Reading pop culture: The Dark Knight poster and September 11th

When I saw the new The Dark Knight poster on Correct Opinion, I could only think one thing: “Holy crap, is Batman going to fight Osama bin Laden?” This poster seems to be getting compared to Fight Club’s Project Mayhem, but the best visual comparison I can think of is one of the holes left in the World Trade Center towers by a jumbo jet. The tagline and the position of Batman in the poster seem to reaffirm this. Let me explain:

We have the high-rise with a gaping, flaming hole. We have Batman standing courageously, fists clenched, in front of the destruction. It’s September 11th meets comic book superheroes. This makes sense, since 9-11 is associated with heroes and heroism in American discourse. We also have the tagline “Welcome to a world without rules,” which is highly suggestive of the political climate after 9-11. At the beginning of the war on terror, George W. Bush emphasized that we are at war with an ideology, a tactic, rather than a country. The rules of war have changed, he told America. The TDK poster echoes this, and the tagline puts Batman in an interesting position. He is at once being welcomed into the world without rules, and standing as a symbol of good, of heroism, a moral compass viewers of TDK can align themselves with in these ambiguous times.

Is it a marketing department using imagery from a national tragedy to sell a product? Yes. Is it in poor taste? I don’t think so. Artists and filmmakers have already started mining September 11th for material (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Flight 93, that Adam Sandler movie) that has proved critically and commercially successful, and the poster is an allusion to the imagery rather than a direct quotation. I think it’s a great poster—it makes me want to see the movie. What do you all think?


~ by Ian D. on April 25, 2008.

4 Responses to “Reading pop culture: The Dark Knight poster and September 11th”

  1. I think that’s an interesting analysis. I feel the poster can be interpreted a number of ways – there’s the easy, pop culture references, such as Fight Club, and then the larger allegories. Christopher Nolan is a mature film maker and I think he’s capable of evoking such imagery without exploiting it. Although how much of this image comes from him and how much comes from the Warner art department is hard to say of course.

  2. My concern is less with the poster image (which I don’t personally think resonates with 9/11…I mean it does, sort of, but not blatantly). My concern is with the implied notion that Batman is presented as a Hollywood stand-in for USA moral certainty in a so-called “world without rules.” Knowing nothing about the plot of this film, I hope I’m way off-base (and I’m reassured by the fact that there’s no American flag waving over Batman’s shoulder).

    As a citizen who feels Bush’s “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” cowboy polarizing America-centric vision of the world has cost lives, created more enemies, and made terrorism worse, I’m hoping this film isn’t a flag-waving homage to a failed foreign policy.

    Apologies for the editorial, but your essay and this provocative image pulled my string. I don’t mean to prescribe anyone else’s beliefs or politics. Just stating my own in response to Ian’s invitation.

  3. Oh yeah, I really really really LOVE this movie poster and I can’t wait till this movie hits the big screen. It’s gonna be awesome!

    BATMAN FAN? Visit The Bat-Blog!

    Thanks, Tommy

  4. Here’s another interesting thing that I noticed. I heard that the new batman movie will touch on the idea that Batman’s war against the criminal actually makes things worse in Gotham. When Batman defeated Falcone, the mob boss from the first movie, it created a power vacuum within the criminal underworld. Rival gangs fight with each other until the Joker takes control of them.

    Sounds familiar? Bush went to Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein. This resulted in a power vacuum with both Shiah and Sunni insurgents wanting to take over. So who’s the ‘Joker’ then? Iran?

    Anyway, I don’t think they are intentionally referring to the Iraq war with this new Batman movie. Let’s just leave out the politics and enjoy the movie hehe

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