Reviewers of the new Batman movie on various alt-Right sites have been reasonably led to ask why comic books — excuse me, “graphic novels” — have come to dominate Hollywood. Since both industries were founded by and are dominated by You Know Who, the answer seems easy — ethnic networking — why pay royalties to the goyim?
There is, as usual, a deeper reason, and, as usual, you’re gonna get it here!
By deeper I mean this: the ethnic networking is obvious (at least, to those of us who can See); we need to know why it works, why it succeeds, and why so well, and why just now.
Clearly the real problem is not Them but rather the state of the world — the cosmic cycle — that makes Them able to function with extreme prejudice.
In some worlds, the cream rises to the top. In other worlds, what rises is the scum. In a material world, the most materialistic prosper. And who is more materialistic, less intellectual or spiritual, than . . . Them?
Looking for something else, this rather un-typical passage caught my eye in René Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World:
In such a world there is no longer any room for intellectuality or for what is of a purely inward nature, for those are things which can neither be seen nor touched, weighed nor counted; there is only room for outward action in all its forms, including those most completely devoid of meaning. Furthermore it is not surprising that the Anglo-Saxon passion for “sport” gains more and more ground every day; the ideal of the modern world is the “human animal” who has developed his muscular strength to the utmost; its heroes are the athletes, should they even be brutes; it is they who awaken the popular enthusiasm and it is their exploits that command the passionate interest of the crowd; a world in which such things are possible has indeed sunk low and would seem to be nearing its end. (“A Material Civilization” available here)
What does this have to do with the Rise of the Dark Comic?
We need a still finer grained analysis. The rising tide of scum has not lifted all comics. Superman, above all, is still treated as an impossible figure of fake “nobility” and “goodness,” a sort of lumbering Golem, an embarrassing leftover of the Cold War. We still mock George Reeves’ pot-bellied, baggy suited TV image, and if not for his tragic accident, Christopher Reeve would no doubt have long since entered an Adam West or William Shatner stage of profitable self-mockery, especially after the last, disastrous, self-directed series entry.
The popular figures, Iron Man, Spider Man, and of course, Batman, are usually distinguished from Superman as being “flawed” or “troubled” — supposedly another sign of Their “psychologizing” influence — but I’d rather focus on the more basic fact: whatever their “problems,” they are, unlike the “invulnerable” Superman, just like you and me — only slightly better.
On this front, I think it would be useful to compare the two leading movie “franchises”: Batman, and James Bond (also subject to a recent reboot, complete with an ethnic-OK actor).
During the initial James Bond phenom, Kingsley Amis wrote an excellent study, The James Bond Dossier, a splendid example of the kind of valuable results one can get from paying serious attention to “mere’ pop culture, blurring the line between “fan boy” and “literary critic.”
Amis makes the valuable point that Bond, like all successful fantasy figures, is never too far from what we can comfortably imagine ourselves to be, especially if we “could only get the right break.”
Bond, obviously has no “super powers,” other than a certain amount of intelligence, physique, and good, albeit “cruel” good looks. What he accomplishes is due to extensive training, the latest equipment, and a good tailor. All of which is lovingly described as part of Fleming’s characteristic label fetishism, allowing us to imagine our closets and resumes loaded with just the right gear.
Amis calls attention to a very sly and subtle line in which Bond is described as being, of course, “the best shot in the service” . . . other than his instructor.
And we could be too, with just a bit of imagination, and a cracking good instructor, and a snooty British armorer to steer us away from buying “a woman’s gun.”
Before taking on Hugo Drax at cards, Bond bones up on cheating methods — books on card sharping seem to make up the bulk of his small home library — and as for his legendary drinking and smoking, when you add it all up — and Amis, bless him, does just that — it’s not really more than we could do with a little effort, thus earning the comfortable feeling of being a bit of a rogue but without headaches, pink elephants, and emphysema.
Even so, by Thunderball Bond is so worn out that the service sends him to a health spa! Hard work, but great benefits — a dream job indeed! And of course, while there he engages in what publishers would call “a deadly game of cat and mouse” with an Italian count, and uncovers an anti-NATO plot — just like we would!
I’m reminded of a more recent phenom, when Madonna was still put forward as some kind of icon of muscular femininity — hard to recall, now that she seems more like your drunk aunt dancing with her dress over her head at the wedding — and defensive women would retort, sure, I could look like that if I had no job, a private, state of the art gym and a staff of personal trainers
It’s all a question of degree, of course — Peter Parker’s radioactive spider bite is only a little less implausible than Kryptonian birth, while Tony Stark’s Iron Man is Bond finally deciding he’s not going to return the equipment “from the field” and will just keep it, thank you very much, Q.
But of them all, it’s Bruce Wayne who has it in spades. If we inherited a gazillion dollars, a vast mansion, an industrial concern that manufactures advanced weaponry and armor; oh, and a faithful retainer that just happens to be ex-SAS — essentially, the Old Bond played by David Niven in the first, comedic Casino Royale — then we too could be the Dark Knight.
As Jack Nicholson’s Joker says, “Where does he get all those wonderful toys!”
Similarly, the late Paul Fussell points out in his invaluable study Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (New York: Touchstone, 1992) that the popularity of The Official Preppy Handbook (despite the title, another product of Them) was a result of insinuating that a certain level of class, the upper-middle or lower-upper, could be had, or at least simulated, which to the American is just as good, by simply buying the right items, and if the houses and cars were out of reach, you could always buy the shirts and shoes, with the stores and labels conveniently listed, Fleming fashion.
And thus Ralph Lipshitz of the Bronx was reborn as Ralph Lauren of Southampton.
No surprise when the recent, failed, attempt at a reboot, True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World (Knopf, 2010), proclaimed the King and Queen of Prep to be . . . Barrack and Michelle Obama. Of course! Fantasy fulfilled! Now Michelle can feel proud to be an American.
As figures of average man fantasy, it’s no surprise that both Bond and Bats put their lives and even sanity (Bond, for example, becomes obsessed with Blofeld both as a world-conspirator and the killer of Bond’s wife, and eventually winds up with amnesia in a Japanese fishing village, then brainwashed by SMERSH and sent to kill M) in the defense of modern capitalism and democracy, even while openly disdained for their efforts.
Bond’s Britain, as Amis documents, is the pre-War world of Raffles and Sapper, already disappearing when Fleming was writing, while modern film Bond confronts a female M that regards him as a perhaps useful but still dangerous anachronism.
Batman opposes the “weaponized Traditionalism” of the League of Shadows, and does so in the name of the most characteristic feature of the Reign of Quantity: democracy, “ a few good people,” and other notions with nothing to recommend them other than the “common sense” idea that more people weigh more, and therefore count for more. I mean, what else could determine policy, or truth? And yet, he is a hunted vigilante, living in exile, the scapegoat of all of Gotham’s problems.
But these are just the slight inconsistencies of heroic fantasies designed for the unheroic masses of an anti-heroic world.
But where do Guénon’s remarks about “sport” and “the human animal” come in? I think the popularity of Batman, and what makes him a more modern, popular and relevant figure than even Bond — despite Daniel Craig’s heroic attempts at rebooting the Bond franchise — comes from a related development: the Schwarzenegger factor.
Alan Helms in Young Man from the Provinces, his account of his career as “the most celebrated young man in all of gay New York” in the 1950s, discusses his aversion for exercise and the gym, and notes that in some 3000 years of painting and sculpture of the Ideal Male Form, not once did anyone come up with something looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Until, as Guénon might have added, now.
We’ve mentioned the laughable figure of Superman, poor George Reeves who had to take his brown costume (picks up better in black and white) home each day to wash and iron, slowly shrinking over the course of filming the series until the sleeves came up to his mid-forearm. “Family Guy” mocks Robert Mitchum as an “out-of-shape in-shape ’50s guy” (easy to do if you’re a cartoon, buddy). Mystery Science Theater chuckles at actors who “look like a 19th century ‘strong man’.”
Standards, in short, for actors have tightened up, if you will, and imagination — and suspension of disbelief — are apparently too “purely inward,” as Guénon would say, to be operative. Ignoring the lessons of Henry James, we childishly demand “the real thing.”
Of course, no actor can be “perfect” and, along with the parallel demand for “state of the art” special effects — another rich source of mockery on MST3K — we see the reason for what will be, ultimately, the complete replacement of actors and sets by CGI imagery. And, like Madonna, no one except an unemployed maniac is going to hit the gym to grunt their way to perfect Arnoldhood. (Hmm, actually quite a few around these days . . .)
What to do in the meantime? Where is the plausible fantasy of the Average Man who worships over-developed brutes but is too lazy to pump iron? Enter the Batman. Or rather, the Bat Suit.
As the protagonist in Money, a mid-’80s novel by Amis’ son Martin, wearily admits, “I need a full-body cap.”
The post-graphic novel Batman has been played with more or less controversy by a series of rather unprepossessing actors, typical of “modern men” such as Michael Keaton — fresh from success as “Mr. Mom” — or the decidedly wispy, rather metrosexual Val Kilmer and Christian Bale. It’s as if behind the mask of the Dark Knight was — Alan Alda.
Correspondingly, the costume has changed from Adam West’s drab TV-wrestler’s garb to ever more state of the art armor and fake musculature — rather like the mighty American football players with their space-age padding, versus supposedly “girly” soccer players who make do with T-shirts and shorts.
