Superhero And Superpower: American Exceptionalism In The Dark Knight Trilogy

1339 words - 5 pages

Furthermore, when Bane attacks the stock market, he not only advances the city toward disorder, he sabotages the Batman by successfully reducing Bruce to near poverty. Again echoing Falcone’s warning, “People from your world have so much to lose” (Begins), Bruce finds himself broke and without his closest friend and confidant, Alfred. The loss, once more, exposes Batman’s vulnerability. Bankrupt and friendless, Bruce is no longer a superhero. With all that bolstered his exceptionalism dissolved, Bruce is now just an “ordinary man in a cape” (Begins). Consequently, his loss of status drives Batman in arrogance to confront yet another enemy he underestimates. Facing humiliation and the loss of his power Bruce seeks to “counter-humiliate” Bane’s “disrespect of identity” (Saurette 519). Referencing the weaknesses issuing from Bruce’s reliance on his wealth and the Dent Act, Bane remarks, “Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you” (Rises) before literally breaking Bruce’s back. Bane’s dismissal of Batman’s extraordinariness by financial and physical attack, which consequently exposes the Batman as the wholly human Bruce Wayne, demoralizes the hero. Bruce has now lost everything and, to a large degree, his empire collapses to revolutionary hijackers.
Here, the film again touches on the end–of-empire fears prevalent in the post 9/11 American psyche. As Amy Kaplan notes, most exceptionalist narratives imagine the states’ “endless rise without a corresponding fall” (14). However, The Dark Knight Rises offers a narrative of the rising exceptional hero who does indeed undergo a major fall. This mid-film fail is not without reason. Before Batman, Gotham had already exceeded its ability to effectively control corruption. In this situation, the city stood as an example of western decadence and civilization in decline, a notion that has haunted America since the beginning of the Cold War imperialism (Hartnett 202). Bruce is keenly aware of Gotham’s decrepitude. His parents’ class-driven murder and the corrupt judicial system incapable of maintaining order are the reasons he dons the Bat-suit. Nevertheless, Gotham’s collapse is pre-ordained by the films, and Batman cannot reverse the city’s decline; he can only postpone it. Even though Ra’s Al Ghul informs Bruce that Gotham is “so corrupt [the League of Shadows] has infiltrated every level of its infrastructure” (Begins), Bruce arrogantly ignores this warning in the belief that his exceptionalism will serve as a positive example “meant to inspire good” (Knight). Despite his initial conviction, Bruce later concedes the Batman motivated more madness than hope. With his self-proclaimed exceptionalism and extra-legal justice generating an escalation of violence against a city that has been teetering on the brink of disaster for over thirty years, Bruce cannot preserve his domain. The breaking of Bruce’s back and the subsequent incursion by Bane and his radical mercenaries indicates the end of...

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