Is the Penguin the Batman Character Who Trump Resembles Most?

There is perhaps no narrative referenced more in today’s pop culture than that of Batman. It makes sense: Batman is omnipresent. He first appeared in 1939, and has subsequently been in eight live action films, two live action television shows, countless animated films and television series, and thousands of comic books. The ninth and tenth live action films to feature Batman (and, of course, Bruce Wayne) are both to be released in 2016.

batmanvsuperman-xlarge
The upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Metaphors are how we talk about things in America. We seek something we already know from history or literature or film and we apply it to what we see today. At the moment, we have a political candidate whose ego and campaign results in comparisons ranging from homegrown Americans like Andrew Jackson and George Wallace to contemporary European buffoons like Silvio Berlusconi. And, of course, Adolf Hitler.

When a narrative has become as firmly cemented in American experience as Batman, it’s no surprise that it’s a common and convenient place to turn when seeking metaphors for our current political atmosphere. Parallels have been drawn repeatedly between candidate Donald Trump and the cast of rogues and anti-heroes in Batman’s Gotham City. In August of 2015, Trump proclaimed himself Batman. A month earlier, The Economist had described Trump as resembling Heath Ledger’s the Joker in The Dark Knight, a metaphor found in various places and explored further on this blog. Recently, comparisons have bubbled up across the internet comparing Trump to The Penguin, often accompanied by the hashtag #MakeGothamGreatAgain.

Interested in reading fiction by D. F. Lovett, the author of this blog post? Check out his debut sci-fi novel here.

But who is Donald Trump? Does he resemble his fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne, or one of Batman’s malevolent foes? Is he one of the few heroes or the many villains that populate the fictional Gotham City? Is he the hero we deserve? The one we need?

Or is he our reckoning?

Let’s investigate, beginning with one of the most common comparisons I’ve seen since the beginning of Trump’s campaign: The Penguin.

“The liberation of Gotham has begun!” – The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992)

Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot first appeared in issue #58 of Detective Comics, in which he hid a shotgun in his umbrella and pulled off a number of heists, initially unsuspected because of his bizarre appearance. Since then, he’s been portrayed by the cackling Burgess Meredith in the campy television series and film of the 1960s, by Danny DeVito in Tim Burton’s bizarre Batman Returns, and by Robin Lord Taylor in today’s Gotham television show.

The_Penguin_2
Oswald “the Penguin” Cobblepot, as portrayed by Burgess Meredith.

Each interpretation of the Penguin is slightly different, but some key elements are universal throughout his depictions.

The Penguin and Trump are both conventionally unattractive, with their appearance being a source for easy jokes.

The unpleasant appearances of Oswald Cobblepot and Donald Trump simultaneously inspire disgust and sympathy. They are vain men with repulsive physical appearances. The Penguin has deformed hands in many depictions, a small incapable body, and a twisted, ugly face. Continue reading “Is the Penguin the Batman Character Who Trump Resembles Most?”

What We Failed to Learn About Terrorism from The Dark Knight

Or, “Stop Calling Them Gunmen and Start Calling Them Terrorists”

One of the most notable elements of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is that, despite being made by a British writer and director and set in the fictional Gotham City, the films capture the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 America in a frightening, realistic way.

But there’s one lesson in these films that we don’t seem to have retained: terrorism can take many forms. 

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, the first and third films in the trilogy, show evil as an extensive international network motivated by belief in a higher cause: the League of Shadows, led first by Liam Neeson and later by Tom Hardy’s Bane. It’s an evil organization which resembles Al-Qaeda or IS/Daesh in its reach and tactics. 

Unlike the other two films, in The Dark Knight our villain is Heath Ledger’s Joker: a criminal who seemingly materializes out of nowhere. His background is unknown, with no criminal record or history of violence. He operates as a loner, with a few followers but no peers. He believes not in fundamentalism but in anarchy and chaos. He prefers easily-obtained weapons: in his words, “a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets.” He kills with abandon, targeting mob bosses, murdering his own followers, burning corrupt businessmen alive, turning civilians against one another. Throughout it all, he operates without loyalty and welcomes death. 

CA.0627.darkknight
Perhaps film’s most famous villain of the oughts.

He gives a speech, in one of the more famous moments from the film, explaining why people are so frightened of him. Because he disrupts expectations. He disrupts “the plan.” Because anyone can be his victim, not just “a gangbanger” or “a truckload of soldiers.”

