Deleuze, Guattari, and The Dark Knight

I’m currently reading Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus:  Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and I couldn’t help thinking about it as I watched The Dark Knight this past Sunday with Yufang, Seth, Kolter, and Masaya at the Independence Regal.

Actually, I had thought about the connections between Batman and Deleuze and Guattari’s nomadology a few months ago as I was working on my SFRA 2008 paper on Mike Resnick’s Ivory, nomadology, and how to make meaning for students.  I’m not well versed in the extended Batman history and mythology, but I have read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  While talking with Professor Trogdon outside the Kent State library, it occured to me that Miller’s formulation directly relates to my reading of nomadology and the war machine, because Batman emblematizes resistant force against the all pervasive power, skewering Gotham, of the gangs and organized crime.  Furthermore, Batman leads a war machine, made up of individuals against the oppressive power of evil that permeates through fear.

The Dark Knight, and the earlier Batman reboot movie, Batman Begins, further reinforces Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of resistance, nomadology, and the war machine.  There is the assemblage of Bruce Wayne, Batman, and his technologies–his suit, grapple gun, cape, the Tumbler, and Bat cycle–that resists corruption and organized crime within his hometown of Gotham.

Turning it around, there is the Batman-Joker-Two Face assemblage.  They are retellings of one another–breaking rules and law for various psychic traumas in their pasts.  They each serve a particular ideology that overlaps and builds off of one another.  Batman does what the law cannot do in delivering justice.  The Joker is an “agent of chaos,” unhinged by some ancient trauma (if it can be said the Joker has a history), but not to be mistaken as uncalculating, even the Mandelbrot set appears to have a form of order, and likewise, The Joker manipulates and arranges his world to suit his anarchic vision.  Harvey Dent works within the system, unafraid of the risk to his life, and his metamorphosed self, Two Face, seeks revenge and retribution for his loss of Rachael with a white heat intensity.  In a sense, none of these characters may exist without the presence of the other.  As in the earlier Batman movies, The Joker says to Batman, “you created me.”  Their world necessitates their becoming-heroes or becoming-villians.

There are some interesting convolutions and permutations around the Batman.  Bruce Wayne is able to do what he does, because he has old money that gets bigger and more influential because of Wayne Industries’ work and investment.  Ignatious Fox represents this go-between of money and the Batman’s ability to fight crime.  It’s the high tech weaponry developed by Wayne Industries under the guidance of Fox that enables Batman’s meting justice.  How then is Batman a nomad?  He lives the nomad life, especially illustrated in Batman Begins, but his nomad existence is made possible by capital and the power that comes from it.  Can the nomad represent both the war machine and the State (in this case capital–money is ever present in Batman–stopping bank robberies and such, and the State is only shown to be the police force protecting that capital).  What about The Joker?  Is he the true nomad in The Dark Knight, because he resists the power of the Batman?  Actually, Batman appropriated the war machine of the crime bosses by redirecting the affect of fear from the populace to the criminals.  Deleuze and Guattari say that the war machine will be appropriated by the State and used for its own ends, and if Batman represents capital, then this operation has been accomplished.  Then, The Joker comes on the scene as a resistance to the affect of fear created by the Batman.  The Joker organizes the force of resistance against the power of the Batman by employing the affective weapons of fear, uncertainty, disorder, chaos, and the supposed dearth of good human nature.  He fights what he perceives to be an oppressive power that comes from the shadows and the sky above, but he’s unafraid and resists that power to the end.  Does this mean that The Joker is the true hero of The Dark Knight?

Awhile back, Sha warned me against becoming a Deleuze and Guattari acolyte, which at the time struck me, because I had not thought of being any sort of acyolyte–the word itself stung me into reconsidering some things.  And, as Jim Gunn says, “the unconsidered belief is not worth holding.”  There are some important things that Deleuze and Guattari have to say that I want to add to my toolbox, but I need to work more at developing my own tools.  Instead of picking up the Craftsman guaranteed tool, I need to walk up to the furnace, lathe, and milling machine and start carving out some of my own tools.  Perhaps I’ll borrow a gadget here or a bob there to enhance my own theories, but I must add my own tools to the toolbox so I’ll be all the more confident and proud to use and carry it.

4 thoughts on “Deleuze, Guattari, and The Dark Knight

  1. Hello,

    Congratulations, this blog is great! The new Hulk is very interesting too from a schizoanalytical point of view, even if we can appreciate it as an action movie only. The police cannot catch him with normal technics of repression. He is like a very strong schizophren, one of the best “resistant”, to use the word of the french psychiatric system that likes a lot the nazi metaphore:)

    Bye,

    Thomas

  2. really enjoyed that analysis, and i am glad i’m not the only one finding D&G creeping into their consciousness. excellent post.

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