II. Finance and Batman: A financialized synopsis
April 7, 2009
We find Gotham city in a long stretch of brilliant prosperity. At the end of a fantastic opening chase scene The Joker is finally killed. But before Batman can remove his mask and sit down for dinner, the mood turns. Fox (Bruce Wayne’s business manger and master technician) announces that the trust fund has been entirely invested in toxic subprime paper. An accountant at Wayne Enterprises has just discovered that the Wayne wealth was sunk into high-risk, mortgage backed CDO’s by an investment bank with a rogue risk management team, whose gorgeous HBS-trained CEO is Bruce’s budding love interest.
The CEO is being shadowed by a nerdy but very smart Columbia J-school rookie who desperately trying to stave off an impending credit crisis. The city treasury, invested in the same securities, goes bust; the entire Gotham civil service falls into foreclosure; and a brutal collections agency is sent out to repossess the Batmobile which Alfred has secretly used as collateral on a personal credit line so he can have his own credit score. (‘Alfred, what the hell do you need a credit score for? You know I’ll give you money any time.’ ‘Well Master Bruce, I wanted my financial independence.’)
The rookie brings news that the Gotham investment banks are ganging up to sink one institution a day by withholding trades. The CEO is in the thick of the politicking. Placed in front of an impressive array of Bloomberg terminals and screens, the rookie’s technical explanation of CDO’s and credit swaps is brilliant. Bruce is smitten.
On the streets hotdogs are being stolen off carts, garbage is piling up in the streets, children are wandering around because public schools are closed, luxury goods stores are being looted, and the citizenry is arming itself into small militias. As Gotham declines into ungovernable mayhem the CEO refuses to forgo her billion dollar bonus even as violent G20 style protests erupt at the foot of her skyscraper. While sniffing cocaine brought to her by a high-end delivery service, she offers the bonus money to Batman to continue funding his crusade in exchange for shared control over the priorities of his clean up efforts. She wants him to begin by exterminating the young anarchist protesters (who have adopted Joker-like masks); and among whom is Lucius Fox’s headstrong granddaughter, a self taught expert on improvised explosives, and Detective Gordon’s teenage son.)
Bruce realized the CEO’s true colors and falls into despair. As he looks down on the protesters from his penthouse, he has a flashback to his mother’s string of pearls clattering to the sidewalk outside the theater as she was murdered by Joe Chill. In an emotional crisis of consciousness, the shattering though occurs to him that his parent’s deaths occurred not because the man who attacked them was evil criminal; but because his parents were excessively rich industrialists who had participated in creating a world of where dramatic inequality could be the norm. He consults with Alfred and they contemplate this in uncomfortable silence. Alfred breaks the tension by announcing that his credit score is a perfect 850.
Meanwhile the rookie is being held hostage in an abandoned labyrinth of a strip mall, in the suburbs, by a particularly evil mortgage brokers’ association. They are trying to prevent her from reporting on fraudulent income statements that put the CEO’s bank (including what little is left of Wayne’s assets and Alfred’s retirement plan) in jeopardy. That is, unless the reporter can be silenced while a federal bailout destined to save one –and only one – Gotham bank, is decided by The President. With no public transportation, and no Batmobile, Batman can’t get even consider rescuing the reporter whom he suspects is the only person who can unravel the crisis and keep it from seeping up to the national level. He is trapped. His only option is to takes the bonus money and concede to the CEO’s evil wishes.
What will Gotham’s guardian angel do?