality, but played way way up in the nolan. it’s not the “fail better” attitude itself that’s fascist, but the associations and the context.

    “the media is not liberal last time i checked”

    in sum, no, but individuals working in hollywood and the critics who review their material are mostly liberals. it was a bit of overstatement. how can there be all these educated liberals working in the media and yet its output still seems on balance to serve the right (excluding social values conservatives perhaps). the classic question.

  23. john steppling Says:

    I only wanted to add (after a lengthy debate with chabert on her excellent site) that two things strike me reading the comments.

    First, Iron Man (and i guess its ok to refrence myself here (http://www.bestcyrano.org/cyrano/?p=526) and DK, and the whole array of Doomsday films, from The Happening to Cloverfield, etc etc etc, are doing very well … and J asked the question, when will viewers be able to do without the end is nigh formula? I think there is a desire for fantasies about infrastructure meltdown. Its almost less fear and more desire. The weight of hiding contradictions (saakashvilli is really a good democratic man fighting a horrible kremlin, Iraqis are being given liberation, Kosovars are free, etc)…..popular culture seems almost ‘about’ the repressing of these contradictions, as it also expresses them. Studios finance this junk, and its certainly an ever more infantile audience it seems, and nostalgia and kitsch is tricked out in serious analysis, but in the end, we are in a comic book world. But still, a Nolan, high paid hack that he is, is also a product of this culture. Of his class to be sure, but still……(Lynch owns one of the biggest business schools in europe I believe…and spends a lot of time in Lodz, where I live…..and strikes me as pretty much an uber-captialist).

    I do think DK expresses something of this malaise, without intending to, and Joker as Ledger portrays him, is an interesting bit of psycho-sexual identification, but I wonder in the end if the society of the spectacle isnt simply distracting everyone from more sober political reflections….myself included. I think its good to analyse popular culture, because it expresses something worth looking at, but it always seems close to a closed loop at a certain point. Maybe Im just critiquing myself here. I dont know.

  24. “how can there be all these educated liberals working in the media and yet its output still seems on balance to serve the right (excluding social values conservatives perhaps). ”

    it could be as simple as polarisation: in the last quarter century, this elite has gotten a lot wealthier and socialises with and works for immensely wealthy immensely powerful people and lives in gentrified cities in a country where the majority has become a lot poorer. They no longer fear “street crime”; they fear taxation, they fear earthquakes and fires, they fear financial crises, and they fear big popular unrest, political mobilisation against the status quo which is very favourable to them but which they can’t help but notice is really bad for just about everybody. And the liberals fear the extremist right because they fear they will provoke unpredictable reactions, global financial and political instability, so they tend to put these menaces together, the power that “goes too far” and provokes, the (worse) chaos that blows back. They blame the power for the situation but they also favour it over the chaos – this is the logic, the result being you have to support the power in its efforts to master the chaos it has provoked, having no choice. You can at once blame the power’s “excesses” for the crisis and support the necessity for the power to become even more despotic to solve the emergency its errors and hubris have created.

  25. Zizek of course epitomises the wealthy liberal perspective:

    Consequently, of the two main stories which emerged after September 11, both are worse, as Stalin would have put it. The American patriotic narrative – the innocence under siege, the surge of patriotic pride – is, of course, vain; however, is the Leftist narrative (with its Schadenfreude: the US got what they deserved, what they were for decades doing to others) really any better? The predominant reaction of European, but also American, Leftists was nothing less than scandalous: all imaginable stupidities were said and written, up to the “feminist” point that the WTC towers were two phallic symbols, waiting to be destroyed (“castrated”). Was there not something petty and miserable in the mathematics reminding one of the holocaust revisionism (what are the 6000 dead against millions in Ruanda, Kongo, etc.)? And what about the fact that CIA (co)created Taliban and Bin Laden, financing and helping them to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan? Why was this fact quoted as an argument AGAINST attacking them? Would it not be much more logical to claim that it is precisely their duty to get us rid of the monster they created?

