Why is Donald Trump obsessed with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises?
There are many superheroes an ailing American president might choose to associate with in an effort to pick up some much needed kudos. Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns features a version of Superman who is in thrall to Ronald Reagan. In the film Iron Man 3, the fictional President Matthew Ellis is protected by Don Cheadle’s stars and stripes-sporting Iron Patriot. There’s even a version of the Avengers in Marvel comics that was put together by George W Bush.
With so many virtuous options available to him, it seems bizarre that Donald Trump has chosen the Batman supervillain Bane to cosy up to. Observers first noticed Trump’s fascination with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, in which Tom Hardy’s hulking, masked brute seizes Gotham, when the president stole one of the villain’s lines for his 2017 inaugural speech. This week, Warner Bros threatened legal action after Trump borrowed the film’s score for a 2020 campaign video featuring a number of famous figures he has figuratively crossed swords with, such as Bryan Cranston, Amy Schumer, Rosie O’Donnell and the Clintons.
We can ask ourselves why Trump is such a big fan of the movie, which he reviewed positively on his YouTube channel on its release in 2012. But the more interesting question is why on Earth the president thinks this is the film score to soundtrack his fight for re-election.
Seven years ago, when Nolan’s final Batman film hit cinemas, critics compared Bane’s activities with those of the then current Occupy movement – there was even a (sadly ill-founded) rumour that Nolan was going to use the New York protests as a backdrop for his shoot. Hardy’s villain, like Occupy, seems determined to overturn the established order and replace it with something new.
And yet, while much of the audience may have had some sympathy for Occupy’s causes, Bane is quickly exposed as a baddy. As well as breaking the caped crusader’s back and throwing him in a large hole, from which Bruce Wayne spends a large, and fairly tedious, portion of the film trying to escape, Bane threatens to blow up Gotham, murdering millions of innocents in the process, if anyone tries to mess with his newly built bad guy republic. If anything, the supervillain and his cronies can be compared more accurately to Isis, for their brazen ambition and willingness to use human shields to hold on to power at any cost.
He is the false prophet who spouts populist rhetoric in an effort to convince the people he is on their side
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The other problem with cosying up to Bane is that the he epitomises everything Trump’s critics accuse him of being. He is the false prophet who spouts populist rhetoric in an effort to convince the people he is on their side, but in reality only holds their worst interests in his cold, black heart. The line many recognised from the president’s 2017 inaugural speech is this one:
“Today’s ceremony, however, has a very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.”
The earlier Bane speech, delivered on the steps of Gotham’s Blackgate Prison was: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity. And we give it to you, the people.”
Not long after giving this speech, Bane is hatching a plan to destroy Gotham and all its people in a League of Shadows-inspired massacre. But there’s worse for Trump, for the masked menace is eventually revealed as nothing more than a lovelorn lackey of the real baddie, Marion Cotillard’s Talia al Ghul (the daughter of Batman’s defeated rival in 2005’s Batman Begins).
So not only is Bane an out-and-out villain, he is only a relatively minor one designed to obscure the identity of the real (female) power behind the throne, which doesn’t sound like the sort of role model the president would admire at all. But hey, this isn’t the first time Trump has got Batman wrong.