Batman vs Superman and the 2016 Election
Bruce Wayne/Batman vs Clark Kent/Superman “Bruce Wayne/Batman is the very embodiment of White privilege, his parents die and leave him a bunch of money that he didn’t have to work for. And what does he do with his vast wealth? He puts on very expensive clothing and beats up people of color.” This is the “joke” I told before watching Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice with some friends. The more the movie went on the more I realized the similarities between Bruce Wayne and America’s favorite self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump.
Both Wayne and Trump inherited most of their wealth, both are from metropolises, both of them behave as if they are above the law, both have difficulty respecting women, both are authoritarians, both have buildings with their names on them, both have used money to manipulate politicians, both have unique notions of what justice looks like, both see themselves as the only person capable of doing what is right. What’s most interesting is the people who love them, like Trump the Batman/Wayne attracts a horde of faithful supporters unwilling or unable of questioning the moral standing of their hero.
If Trump is Batman who is Sanders? I’m glad you asked, obviously he’s Superman. He’s from a “rural state” like Kansas, he lived in Metropolis aka NYC (more on that later), he has the morally super argument, he allegedly resists war and killing, he has real political power, and like Superman is rarely challenged or questioned by those faithful to him, he has a group of followers with an almost religious devotion to him. He is a man of the people, but like Superman is still above them (as he is in the top 2% of income earners in the US), he has one woman he’s been with for as long as we can all remember, he (like Superman - in all of the movies and most of the TV shows) has difficultly making friends from racial minority groups, and has been consistent in his message for decades. Most importantly Sanders’s biggest enemy is the “billionahs on Wall Street” kind of like Superman’s biggest enemy is Lex Luthor a billionaire who’s publicly traded company is on Wall Street.
Batman vs Superman is great because of the amount of work the storytellers place in the back story. While some critics claimed it was slow-moving or boring, I found it fascinating. Snyder wasn’t trying to make a movie to compete with Disney’s money making machine of pop comic book movies, Snyder is making a philosophical statement. His work is Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, not Osteen’s Your Best Life Now. The first hour or so of the movie is dedicated to showing Superman and Batman’s backstories reminding the viewer of who they are; it’s not until almost the last 25 minutes you realize how very similar their stories are. What’s great is that attention is payed to how their similar circumstances affect their personas and how they decide to respond to the trauma of their lives.
Gotham/Chicago vs Metropolis/New York City
In the movie it’s portrayed as if Gotham and Metropolis are across a small body of water from each other, like you could run to the other city in an hour or so on a bridge if you wanted. However in the Dark Knight series of the Batman canon almost all the filming for it was done in Chicago; it even made “the El” a part of the plot in one film. Metropolis is clearly portrayed as New York City (but filmed in Chicago…apparently NYC isn’t getting that movie money). Like all fictional NYC’s it is always being blown up or destroyed in some way, in Superman films that primary way is by him being thrown into buildings or being shot at by some super-powered villain of some kind.
Gotham’s biggest issue is it’s corrupt politicians (like Rahm Immanuel) whose inaction and greed leads to criminals maintaining a strong grip on the city. Once they do get honest people in office they are driven out quickly, often betrayed by dirty cops, killed, or eventually purchased by the crime lords/ladies. It is in this environment the views of young Master Wayne are shaped and how he discovers only he is the right person to save this city.
Metropolis has similar problems, but is largely portrayed as a liberal safe-haven where the rural kids can come and be free and unique. The biggest problem of this city is not the criminals in hiding but the wealthy criminals (like the people responsible for the crash of 2008) who can keep buying their way out of prison and buying every politician in sight (maybe even Supreme Court Justices). It is in this environment that Kent discovers who the real enemy is, the wealthy.
Unrelated side-notes: Both Sanders and Trump have strong ties to both Gotham and Metropolis…I mean Chicago and NYC. Trump has towers in both cities. Sanders was born in NYC and went to college in Chicago. Chicago shut down a Trump rally and he receded faster than his hairline.
What about the rest of the candidates?