  26. The “solutions” to the credit crisis are also fine examples; the power that caused the crises has to be enhanced so it can now master it. The difference between liberal and reactionary is only the diagnosis of the cause of the crisis: on “what now” there’s agreement – the liberal position is to “hold your nose” and support Batman; the reactionary position is to allow the liberals to hold their noses while they support Batman.

  27. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    would read nolan’s versions as indifferent to the attitudes of the heartland, all sorts of movies are set in safe, nonthreatening cities and still make money. burton’s not so — he makes gotham a horror movie set,

    No, J. was right. And Arpege half-right, because she only thinks this legendary, all-powerful elite is ‘unafraid of street crime’. While there has been an upsurge in statistics in the last couple of years here, the Giuliani sterilizations have actually made New York, which is most people’s idea of Gotham, even if not quite literally, have a very different vibe in terms of ‘dangerous neighborhoods’. Even forgetting any agreement with Communist progaganda as constantly purveyed by endless incorrect analysis, this element of the film seems to have gone ujnnoticed. The metropolis that could be referred to is no longer physically dangerous in either reality or propaganda as it was even as recently as the 80s. No wonder they would put it in Chicago, since its self-righteous work ethic has kept it a hick town, and this can be understood.

    Another example of this kind of thing is a 2002 ‘performance’ at Town Hall, where I was forced to attend a taping of Garrison Keillor’s radio show because a grieving friend needed company and we had these horrible free tickets. Everybody onstage had to be willing to get down on all fours, including real performers like Kristen Chenoweth and Odetta, and you can see pretty much what I saw in Robert Altman’s perfectly hideous homage to Keillor in ‘Prairie Home Companion’. The ghost of the woman who comes back to talk with Keillor lets slip the truth: “And the joke you told: It wasn’t funny,” Keillor pretends to sympathize, but by now he’s nothing but a cynical robot, and even Lily Tomlin has not even a slight ray of light through this shit (and she’s the only reason I got through it). Most embarassing is Meryl Streep, because she is finally less of a chameleon when acting like a totall Midwestern-style masochist, tearful and over-acting bullshit a mile a minute. She is just repulsive.

    But what the film didn’t include which the 2002 taping did was a long comedy skit by Keillor’s own people that was supposed to parody New Yorkers. Not for one moment did it catch any intonation, any quirk, any even obvious stereotype of New Yorkers. It was even less effective than ‘Sex and the City’, which also has nothing to do with anything except people who haven’t been in New York very long, and think living here is like old stories in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

    I haven’t seen Batman, but I have followed some of these discussions, and the ‘evil of the city’ is so weird to see, since it is never even a subject among actual urbanites. In chat rooms on the net, you do see that people still loathe New Yorkers and other city people, as J. submits, but the emphasis is definitely different now: It is ‘we are just as sophisticated and chic as you are’. You see it in the tourist buses, and I see it in the American tourists on the street (less so those from other places), and that is really because the city, basically much ‘safer’ now, at least physically, is becoming more like the other parts of the country, so that the barbarians can really be at the gate, while pretending to still admire when there own posturing as sophisticated has been seen through as not particularly schooled thus far; and it’s also true that the metropolis does still have many institutions, no matter the talk going back to and before Virilio, that this other kind of non-metropolis megalopolis would decenter the city, make it null and void. In fact, it IS perhaps smaller, but if anything, those parts of it that continue from before have picked up on these developments, and have become more ainaccessible, not less.

