Zack Snyder’s wish to direct a Fountainhead movie explains a lot about both the directorial choices he made in his DC films, and why he is so convinced that he made the right decision at the end of Man of Steel. The Fountainhead is a novel by political philosopher Ayn Rand, and very much reflects some of her major philosophical ideas. Understanding this, it is important to not just understand Zack Snyder’s worldview within the context of the book, but Rand’s larger philosophical beliefs and themes. Of course this is not to say that Zack Snyder believes everything Rand believed, but when dealing with as controversial of a figure as Rand was, it can also be assumed that Snyder has internalized at least some of her ideas.
Ayn Rand was one of the most controversial political philosophers of the 20th century, and understanding both who she was and what she espoused is needed to understand Snyder. Rand fetishized the great man. A common theme throughout both the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged is the idea of exceptional people being held down, or surpassed by mediocre individuals. In Atlas Shrugged the exceptional people eventually leave to form their own island and the rest of society suffers for a period of time until they come back. In conjunction with this dislike of the mediocre, Rand felt that those who would leech off their betters were causing the downfall of society (it should here be noted that this is somewhat ironic given that she chose to surround herself with sycophants much of her adult life). This is where she came to the famous conclusion that “Selfishness is a Virtue”. Bearing in mind that she was, by her very nature, a provocateur, the real point was that in attempts to help others the end result for society was much worse than if everyone acted in their own self interests.
The Fountainhead was Rand’s first real showing of the ideas that would become Objectivism, and is about the great architect Howard Roark and how he is consistently overshadowed by the mediocre Peter Keating. As Brian Doherty’s indispensable book on the history of modern libertarianism Radicals for Capitalism…, of without which this article would not be able to be written, describes it Roark is unwilling to do the glad handing and relationship building necessary to get ahead in the world. When he gets work, he creates amazing structures. Meanwhile Keating gets the well-paying jobs because he’s willing to do the dirty work unrelated to his creative abilities. He relies on Roark to do his actual work. The most evil character, by Rand’s assessment, is an architectural and social critic by the name of Ellsworth Toohey. An exceptionally intelligent man, he seeks to destroy the souls of people by lifting the mediocre, and destroying the exceptional. This means that the rest of society is more open to his manipulations. While the book is much longer and more complex, these are the basics needed to understand Zack Snyder’s issues.
Zack Snyder clearly views himself as a protagonist in one of Rand’s novels. His continual resistance to any criticism of the ending of Man of Steel is an indication of a huge ego who believes that he is right about the ending no matter what. As has been shown, Rand made a critic the villain in the Fountainhead. Understanding this, Zack Snyder views the critics with contempt. He is the artist, and these are the people whose very jobs rely on tearing down their betters. Who are they to tell him anything about how he, a truly great man, should tell his stories? Without getting too cruel, it is worth noting that he is more Keating than Roark. He relies on the work of his betters to try and create his work. Even then he doesn’t succeed in creating great work. If you want to view yourself as a Randian hero, it is important you create work worthy of it.
The idea of the exceptional man also explains many of the actions that both Batman and Superman take throughout the course of Batman v. Superman. The most obvious instance of this is the way that Batman continually ignores Alfred at every turn in regards to his mission with Superman. If Snyder was trying to make Batman seem like a bad guy in these scenes, like in so much of the film, he fails miserably. When Batman goes on his murderous rampage with the Batmobile, it is justified because Batman is greater than these plebes. In the most controversial scene of Man of Steel Superman’s killing of Zod is justified because as the great paragon of virtue Superman’s actions are justified as good because he made the decision. To a casual fan who knows anything about these characters, these are all absurd actions. Snyder though, views everything in his Randian prism.
Zack Snyder’s interests in the Fountainhead and Randian philosophy explain both his belligerence and why he made such bad directorial decisions in both of his DC films. Zack Snyder views himself as an exceptional human being of who critics can only hold him down. As such any criticisms that have been leveled at him are not legitimate, since he knows better. The elevation of great people over the common people in Rand’s work also explains why Snyder had his characters act contrary to the core of who Batman and Superman are. The combination of his ego feeling that he knows better than fans, and the fact that the characters are so far above the people that they are supposed to be protecting allows them to make such heinous decisions. Thus it is clear that by virtue of wanting to direct the Fountainhead Snyder reveals himself to be singularly unqualified to be in charge of the DC movie franchises.