The mass waves of shooters (most of whom are white and “Christian”) overtaking America resemble the Joker in every way: they kill innocents, make spectacles of their crimes, and fear nothing, including death. The American mass shooter is almost always suicidal. There are few mass shooters who begin their killing sprees expecting any outcome aside from death or life imprisonment.

Like the Joker, they cannot be “bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with.”

But there is a key difference. In The Dark Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent holds a press conference and calls the Joker what he is: a terrorist. America’s leaders, when they hold press conferences, talk about gunmen, about shooters, but not about terrorists. Continue reading “What We Failed to Learn About Terrorism from The Dark Knight”

The Most Dangerous Way in Which Trump Resembles Batman

The Economist (and this blog) might liken him to The Joker, but Trump disagrees. I am Batman, he told a young boy and the world.

Who likes helicopters?
They both like helicopters.

The obvious response is to say that Trump isn’t Batman. Or, there are those who have said that yes, he kinda is Batman.

I won’t point out the obvious, like that they’re both billionaires who polarize the public, own skyscrapers, and have a tragic lack of self-awareness.

When I consider if Trump resembles Batman, I’m reminded of the characters who show up at the beginning of The Dark Knight, wielding guns but dressed as poor man’s Batmans. Or the “Sons of Batman” who show up in a variety of Batman comic books and graphic novels, including Frank Miller’s acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns.

Continue reading “The Most Dangerous Way in Which Trump Resembles Batman”

Why Ben Affleck could be the best Batman ever

People like to predict that Ben Affleck will fail as the Batfleck. But what this blog post presupposes is, maybe he won’t?

The fact is, Ben Affleck is a good actor who is actually positioned better than any of his predecessors in terms of his ability to play Batman. Here are some of the reasons why.

Chasing Amy

It’s easy to forget that Ben Affleck was in comic book movies when no one cared about comic books. He starred in several Kevin Smith films during the ’90s and ’00s in which the characters were either readers or writers of comics.

One of the moments from Affleck's early work in which he is literally surrounded by comic books.
One of the moments from Affleck’s early work in which he is literally surrounded by comic books.
This includes Affleck as Holden McNeil, a New Jersey comic book writer in Chasing Amy. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good reference point if you want to see that Affleck knows a thing or two about the comic book world. He also plays the villain in Mallrats, another comic-centric movie by Kevin Smith.

Continue reading “Why Ben Affleck could be the best Batman ever”

How accurate is The Economist in comparing Donald Trump to The Joker?

This is one of many articles on this site comparing the current state of American politics to the world of Batman. Read more here, or buy D. F. Lovett’s debut novel here for only $4.99.

In an editorial published on 7/23/15, The Economist likened Donald Trump to Heath Ledger’s Joker:

Mr Trump’s lust for attention, combined with his fortune, seemed to be all the explanation needed. “Do I look like I have a plan?” says the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. “I’m a dog chasing cars. I don’t know what I’d do if I caught it”. Mr Trump’s havoc-spreading run seemed to share this improvisational spirit.

They go on to argue that yes, Trump has a plan, and yes, there’s a good chance that he is a dog who has caught a car and knows what to do with it: “sell it for profit.”

While The Economist moves away from the Batman metaphors and focuses on the politics, it’s worth dwelling for a moment on this comparison. This is not to say that Donald Trump is a villain. But he is one third of a complicated, shifting cinematic circus of three-directional conflict.

The scene in which The Joker gives his famous "plan" speech.
The scene in which The Joker gives his famous “plan” speech.

 

The Dark Knight is a film of three-way conflict. All great films are. Consider Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (HAL v. Humanity v. The Monolith) or Raiders of the Lost Ark (Nazis v. Indy v. The Ark) or The Departed (Jack v. Leo v. Damon). In The Dark Knight, our initial conflict is that The Joker is stealing money from the mob and cornering them, drawing Batman into the fight. Batman goes after the mob, thinking The Joker can wait. “One man or the mob…” Continue reading “How accurate is The Economist in comparing Donald Trump to The Joker?”

Why Tim Burton’s Batman is the Worst Batman Movie Ever

People are still complaining about the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman. But, based on the trailers alone, and a few released still images, it’s already obvious that, even at its worst, the new Batman and Superman movie can’t be worse than what has come before it. Batman has bottomed out plenty of times before, but nothing is worse than the 1989 feature film adaptation, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. It does not matter what Ben Affleck does or does not do. Nothing is worse than what has already happened.

Infinite hope.
Infinite hope.

Let’s look at why. Continue reading “Why Tim Burton’s Batman is the Worst Batman Movie Ever”

Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Maramduke Fart Paradox, in which I discussed the strange search engine terms that lead people to this website. Among them was “keanu reeves girlfriend 2011,” “mob bosses with sunglasses,” and a wide variety of questions about the ’90s film Blank Check.