  28. Whereas the typical gauchiste position seems to suggest siding with jihadists, or FARC perhaps, or the neo-soviets. There’s no magical assessment-process, for economics or entertainment biz. Batman (regardless of the obvious “corporate hegemony” etc) does sort of show the world on fire , as Brecht put it (Burton’s anyway). Pathology’s a better starting point than is Plato….quantifying Thanatos……

  29. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    I should include that dreadful slums do, of course, exist in New York and other cities, and very obviously in parts of Los Angeles like Compton with the driveby shootings. Both capitalist and socialist sides have conditions that are yundesirable in them that are not to be mentioned. In any case, ‘crime-ridden city’ is not publicized for its excitement value like it used to be. The tourists on the buses are at least sophisticated enough to know that they are not coming to look at heroin addicts (they do have those themselves by now). If anything, they could use Chicago because it looks urban enough with a dense skyscraper district (Milton Friedman, one was amused to note years ago, pointed out how ‘very beautiful’ the Chicago cityscape is, due to its presumably virtuous eruption, which has never been accused of being very sybaritic. It would have been cheaper to shoot there, and looks enough like Manhattan for those in the demographic who don’t care about accuracy in such things (I don’t know how I’d care either, given it’s just Batman). I think much of the studio films are ‘heartland-induced’ and Hollywood if sull of Midwesterners. as far as financing only goes, I agree with Steppling more than Arpege, but her insistence does point out that the MOST INTERESTING aspects of these movies ARE, in fact, what they tell us about their makers, because that is more guarded material, whereas the ‘general audience’ is at least non-elite enough not to be involved in the machinery of the actual making of the film. I agree with Steppling that these films tell much more than just that, but her point is important because the hidden material is by far the most IMPORTANT thing they tell us, but not because it’s a fucking Valhalla-by-the-Santa-Monica-Bay kind of thing. Even when there was a Valhalla in Hollywood, they didn’t know it, that’s why they called it Babylon instead.

    Steppling said: “I think its good to analyse popular culture, because it expresses something worth looking at, but it always seems close to a closed loop at a certain point. Maybe Im just critiquing myself here. I dont know.”

    I hope that is true, and think that it surely must be. Socialists should follow your lead in critiquing themselves a lot more often than they do, but your things in the Arpege Annals were very good (hers too, by the way.)

  30. traxus4420 Says:

    “I think there is a desire for fantasies about infrastructure meltdown. Its almost less fear and more desire…popular culture seems almost ‘about’ the repressing of these contradictions, as it also expresses them.”

    i think that’s right, john — i enjoyed reading your exchange with chabert and wish i could have participated more in it — i agree with everyone that it’s basically a truism that people want reality given to them in a more comprehensible fantasy form of some kind, no culture, dominant or otherwise, has existed without myths. myth itself is not a conspiracy. but i think it’s a contradiction to first acknowledge that the dark knight (as an example of the studio mass entertainment vehicle) doesn’t simply reflect the collective will then, since it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, interpret it as if it expressed the collective will *somehow*. it’s criticizing a premise and then relying on it.

    i think in order to use the movie to learn something about the culture at large one has to read it along with its reception. see how people use it, how people have used similar movies in the present, like iron man, or past, like burton’s batman, and what those movies were like, how were they different. i think you can’t jsut look at the dark knight and say anything with confidence about anyone except the creators, studio people, and possibly the class they belong to.

    so for example, how do we come up with the ‘desire for meltdown’ — there is tremendous uncertainty in just about every american’s everyday life, different but related: the housing crisis, the environment, foreign wars, oil prices, the weak dollar, etc., there’s a lot of free-floating fear that can be channeled in different directions. hollywood’s ‘serious’ input (movies that are given the stamp of non-frivolity) seems overwhelmingly to be fantasies about nihilistic destruction, the apocalypse, etc. people go home and discuss them, write responses, come up with their own apocalyptic fantasies. hollywood versions of apocalpyse, in reference to older apocalypse fantasies (esp. the ’70s) enter popular discourse. they exert an institutional pressure to conform to their terms, to treat their underlying principles as true, collective fantasies and diagnose others with them.

    if i can make this leap, i think the process resembles things like racism and sexism — fantasies that can be made ‘true’ through the efforts of powerful institutional forces working their way into collective habit; it takes a great deal of effort to make them not true.

