Looking back on 2012, The Dark Knight Rises was probably my least favorite film. The visuals were OK, I guess, but Christian Bale somehow managed to make the Batman both wooden and whiny. All that was just disappointing; what made the movie positively unlikeable was its politics:
There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us. — Selina Kyle
And what did Hollywood tell us would actually happen if someone was uppity enough to challenge the 1%? Why, chaos, of course: drunken, violent, chaos. The truth—the fact that when disaster strikes, people spontaneously come together to help each other—isn't as dramatic, or as politically useful, but more importantly, that's the choice those with power want us to believe we have to make: the status quo, or anarchy.
The fact is, most super-heroes are fundamentally cowards: they're happy to fight evil when it's clearly, obviously evil, but when it dresses itself up as order, they lose their nerve. (Snap quiz: how many super-heroes have ever gone after the people who kept saying "Smoking doesn't cause cancer" 20 years after their own research showed them it did?) Orwell wrote about this kind of failure of nerve eighty years ago:
[Dickens'] radicalism is of the vaguest kind, and yet one always knows that it is there. That is the difference between being a moralist and a politician. He has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong, all he can finally say is, "Behave decently"... — George Orwell
Here's the story I'd like to tell instead. I'd like to tell people about a world where Kal-El was raised by the Joads, rather than by the Kents. I'd like to tell people about a world where Bruce Wayne faced up to the fact that the biggest crimes are committed in quiet murmurs, and went after the psychopaths in nice suits rather than the ones in funny costumes. Most of all, I'd like that to be our world.
Best wishes to you all for 2013—may you end the year proud of how you used it.