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For anyone who didn't watch it, this will contain spoilers. Also, I am not here to have a discussion. It's been out for over a month, so I think it's safe to ask this now. Having seen The Dark Knight Rises--twice--I can see where the movie holds man as a heroic being with a volition of his own. Bruce Wayne is the principled capitalist whose unbreakable integrity leads him to success and victory. The villain, Bane, is a flat out socialist, and would fit in perfectly with all the other Randian villains. However, I noticed that all of the other characters weren't really characters so much as they were symbols of what a person could be. Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman, who is a socialist in the beginning but converts, in a sense, to Bruce Wayne's principles--and this is significant because she chose to--proving we have free will. Is this Romanticism that came from a Hollywood film, or is it something else?

~ UPDATE: I'm assuming whomever reads this has seen and is familiar with all three Nolan Batman films. ~

The Dark Knight Rises is in fact a work of Romanticism--the entire Nolan trilogy is. Having given it some more thought, each character represents a romanticized archetype with very little to no character development. Only three major characters undergo character arcs.

In Batman Begins, the murder of Bruce's parents, along with confronting Rachel Dawes about not being a "good person" sparks Bruce's philosophical enlightenment and his desire to fix societal ills by inspiring people to do the right thing, by leading by example and fighting against injustice. His philosophy was heavily influenced by his family. Also, when a younger Jim Gordon put a coat around Bruce's shoulders after his parents were murdered, he reinforced the idea in the boy's mind that there is still good in people, despite what happened to his parents. He doesn't force others to follow his principles. He says he wants to "inspire" people to do good several times throughout the trilogy. In Batman Begins, he also conquers his fear. I wouldn't call it duty-based; Bruce Wayne was standing up for an idea, which in the long-run would benefit him both physically and emotionally. When Bruce escapes the Lazarus Pit in The Dark Knight Rises and appears in Gotham in front of Selina Kyle, he appears fearless; he has obtained complete moral clarity.

The second major character arc is Selina Kyle herself. I would describe her as a moral coward. She is a philosophical toe-dipper, stuck between a metaphysical rock and a hard place. Having a troubled past and a criminal record, she finds it difficult to choose sides between the idea that people have the capacity to do the right thing and change for the better, and the opposite idea that all people are corrupt, unscrupulous, and beyond saving. This idea ignores human free will. In the end, she sides with Bruce and does the right thing by coming back to kill Bane.

(In a nutshell, Bane and Talia were colluding with each other to help fulfill her father's goal of proving to the world that people are immoral and corruptible by detonating a nuke over Gotham, under the pretense that an anonymous citizen had the detonator, even though that is not true. They lied to achieve their goal.)

The third character arc is Harvey Dent. Like Batman, Dent shares the same set of principles Bruce Wayne follows. The Joker, who represents the idea that all men will abandon their morals if pushed past a certain line, almost gets Batman to abandon his principles, as witnessed by that famous interrogation scene. Dent gets pushed past that line when Rachel Dawes gets murdered and he snaps. Dent's downfall is a major personal blow to Bruce Wayne as seen in The Dark Knight Rises.

Bruce Wayne is a romanticized moral hero, and while he may not be an Objectivist--I might say libertarian--the trilogy still contains a lot of philosophy that Ayn Rand espoused. The entire trilogy is about free will and inspiring people to do the right thing by leading by example, not by the use of force. I would argue further on how it might be an Objectivist film trilogy, because it doesn't suffer from the libertarian non-aggression principle.

asked Sep 02 '12 at 20:48

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Jul 28 '13 at 01:53

I had similar thoughts myself while watching the film. I also struggled with categorizing the "League of Assassins" philosophically. I recall Ra's al Ghul's statements about justice and restoring balance in the first Dark Night film. I certainly am not in a position to say if the movie is an example of Romanticism but I am sure that the writers had a reasonable grasp of some philosophic topics.
Didn't Bruce Wayne elude to some kind of duty based morality? I could have sworn at one point he had to account for why he was trying to save Gotham.