  31. traxus4420 Says:

    “The metropolis that could be referred to is no longer physically dangerous in either reality or propaganda as it was even as recently as the 80s”

    this is what i was trying to get at with comparing nolan to burton — the city is presented differently, as not inherently threatening. shot after shot of chicago’s pristine (boring) downtown is not how i would think hatred and loathing of cities would be expressed.

    also in the new batman movies you almost never see the criminals picking on innocent bystanders except impersonally by evil masterminds threatening everyone at once. batman might have stopped a mugging or two in the first one (i can’t remember) but in the dark knight there’s no crime that would threaten individual urbanites except in the aforementioned grandiose, terroristic way.

    maybe heartland ‘opinion’ (read: expectations of ticket purchases from said heartland) should be understood as setting limits on what can be shown, rather than determining specific content. like it’s acceptable now to have cities be ‘worth protecting’ (clean, banal, nice), and have that be ‘realism,’ even in a batman movie. 9/11 probably had something to do with this.

  32. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    Yes, could be.

  33. This is very funny.

    Mr Schiffgens, who also wore a golden crown and claimed to be the “raja” or prince of Germany, declared: “Invincible Germany! Invincible Germany! – I want to hear you all say ‘Invincible Germany!'”

    In a country that has spent much of the past half-century attempting to atone for the evils of the Nazi era, his exhortations did not go down well. The raja was booed and shouted down.

    One audience member yelled: “That’s exactly what Hitler wanted.” Mr Schiffgens further enraged the audience when he replied: “Yes, but unfortunately he didn’t succeed.” The row brought the uncomprehending Mr Lynch to his feet to tell the students: “I don’t know what he said but I think I understand that he used a word from the Third Reich. Let’s just look at it this way, it’s a new world now.”

  34. More patented racism from Mlle LCC. Lynch— crypto fascist!!! Why? He’s caucasian, and not obviously marxist.

    It’s similar to what she does with the Zizek bashing. Who cares what he says, argues for, writes: he’s not like approved by Angela Davis style apparatchiks (that said LCC’s obviously has certain unique talents–sybilline one might say— far exceeding most of us).

  35. john steppling Says:

    traxus–

    i want to think on this a bit. I agree both you and chabert have pointed up a contradiction of sorts in what Im trying to express. But maybe I can try to find another way to talk about it.

    Lets take the Doomsday films….and there are a lot of them. If we say the older ones expressed this fear, this anxiety, that individuals had about the cold war, or whatever, this is something that the filmmakers and studios picked up on and sort of exploited. They , the films, were expressions of a general anxiety out there, as the studio saw it. But I think we have to look at the the entire mass culture now, and how it operates. The way that an audience in the 1970s and in 2008 differ.

    Today the saturation of product is so total and so relentless, and we have a generation or two where such saturation has effected the very way people interpret narrative. Chabert and I touched on how truncated narrative has become. I see this all the time, and if you look at a film from 1947 you see a complexity in narrative, just to focus on that, that is by and large missing today. So, ok, this saturation of corporate media keeps repeating certain themes, and establishes certain frames for how to look at everything…..certainly the current Russian/Georgian conflict is being *spun* a certain way, and it establishes the base line — as chabert said on her blog, after only a week its now almost impossible for a journalist to deviate from the official story.

    Well, these official stories exist in all kinds of ways. Im really interested in narrative; how we tell ourselves stories, how we narrative our lives to ourselves and others. And how society tells *us* stories. The master discourse as it were, but also the personal. So today, a filmmaker decides to write a Doomsday film — his frame, if he’s under 40, and maybe even if he’s older, has been established more rigidly than the director from 1970. He has been brought up with more corporate storytelling, and with less education of a type that would provide for the ability to develop more complext stories.