To answer honestly, most of them don’t really matter in my analysis of this movie. If I had to pick I would say Clinton is one of the Senators that gets a few speaking roles; not the female one that gets the most screen/talk time of the politicians, she’s the Black male Senator that we only get to see for like 3 scenes. I promised no spoilers so I can’t explain why here…but I have my reasons.
Clearly Lex Luthor can’t be anyone in the real world, because unlike Luther no one is pure evil. Real humans are nuanced and complicated and ultimately most human beings think that they are doing the right thing, even when they aren’t. Luther is open about his selfish motivations, he doesn’t feel the need to hide the wickedness in his heart, the fact that most real people do shows they aren’t as evil as we want to make them out to be.
I think Lil Marco is in the movie, he’s the janitor in Wayne Enterprises, the one that stays in the background and no one really pays attention to him. Chris Christie was in it to, he was the Governor of New Jersey in the movie. I know those of you who saw the movie are thinking, “Was the Governor of New Jersey in this movie?” and you’re right to ask that, because I don’t recall, just like I don’t recall Christie mattering in the GOP race. Ted Cruz was probably in DC stopping the government from being adequately funded to fight crime, thus Batman and Superman had to do it for free. I recall seeing a napping Black man on a bench in the film (Ben Carson). There was a failing tech company, Carly Fiorina had something to do with it I’m sure. Jeb Bush got a lot of screen time, in other words I saw a bunch of crying children in the film searching for their mothers after watching their worlds fall apart. The other 20 GOP candidates were somewhere I’m sure I just can’t be bothered to think of them. Martin O’Malley was there though, I recall seeing a young pretty man who looked like he could be a key player in the film but was just an extra that did the movie for the free doughnuts and the exposure.
Who is Wonder Woman/Princess Diana of Themyscira/Diana Prince?
Before I answer this question I need to be upfront, I love Wonder Woman. I really do, she’s one of my favorite DC characters, I love her sass, her angry-brand of feminism that rightly critiques male fragility at every turn. That being said, I struggled to see who best reflects her in our world. The easy choice would be Clinton, they both are “royalty” they are both kind of abrasive, both hated by men who live at home with their parents and survive on Cheetos and Mountain Dew, both of them are under constant scrutiny for their clothing choices, the way they talk, the way they move, the way they look, the way the communicate with others, the nepotism that lead to their rise to power, their ages, the way they treat mortals. The list goes on.
BUT. I ultimately think that Wonder Woman is best compared to Dr. Jill Stein. Like Wonder Woman, Stein fled the real political world and went to an isolated island where people that act and think just like her constantly praise and support her. A place where she can claim she’s best using her gifts and talents, but a place devoid of any true engagement with the issues facing the people that live in Metropolis, Gotham, and Smallville. While Stein has attempted to win every office from local town positions to the presidency she has done so with little success, just as Wonder Woman has failed to break that DC glass ceiling and get to star in her own film (so far). Both Wonder Woman and Stein could easily shift their social locations to better make differences in the world were mortals dwell, one refuses to sink to the level of mere mortals and join in the struggle of justice for fear of getting her hands dirty; the other does and that’s why she’s in the movie alongside Batman and Superman. Like Superman and Batman, this Wonder Woman has her own following, all of whom look down on the Superman supporters (and his party) for not reaching their ideological purity and living into their unrealistic morals. And it’s easy to cast the first stone claiming they’re without sin, because they know their candidate will never win and therefore will never be corrupted like Superman, Batman, and others. Superman left Smallville to fight injustice in Metropolis, Sanders left the safety of Vermont, Batman left Wayne Manor, Trump left the comforts of reality TV, Princess Diana left her home in Themyscira; but Stein is either unwilling or unable to leave her own isolated island desperate to make the country that holds Gotham and Metropolis play by her rules rather than the rules that already exist. On one hand it is admirable, even if it is completely unhelpful to suffering people.
The movie was great food for thought, even if it needed more radical diversity and more screen time for the female characters. I had a blast writing this and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts.