Between two masks
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A spectre is haunting Gotham, the spectre of communism. To twist the opening lines of the Communist Manifesto further, all the powers of Hollywood have entered into an alliance to exorcise this spectre — director and producer, fanboy and studio executive, talkshow host and CGI-technician. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises pits the big bad bat against arch-villain Bane, who takes over Gotham by whipping up the masses against bankers and financiers. Bane is the nightmare of the 1 per centers.
Nolan and scriptwriter David Goyer play into a deep-rooted fear of the underworld rising up — of the 99 per cent, WikiLeaks, Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous hacktivists. It is the old Victorian dread of the underclasses teeming out from beneath to shatter the ordered life above. One of the first to access this fear was H.G. Wells in The Time Machine. He depicts a future where the ruling classes, who live on the surface, have degenerated into simpering helplessness. They are preyed upon by the working classes who have evolved into a brutish subspecies. Similarly, the sewers and tunnels beneath Gotham are feared places where lurk the disruptors of life above.
As Bane goes on a rampage, the underneath literally starts showing, the flesh stripped away to expose society's faultlines. Nolan faithfully recreates all the props of revolutionary terror, including people's courts, forced collectivisation, "appropriate the appropriators". Nolan, by referencing Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, may also have been reaching for the dawn of revolutionary terror, of society on the tumbril.
However, even with all the hype, Batman fervour outside pop culture has been negligible. That has belonged to another comic, another character. In protests and demonstrations across the world, an image, a face, has been appearing with increasing regularity — the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.
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