    Now i see this in students at the film school constantly. A total lack of literay background, and hence a dependency on pop culture and it bromides and abbreviated stories. Anyway, this director writes a film, a Doomsday scenario, and it will be framed in some kind of manner that has been shaped by this corporate media world he has grown up in. But what really interests me is that even with that, (and again i see this with students) other things enter the narrative………expressions of a personal sexual pathology, or expressions of unconscious repressed matterial, etc. So that if we stick with dark knight….a really bad film….badly shot, badly written, and yet a heath ledger, playing a character badly written and badly conceived, still somehow invests it with a creepy personal quality of unhealth, of anal-sadistic pathology — something uncanny almost…..that is actually, to my mind, seperate from the textual *Joker*. So what is this? Well, lets just say its Ledger’s unconscious, or semi conscious personal interpretation of comic book figures, of authority, or of just his own unease with himself. Who knows. Im not his shrink. But this wierd peformance then tilts the meaning of the film, Nolan responds to it, Bale does, and the Dp does — all these tiny adjustments, and soon the film takes on something of an expression of the time in which its been made.

    So, does it *reflect* the outside world? well, only in the way Im trying to describe, as it also adheres closely to the studio formula, and to the DC/Marvell world view.

    But even the studio formula has a dialectical relationship with its product. The unease in some of its product will cause this or that to happen. All Im saying is that to say its *only* a dumb high school fantasy, and only Nolan talking to his class, rather simplifies the whole complex process of pop culture.

    Let me add, i dont see why someone like Nolan couldnt, in theory, despite his background, speak to other issues. In his case, though, I dont think he does, nor can. He is a singularly limited filmmaker.

    Ok, i want to think more on this. Adapting a cormac mccarthy novel…..my favorite in fact, by a pair of profoundly middle brow filmmakers, still somehow becomes something interesting……to me anyway. Notwithstanding its corporate financing.

    Relations of production are crucially important, but they do not totally define the parameters of what a film is doing.

    I want to touch on sentimentality too…………..an ever present trope for american art……….and something that only works in the most reductive narrative worlds. You almost cant have something be sentimental if the narrative becomes too complex….if characters becomes seperated from their formula even a tiny bit.

    ok, but enough for me……..for now anyway. and patrick, hi, nice to run into you again.

  36. john steppling Says:

    oh, i got lost….let me just add, per Doomsday films……this hypothetical director of today, after his upbringing, will come to examine *fear* of meltdown……will (this is my theory anyway) start to look at the anxiety of environmental crisis, or nukes and of whatever, and maybe start to feel this tug toward the desire of it…….as if (because all these new doomsday films seem to do this) the culture can no longer process the contradictions…..the offical frame wont work , the marketing has reached fail safe…..I dont know……and so these films start to relfect this maybe. Notwithstanding their forumuals and corporate funding.

  37. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks john, i’m glad you’ve brought things to this apparent impasse, because it helps me get a better idea of what to do with ledger’s performance, which i agree is very strange and exceeds its structural position in the film. uniquely among the other parts, whose actors sort of become robot versions of themselves, as is typically the case in these cowardly blockbuster money vehicles.

    you can see he’s all the bloggers as well as all the mainstream critics really want to talk about, what bothers me is when he’s used to make the film seem better than it is, when he’s just fed into the by-the-numbers fake-political readings or the psychoanalysis or whatever else, and the power of his performance is employed to legitimize all these creaky old constructs, whether academic or propagandistic. i would defend the performance but not the movie in any sense.

    his ‘nihilism’ as i’m going to label it for now — and it has to be separated from the character of the joker — is interesting when it’s directed against legitimacy, or maybe cultural capital (describing this really badly) and boring when the badly written character takes over and it’s given the form of a general denial of everything, which serves as a transparent cover for the joker’s megalomania (a perverse sort of fake populism).

    i have to say when watching i thought to myself, this performance is really something but trying to analytically extricate it from this terrible machine it’s attached to doesn’t seem worth the effort.

