There was another public figure who captured the attention of America in a way that few others did in 2011. That man? Denver Quarterback Timothy Tebow. But unlike Gosling, Tebow has not been adorned with universal adoration. He divides the country, causing more polarization of the nation than LeBron James, Michael Vick, or Brett Favre. One study said that 43% of Americans believe that God picks sides in football games and that he divinely intervened in order for Tebow to win his first NFL playoff game. On the other hand, Deadspin published an article defending hatred of him entitled “Why People Who Hate Tim Tebow Hate Tim Tebow.” NPR used him as an example in an editorial on hatred, pointing out that no one dislikes him: they either love him or hate him.
One can argue that Tebow likes the love, and loves the hate. He basks in it. Consider that Tim Tebow prays with his lips moving, so that there is no doubt that he is praying for all to see. Consider that Tim Tebow dabbles in politics, automatically forcing anyone passionate about abortion to either side with him or against him.
Regardless, everyone has an opinion on Tebow. Everyone from Chuck Klosterman to Jason Lewis to Rush Limbaugh to LeBron James to Reverend James Jones to everyone you have ever met. Even Charles Barkley had made a point of saying that he doesn’t like Tebow. I am apt to agree with Klosterman that the reason people hate him is a form of jealousy, that Tebow does not appear to be a hypocrite (unless the gay rumors are true.) Unlike most public figures, from politicians to movie stars, Tebow appears to have no crack in his public image. He has, as Klosterman says, “profound social intelligence.” As most people point ultimately point out, whether reluctantly or excitedly, Tebow is, by all appearances, a nice person.
Yet he is a very different sort of nice person than Ryan Gosling. Tebow wants you to know that he is a nice person. He broadcasts it, from the blatant praying to the professions of faith. And it is somewhere in this that it becomes questionable about whether or not Tebow is actually a good person. Is it being good and nice to tell people that God likes you better? Or is this just another form of showboating and poor sportsmanship that currently floods the world of professional sports. Does this mean that he suffers from the same egotism as King James, Kanye West, and Newt Gingrich?
And all of this contrasts with Gosling’s modesty. Despite Gosling’s flashy appearance, there appears to be a genuinely nice, modest person at the center of him. He laughs and gets embarrassed by his internet worship, and is typically candid and and humble in his interviews and appearances.
And Now, Consider Bale…
And now, let’s consider the inevitable question. Is Bale a Gosling, a Tebow, or neither?
The answer is most likely neither, as Bale is not regarded as a role model by most. But could he be? What would it take?
A tale of redemption, perhaps. In today’s world, redemption is a popular narrative. And Bale has acted in a number of redemption tales, the most recent being The Fighter. With his newly-discovered activism, Bale might be taking that route. And his two films that are being released this year are each arguably highly political. The Flowers of War is being interpreted by some as Pro-China propaganda, and if The Dark Knight Rises is anything like its predecessors then it will be interpreted as yet another statement on America’s role in the global political climate. Considering that TDKR is being released in the summer preceding another hotly-contested presidential election and that The Dark Knight was viewed as a metaphor for the Bush era, we can expect some serious metaphors (whether or not Catwoman as Sarah Palin is one of them is yet to be seen.) Does the gradual politicizing of Christian Bale indicate that he is going in the route of either a Gosling or a Tebow, or is he just another actor fumbling his way through activism?
It can also be said that Bale’s fan base resembles that of Tim Tebow. He can do no wrong. He has blogs and forums and endless apologists, constantly forgiving every transgression of his. Like Tebow, he has forces of fans unwilling to see his flaws, at sites such as BaleHeads.com and and ChristianBale.org and Christian-Bale.org and Christian-Bale.us.
And no matter what, people hate him. Look at Reddit and Buzzfeed and IMDB: you will always find a Bale hater, an anti-Bale rant. Every time I tell someone that I am a Bale blogger, I am inevitably told that Bale is a bad person. Because of his various arrests and angry interviews, they tell me that he is a bad person and that I should hate him too. Click here to see the continued “I really hate that guy” world that exists on Reddit and other internet hate havens.
(See above for evidence of Bale channeling George Harrison, which can only make his haters hate him more.)
So. Will this be the Year of Bale? We know that 2012 will be a big year for him, with The Flowers of War being the biggest film in China’s history and its American debut will doubtlessly be wildly successful. Combine this with the release of the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, and throw in the fact that he is now an Oscar winner and a political activist. He may not have Gosling’s charm or modesty or history of being the guy in The Notebook, but if Bale’s haters come back to roost then he could quite possibly rise to the prominence of Tebow in our national eye. If The Dark Knight Rises is seen as a political film like its predecessors, there very well could be a debate about who Bruce Wayne is and what side he is on. Remember that Haters are riled up by success. Surely, those who hate Bale for his perceived arrogance and rage are not thrilled about all those awards he got last year. Google “christian bale hate” if you’re not sure about this. Yes, tons of people hate him. They just haven’t been very active since 2009, for the most part. If, this summer, all anyone can talk about is his final turn as The Batman, it may bring all the haters back into the hate-osphere, ready to talk about what a pretentious prick they find him to be.
But perhaps all the hatred targeted at Bale will be undone when he acts in the new Terrence Malick film Lawless, in which he is accompanied by The Girl From The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and none other than: Ryan Gosling.