What’s behind the mask of the snarling, hulking, steroid-crazed villain who wants to take down Batman and rule Gotham City?
A plot to swing the presidential election!
This week on his popular radio show, conservative host Rush Limbaugh casually tossed out the theory that it’s no accident that the evil genius in The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, bears the same name as the much-maligned private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney.
Bane is the very, very bad guy out to kill Batman. Bain Capital is Romney’s former company, which has been the target of accusations that it outsourced jobs, closed factories and reaped huge profits for itself.
"Do you think that 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 suggested to his listeners.
You can see our serious fact checks about Bain Capital here. For now, we thought we’d take a pop-culture diversion from politics to the comic book underworld to see if Limbaugh has really uncovered an evil plot.
What he said
From the transcript of Limbaugh’s July 17, 2012, show:
"This evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's now a discussion out there as to whether or not this is purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It's gonna have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is gonna be huge. A lot of people are gonna see the movie, and it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd, and they're gonna hear Bane in the movie and they're gonna associate Bain. The thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie, ‘Oh, yeah, I know who that is.’ There are some people who think it'll work. Others think you're really underestimating the American people to think that will work."
He wrapped up:
"You may think it's ridiculous, I'm just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up. The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. These are the kind of people that they are attempting to appeal to."
A short history of Bane
So listen up, brain-dead people. To learn more about this villain, we consulted scholarly sources such as The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, and io9, a site that covers science, science fiction and the future.
Bane, the encyclopedia tells us, was born in the fictional South American country of Santa Prisca and grew up in prison, forced to serve a sentence for the crimes of his father. He grows into a violent genius, who commits murder at age 8 and acquires superhuman strength after surviving experiments with a drug called Venom, which left him impossibly virile but forever reliant on the drug. The tentacled mask he wears connects to pumps that deliver regular doses.
He eventually breaks out of prison, bound for Gotham City, where he plans to overpower Batman and assume power.
A compelling personal history, to be sure. But the bottom line is this: Bane entered the Batman storyline in 1993. That’s more than a decade before Romney first ran for president in 2007.
Think Bane creator Chuck Dixon had that much foresight? He doesn’t.
"Ridiculous," is what Dixon called suggestions of a connection between his character and Romney’s company.
Dixon responded on his message board to the notion, first raised by a Democrat, that the two story lines are linked.
"I saw it on FB like two hours ago," Dixon wrote. "Ridiculous. Tho' I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach that Rush may pick up on this. And (that) would be the second time he pegged me and (co-creator) Graham (Nolan) as liberals on his show."
Limbaugh hadn’t yet weighed in, but Dixon showed his crafty knack for foreshadowing. He’s no liberal -- he identifies as a conservative.
Not that he minds the publicity.
"Overgrasping Dems? Hey, if it gets Obama supporters into theaters. Maybe they'll buy thousands of Bane toys to throw at Romney. It all adds to MY Bane capital. I wonder if the Romney campaign will contact me?" Dixon wrote.
We’ve also read several commentaries that find a more obvious parallel between the wealthy Romney and the Bruce Wayne character, a proverbial 1-percenter. In one trailer, Catwoman echoes the Occupy Wall Street movement, telling Wayne, "There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits, you're all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."
Dixon too saw more parallels between Batman and Romney, telling a call-in radio show, "Bane is a force for evil and the destruction of the status quo. He's far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street-type if you're looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney."
Limbaugh suggested it’s no accident that in a movie coming out four months before the presidential election, the villain bears the same name as the company formerly run by Romney and now being attacked by Democrats.
In politics, conspiracies are everywhere if you look hard enough. But Limbaugh’s superpowers of persuasion can’t make this theory stand up. The villainous Bane first appeared in Batman comic books in 1993, long before Romney entered presidential politics. Even the character’s creator called a suggested link "ridiculous." We rate this statement Pants on Fire!