Well, the search terms have never stopped being strange. Here are some of the more interesting ones that have lead people to this site.  Presumably some of them left satisfied, some left immediately, and others left far more confused than they were before they visited.

I’ve also decided to do this in the form of a top ten list, because everyone likes top ten lists. But with 14 because I couldn’t narrow it down to 10.

14. skyfall proof that james bond isnt a codename

Whoever ended up here was certainly disappointed, as I consider Skyfall to be proof that James is definitely a codename. Other 007-specific search terms include james bond is a codename, james bond fight, james bond theory, and is james bonds codename 007? (The answer to the last one is undebatebly yes.)

13. matthew mcconaughey as jake in the sun also rises

Wow.  That’s a really cool idea. Not sure if it would work, but yeah, cool idea.

The lone star also rises.
The lone star also rises.

Continue reading “Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here”

Do You Believe in Harvey Dent?

Remember The Dark Knight?  Who can forget Harvey Dent’s tragic line, the one which foreshadowed both his own downfall and the character arcs of so many of those around him: you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Choices...
Choices…

The question I have often come back to is whether Harvey could have ever died a hero.  Sure, they gave him a hero’s funeral, a hero’s legend, and a hero’s holiday (the second Monday of Gothamuary, presumably), but we the audience knew that he had been a villain ever since he got half his face burned off and a dead fiancee, and subsequently decided to murder everyone he held accountable.

Or do we?  Is it possible that Harvey was a villain all along?  Was he a white knight corrupted by The Joker, “the best of us,” as Batman called him, or was he just another corrupt politician with no ethics or heroism to speak of? Continue reading “Do You Believe in Harvey Dent?”

Can Batman Really Be Rebooted After Bale?

No.  No, you cannot reboot the Batman film franchise again.  The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t even been released and as we all know, Warner Brothers has been talking since March about how to keep squeezing money out of the Caped Crusader, with a tentative release date for the next next Batman movie being 2015.

But there are ways that a Batman movie, sans Bale as the caped crusader and with Nolan as producer rather than director, could be released in 2015.

This is how: Bruce Wayne will not be Batman.  This could open it up to possibilities including a) Dick Grayson, the original Robin who took on the Batman mantle in the comics (before the comics were all rebooted), or  b) Jean-Paul Valley, the man who became Batman after Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back.  0r c) One of the members of Batman Incorporated, which is the new Batman franchise created by Bruce Wayne.  Really, that’s a comic book series, written by Grant Morrison.

Say what you will about the Batman voice, you know that no one can be a better Bruce Wayne.

Why take it in this direction?  It’s the one way that the mood and theme of the Nolan films could be preserved – the only other option seems to go in a completely different direction with it, reverting toward the confusion and pseudo-dark hokey nonsense of the Tim Burton Batmans, or the gloss and pop of the Joel Schumacher Batmans.  Or even the shameless humor of the 1960s TV series and movie. Continue reading “Can Batman Really Be Rebooted After Bale?”

More Thoughts on Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle as Catwoman as Sarah Palin

The idea that Selina Kyle will be a metaphor for Sarah Palin in The Dark Knight Rises has already been previously discussed here, in the post Why Catwoman Will Be Sarah Palin.  There is little left to say on the matter, aside from these key points:

1.) Anne Hathaway will be an excellent Selina Kyle, who will probably be Catwoman, who will definitely be Sarah Palin.  The reason I say “probably” before “Catwoman” is because I suspect that Hathaway will be spending more time as Selina Kyle than she will as Catwoman.  Why?  Consider that Bruce Wayne did not become Batman until roughly halfway through Batman Begins, Jonathan Crane was never called Scarecrow other than people suffering from his weaponized hallucinogens, and Harvey Dent was only referred to as “Two Face” once, by Commissioner Gordon, reluctantly.  It’s also still possibly that Selina Kyle might not even be Catwoman: who knows if Nolan has decided to take it in a different direction.  The only villain in the first two films who has had a fully formed identity from the start of the film is The Joker, and the main reason for this is that his character has no alter ego in the manner that the other characters do.

Either way, this image recently lit up the internet:

Selina Kyle? Catwoman? The Huntress? That girl from Princess Diaries?

One thing that is clear is that Selina Kyle looks different than we’ve seen her before: she is wearing leather, but she doesn’t have pointy ears.

Continue reading “More Thoughts on Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle as Catwoman as Sarah Palin”