If you are inclined to agree with Rush Limbaugh, it is possible you agree with his contention that The Dark Knight Rises is liberal propaganda smearing Mitt Romney.
“Do you think it is accidental that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?" Limbaugh asked on his radio show. He added, “So this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It's going to have a lot of people. The audience is going to be huge. A lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people -- entertainment, the pop culture crowd -- and they're going to hear Bane in the movie and they're going to associate Bain.”
Never mind that Bane was created and introduced in 1993. Or that the third entry in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy basically went into production the second after The Dark Knight hit theaters in 2008 and selected Bane as its villain long before Romney was the last GOP presidential candidate standing.
Limbaugh’s reaction was predictable. He and many other conservatives never pass on an opportunity to bash Hollywood and lament what they see as rampant liberalism in mainstream movies. It happens at least a few times a year. Back in February The Lorax was accused of brainwashing kids with pro-environment propaganda.
The problem with these claims is that Hollywood only cares about one color, and it’s not blue. Yes, there is no shortage of liberals in the entertainment industry. But that is a matter of personal politics. Movie studios need their products to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. They are aggressively seeking the best possible return on their investments.
The fact is movie studios now are part of huge corporations. Universal is controlled by Comcast. Columbia is part of the Sony family. Paramount is part of Viacom. And what are the primary objectives of corporations? Maximize shareholder value and turn a profit. Make as much money as humanly possible. Everything else is secondary.
Hollywood will jump on any trend if it thinks there is money in it. Right now cheaply made “found footage” horror movies are popular. They are low risk, high reward.
Another example of this is faith-based films. After the runaway success of The Passion of the Christ, numerous studios got involved in producing and distributing movies aimed at viewers of faith. Sony Pictures Entertainment has Affirm Films. Their titles include Courageous and Fireproof. Samuel Goldwyn Films occasionally releases faith-based films including this year’s October Baby. New Line, part of Warner Bros. Entertainment, released The Nativity Story.
Often studios hold advanced screenings for churches to generate positive word of mouth with “spiritual” audiences even if the movie isn’t overtly faith-based. Prior to releasing Secretariat in 2010, Disney held screenings at large churches across the country.
The studios saw new revenue streams with these viewers. There was demand so they made sure to meet it. The same is true for the low-budget horror movies. After Paranormal Activity, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. The studios and the people running them just see dollar signs.
Warner Bros. spent $400 million to make and market The Dark Knight Rises. It needs to make far more than that to become profitable. The studio is not going to risk alienating millions of potential ticket buyers by making an overtly political film.
As The Hollywood Reporter points out today, there was a lot of debate about the politics of The Dark Knight. Both conservatives and liberals found ideological messages in it and the same will probably be true of The Dark Knight Rises. Many viewers will read into it what they want to and seek to find messages that are aligned with their beliefs.
However one feels about the movie and its content, the only thing the studio cares about is whether or not you buy a ticket.