  38. john steppling Says:

    trax….came across this quote from Adorno…..

    ” Deep down and contrary to its better judgement, the bourgeois character tends to cling to what is inferior: it is fundamental to ideology that it is never fully believed and that it advances from self disdain to self destruction. The semi educated consciousness insists on the ‘I like that’ — laughing with cynical embarrasment at the fact that cultural trash is expressly made to dupe the consumer…
    …the dominant consciousness is objectively led to this dank attitude because the adminsitered must renounce the possibility of maturity, including aesthetic maturity…

    …the critical concept of society which inheres in authentic artworks without needing to be added to them, is incompatible with what society must think of itself if it is to continue as it is….the ruling consciousness cannot free itself from its own ideology without endangering society’s self preservation. This confers social relevance on apparently derivative aesthetic controversies.”

    “In artworks, the forces of production are not in themselves different from social productive forces except by their by their constitutive absenting from real power. Scarcely anything is done or produced in artworks that does not have its model, however latent, in social production.”

  39. […] The comments to my superhero post got me thinking about acting and corporate cinema (if anyone cares to complement my idle musings […]

  40. john steppling Says:

    ah, well………….yeah, interesting. I mean, first, compare the acting in a Bresson film. And then compare it to a hal hartley film.

    Brando for example — and what he was doing was actually nothing at all like what most *method* actors do. The question is the form — is film form, in some sense anyway.

    I agree that the new loss of affect (and here one should sample Songs From the Second Floor, by swedish director Roy Anderson)….is pure marketing, but then an Anderson was trained in TV commercials….and Chiatt Day perfected this style. When it reaches a Hartley (and more than a few others) we have a slightly different intent. Its simply now just a blankness…..meant to not fill anything. Buster Keaton’s blankness was melancholy……..but the new blankness (as it were) is about non-intention. Its not reaction, its nothing. Its loss of affect I guess, literally.

    Again however, if you go back a ways and look at good film actors, Spencer Tracy for example. He *does* very little…..and in a sense Brando does very little too….but in a much more romantic and theatrical way. Tracey, or Robert Ryan, these guys were pure film actors. They didnt look to dissapear into their roles……(which Ledger does by the way) but they were playing themselves somehow. What happened though was the rise of a techological chauvenism — robo cop or terminator — but even dirty harry……where the intent was to be less than human, the loss of affect was loss of compassion.

    Im rambling here……and I need to think on this…..

  41. traxus4420 Says:

    good adorno quote — where’s it from?

    what you say here makes me think of noir and its nouvelle vague antecedents, where there is what one might call a dramatization of blankness, sometimes played with in manipulative ways with nonprofessionals (like antonioni in zabriskie point). maybe the contemporary inheritor of this is ‘hipster’ stuff like wes anderson, or mumblecore, where the tone is self-conscious, light absurdity meant to be suggestive of the earlier types but ‘without making a big deal about it.’

    but in the movies i’m talking about here the loss of compassion or loss of affect isn’t even an issue, the actors are just tools, props as chabert puts it in the comments to my last post.

  42. john steppling Says:

    Well, yeah, they are props…..but i wonder if all actors at all times might not be seen this way.

    I dont know — it raises the question of what a “performance” actually does….what is it? The audience knows its not watching *real life*, so you arent really trying to duplicate reality, but rather an actor is performing and doing so in a very particular context….theatre or film….and they are different I think.

    So this brings up back to narrative. The sense in which they are props is the result, partly, of a truncated narrative…..and of a highly reductive created world.

    Ok, ii guess i gotta go look at that previous post 🙂

    Oh, and the adorno is form Aesthetic Theory.

  43. […] duo are fictional tropes — in Hostel torture is just a business. The Dark Knight’s Joker,There Will Be Blood’s Plainview, and No Country For Old Men’s Chigurh all borrow the […]

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