Now this initially started as a character study on Batman. He is a character who has fascinated me for a long time and I have always wanted to write about why he is so awesome. But then if this is going on the Internet I need to remember that everyone who reads it will be a bigger nerd than myself and I’ll just end up being pwned or got for not researching the biblical allegories relating to Batman’s decision to wear a cape. So I will narrow my scope to Christopher Nolan’s recent interpretation of Batman. This has a second bonus though because I realised to express my love for Bats I really need to talk about The Joker. And if I want to talk about both The Joker and Batman then I have to include their good friend Harvey “Twoface” Dent. The three characters are so well intertwined that it’s no wonder Christopher Nolan chose them for his film. So at risk of turning this into a Chris Nolan love-in let’s get into it!
When I was young I saw the cartoon The Justice League. Full of all the DC superheroes. Superheroes with super powers. Super speed, Super (Power)Rings, Super hot Wonder Woman and of course Superman. Then there was Batman. ‘But Batman doesn’t really have any super powers’ I thought. But then I realised: Isn’t that one of the things that makes Batman so cool? They say with great power comes great responsibility, but Batman wasn’t gifted any of these performance enhancing abilities. He is just one tough mother dishing out some pure revenge for the good of everybody.
We all know the story of Batman’s childhood, his saintly parents needlessly murdered. He grows up, never freed from that traumatic experience and seeks to bring justice to those responsible. He finds, however, an intricate mob system in place; corrupt police, low level thugs and ruthless evil bosses perfectly out of reach of the long arm of the Gotham law. So Batman then uses his millions and his relentless vengeful motivation to become a vigilante force within the city. He chooses the symbol of the bat to strike fear into criminals just like bats once did to him as a child. It is fitting that in Batman Begins his nemesis is Scarecrow, a psychopath doctor who excels in the field of fear. The Batman is born.
Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is the next step to becoming the ultimate superhero. Wayne is a real identity within Gotham but perhaps more fictional then Batman. He is a rich, self-indulgent douche bag. He plays the carefree playboy, untroubled by the woes of the poor. He doesn’t do anything to truly get under anyone’s skin, but his careless expenses and hide-away-in-my-mansion/penthouse attitude becomes the perfect cover for his true character. Thinking about this perfect cover, this alter ego took my admiration to a new level. Ego is the perfect word for it. Most people crave and even need recognition for doing good – I wouldn’t write this article if I didn’t think I could get a bunch of people telling me it’s awesome (please tell me it’s awesome) – but who can give Batman recognition? He is a faceless vigilante who rarely engages in conversation aside from “Hey bet you didn’t see me hiding in here!” *punch in the nose*. Bruce Wayne on the other hand would happily cancel a Russian Ballet to go on a yacht ride with the whole ensemble of dancing beauties. Little do the people know that he is really in China risking his life to bring down the mob.
The next shining, bat-silhouetted light in my flying rodent-love would be his moral standing. Batman, despite his vigilante approach still has faith in the law and order of society. He strives to catch the villains and hand them over to the police for due process. He is always in contact with Jim Gordon when looking for ways to thwart the baddies. He believes in the Arkham Asylum and its ability to heal the minds of the criminally insane (though it clearly has a terrible strike rate. In fact it probably creates more insanity than it heals). And his most valiant moral code is the one that seems to inspire the Texan republican in me – Batman never kills. In Dark Knight during the final face off with Joker, Batman has Joker hanging over a deadly drop. I found myself almost yelling at the screen “Kill him, Batman. Kill him!” But Batman is a better man than me and he saves Joker’s life like he would save a child’s. Much to the shameful disappointment of myself (and Joker).
But every superhero has a weakness. And while Batman’s initial intentions and final results are always pure and aligned with the view of modern law, it is in the middle where he treads a thin line. Straight off the bat, vigilantism is against the law, but we can forgive him for that. But as the stakes get higher so does the need to push the boundaries of means/ends justification. Like any action movie, city streets are demolished and international laws and jurisdiction are tossed aside, but when Batman begins to torture a suspect in custody and when he taps into every phone in the city he must have the CIA and NSA knocking on his door with job offers. For me this becomes a messy gray area. Batman is the only person who can do this because he isn’t a person. He isn’t accountable. But who is? I guess the people who support him or let him do it are accountable and that is why Lucius Fox quits.
It may be difficult for someone to act like this, in such a selfless manner, but Batman never sought any public recognition. And he takes full responsibility. He bears the physical demands; he does what others are scared or forbidden to do, he accepts Lucius’ resignation, he sacrifices living with the love of his life. But in the end all he hoped to do was inspire the spirits of the people of Gotham. And Harvey Dent was one of those he inspired. But his reckless abandon of the law inspired something else. It inspired a psychopath beyond the laws of any God or civilisation. It inspired the Joker.
Check out the other characters in the Dark Knight Series:
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