(Sep 04 '12 at 16:33) CarGuy CarGuy's gravatar image

This question hasn't generated much interest since it was originally posted two weeks ago, perhaps due to lack of readers' familiarity with this particular movie and/or lack of familiarity with Romanticism in literature. I still haven't seen the movie myself but would be more interested in doing so if it really does measure up to the description offered in the question.

The question explicitly states: "I am not here to have a discussion." But if there is any confusion about the nature of Romanticism, a discussion of it could be of great value to others. The elements of Romanticism listed in the question include:

  • Portraying "man as a heroic being with a volition of his own."

  • Portraying a "principled capitalist" who has "unbreakable integrity," leading to "success and victory."

  • Portraying an essentialized socialist as a villain.

  • Characters that are "symbols of what a person could be."

  • Portraying a character "who is a socialist in the beginning but converts, in a sense, to [the capitalist's] principles," and does so by choice, expressing free will.

On the other hand, I also wonder to what degree the movie presents "action for action's sake, unrelated to moral values" (quoting from Ayn Rand), i.e., unrelated to the characters' rational faculties and their relationships to reason. In literary Romanticism (at its best), the central action of the story is human action, and all human action is purposively goal-directed, never accidental. And human action is value-driven, with values chosen by means of reason or in consciously chosen defiance of it. It is reason that is the essence of volition (in the choice to use it or not), and reason has a lot to say about values and the actions proceeding from (and reflected by) man's values (Kant notwithstanding). Superfluous human action in a literary work clashes sharply with any attempt to project reason as man's basic means of cognition, valuing, and acting. (Kant would say that reason and logic may be valid in the physical sciences and technology, but not in regard to values. Refer to the topic of "Kant, Immanuel," in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

Ayn Rand also points out that Romanticism in literature died out long ago:

With the resurgence of mysticism and collectivism, in the later part of the nineteenth century, the Romantic novel and the Romantic movement vanished gradually from the cultural scene.

(Quoted from the topic of "Romanticism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon. The earlier reference to "action for action's sake" is also taken from that collection.)

If "The Dark Knight Rises" truly is a rebirth of literary Romanticism in any fundamental way, I would certainly be more highly motivated to go see it.


It should be emphasized that Romanticism is not concerned with any particular theory of politics or ethics. One need not be a capitalist or moral individualist in order to be a Romanticized character. Romanticism concerns the relationship, for good or evil, between man's rational faculty, the values he chooses, and the actions by which he strives to gain and/or keep his values.

On the other hand, individualism is inherently more amenable to Romanticized concretization than is altruism. As Ayn Rand explains in one of the Lexicon excerpts in the topic of "Romanticism":

The archenemy and destroyer of Romanticism was the atruist morality.... With altruism as the criterion of value and virtue, it is impossible to create an image of man at his best -- "as he might be and ought to be." The major flaw that runs through the history of Romantic literature is the failure to present a convincing hero, i.e., a convincing image of a virtuous man.

answered Sep 16 '12 at 12:41

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Sep 18 '12 at 02:39

Wow, Ideas for Life, I love this answer! As much as the film delves into Romanticism, it does have some loose edges, in the sense that Bruce Wayne feels obligated to defend Gotham. But one can interpret it as, "Bruce Wayne values Gotham, his home, and he wishes to defend it and take action against terrorists bent on destroying it."

(Sep 16 '12 at 19:37) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

I was very specific in writing "I am not here to have a discussion." This site strictly prohibits conversations, instead preferring to have members ask a question and in return receive an Objectivist answer. I don't want to break any rules.

(Sep 16 '12 at 19:50) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

While I agree that Romanticism isn't necessarily concerned with politics, I can't see how it cannot avoid the subject. To be a socialist and an individualist is a contradiction in terms.

(Sep 18 '12 at 12:32) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

Now that the DVD/BluRay release of The Dark Knight Rises is just a few short weeks away, I would like to know what any of you think about its ties to Romanticism and if I was correct, when you get a chance to view the movie. That goes especially for you, Ideas for Life!

(Nov 20 '12 at 07:41) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image
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Asked: Sep 02 '12 at 20:48

Seen: 3,401 times

Last updated: Jul 28 '13 at 01:53