The more “everyman” inside the suit, the more “superman” the suit itself.
The exception of course was the Schumacher-directed George Clooney films. Although not spectacularly muscular, Clooney was far too much of an alpha male to “fuel the fantasy,” and while the new bat-and-robin suits were mocked as “homoerotic” the real problem was not that as such, but rather the related notion of calling attention to the body as such, with the suits’ thrusting codpieces, lovingly delineated buttocks, and even sculpted nipples.
Again, the more powerful the man inside, the less the suit needs to compensate. And that, in case you ever wondered, was why Batgirl’s suit was sans nipple. As Jodie Foster says on the commentary track to Silence of the Lambs, Agent Starling doesn’t need a “woman suit” like Buffalo Bill to be powerful, since she is already a real woman.
The crowd wants seedy, alcoholic Tony Stark, played by seedy, drug-and-alcohol ravaged Robert Downey, in the Iron Man suit, not lithe, handsome and well-endowed David Bowie in his Goblin King leotard.
And speaking of Arnold‘s suits: the “business suit” was designed with the same purpose: weedy London business men, deprived of the invigorating benefits of outdoor labor, could still project a masculine silhouette. Contra snippy critics of the 80s, the padded, “power suit” was invented in the 1800s, and for men, not women.
Thus, as Fussell points out, Schwarzenegger looks even more ridiculous in a suit, no matter how “well-tailored.” Even Fussell couldn’t imagine Arnold becoming a governor.
Conversely, we see, contemporaneous with new Batman films, the suit employed as a weapon in Mad Men. To drive the point home, in an early episode, we see Don Draper serenely glide out of the pot-smoke filled apartment of last night’s bimbo, beatniks and cops grabbing some tenement wall to make way for the Man in the Suit.
And was there any doubt that the pumped-up, bare-chested Bane would, in the end, be defeated by the Man in the Bat Suit and his wonderful toys.
1. Actually, George Reeves’ decline into drink, drugs, gigolo-ism and a still unexplained death, would seem even more tragic than Reeves, but only interests TV conspiracy cultists. “His life was filled with hard-drinking men, manipulative women, mafiosos and a career that plummeted like a comet.” See Sam Kashner’s Hollywood Kryptonite: The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman.
2. Amis, Kingsley The James Bond Dossier Jonathan Cape, 1965. See the equally loving Wikipedia entry here. ” In one hundred and sixty pages, The James Bond Dossier methodically catalogues and analyses the activities and minutiae of secret agent 007: the number of men he kills, the women he loves, the villains he thwarts, and the essential background of Ian Fleming’s Cold War world of the 1950s. . . . Although written in Amis’s usual, accessible, light-hearted style, The James Bond Dossier is neither patronizing nor ironic — it is a detailed literary criticism of the Ian Fleming canon. In the main, he admires Fleming’s achievement, yet does not withhold criticism where the material proves unsatisfactory or inconsistent. . . . Amis reserves his most serious criticism for what he considered to be academically pretentious rejections of the Bond books, a theme implicitly informing much of the Dossier.”
3. Like his lumpen-audience, Bond doesn’t fancy books. His fans get the hint: Jack Kennedy established his George W. faux-regular guy cred by letting on that he enjoyed Fleming, and thus brought the Bond boom to the States. Kennedy was the prototype of the type analyzed here: a physical wreck kept together with drugs and braces who promoted an image of “youth” and “vigor” while pursuing disastrous 007-style ventures in Cuba and Vietnam. Don Draper shows his disdain for his snooty French father-in-law by displaying a Bond book on his bedside table, just like Jack showed those Frogs how to do things in Indochina. The season ends with Draper, deserter and fake, having a drink while the jukebox plays “You Only Live Twice.”
4. Similarly, the Hannibal Lechter saga, post the middle-brow reboot The Silence of the Lambs, postulates a criminal super-genius who dotes on Florence, everyone’s favorite tourist stop, and eventually escapes to become . . . a minor Florentine museum official. Oh, but the shopping! Like any American middle-brow, he seems to spend his time drinking espresso in quaint cafes and communicates with Agent Starling via fancy perfumes from chic boutiques. In the happy ending of TDKR, Bruce Wayne fulfills Lechter’s ultimate fantasy: brunch in Florence with Agent Starling.
5. Nor his own son, Samuel, becoming a bodybuilder: S. W. Fussell, Muscle: Confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder (New York: Poseidon Press, 1991).
6. Paul Kersey, who has tirelessly documented the role of pro and college sports in creating an alternate reality of PC-approved “human animals,” observes “There’s a reason Bane started his “revolution” in the movie The Dark Knight Rises at a football game.” Opiate of America — Penn State Edition