Batman aka The Dark Knight aka The Caped Crusader aka one-half of the Dynamic Duo aka Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, is not just a comic-book character who is loved in the US of A but he is loved by people all over the world. Even before Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman was in the public mind. He may not be as famous as Superman but the Batman symbol went main-stream from at least 1989.
So, why do people obsess over the Batman when we got god-like characters such as Superman or even a Thor? I guess most of us would say that he is a human-like hero i.e. he is no alien and he doesn’t have any super powers. This intuitive answer is good enough for starters as Batman has raised his level to amazing heights through sheer determination, discipline, hard work, training and commitment. But, is there any other deep connection between us and the batman?
I think I found some answers which is truthful at least to me. My first tryst with Batman was in the year 1989 when the first honest portrayal of the caped crusader was brought to the silver screen. It was the maverick director Tim Burton’s gothic themed movie that not just made the character world-famous but also a runaway box-office success. Be it Michael Keaton’s Batman or Jack Nicholson’s Joker, everything about the movie was a typical example for love-at-first-sight for me 😀 Ever since, I have hooked on to anything Batman. Just like a loyal fanboy, I would rave about anything related to the character. It was just plain obsession. When Batman wins, I win. Batman was me, I was Batman. The meaning of the term ‘Visceral Experience’ was a true case with me.
OK, let’s back to the analysis. There are quite a few reasons why we adore the Batman character.
Reason 1: Batman represents the blazing fire of idealism
It’s true that Bruce Wayne took to vigilantism only after witnessing the death of his parents. That particular event set Bruce thinking for quite a few years. His path to Batman was not an immediate one but a well thought-out one where he studied the problems in Gotham city and the possible ways by which they could be solved. Bruce realized that law and the police would not be enough to curb the incessant crime and violence in the city because the legal and political structures were already compromised. Bribery, corruption and mediocrity were entrenched in Gotham. Bruce envisioned a two-path method to solve problems. In the first path, he as the millionaire would help in building the city’s infrastructure, provide support to orphans, old and needy people, eventually trying to build a better civic society. In the second path, he would look to curb the city’s darker problems through a highly-powerful, fearless, smart and ruthless character called as the Batman. The Batman’s methods are never meant to be legal. He is supposed to be physically and intellectually superior to the cops. On the other hand, he needs to think like a thief or even a psychopath, to solve difficult cases. So, while Bruce Wayne worked on long-term fixes, the Batman was responsible for providing short-term fixes in Gotham.
So, where does the idealism come in? Batman stays true to his principles.
- He never kills
- He is always available for help either directly or through his multiple allies
- He never quits or gives up on a problem
- He seldom seeks help but is willing to help anyone for a rightful cause
- He sees himself as Gotham’s protector and he will do whatever it takes to keep Gotham safe
- He often sacrifices his personal life for playing the role of Batman
Even though, people like to call themselves as realist, socialist, empiricist or some ist. It is idealism which we internally earn for. Ideals are abstract constructs which are a potent combination of ethics and morality. If we live our life as an idealist, then we know that we are doing the right thing. Batman always stands by his principles and he definitely can be called as an idealist. We not only earn for idealism but we do get attracted to someone who stands by his principles. No wonder, we love Batman!
Reason 2: Batman represents the never-ending fight between the good and evil traits of our own personality
There is a common pattern in Batman’s escapades. Whenever he brings down a villain, the re-entry of the villain at a later point of time is inevitable. The main reason is that he doesn’t kill these baddies. The regular resurgence of villains and Batman’s responsibility to suppress them is a suitable analogy on how we handle the good and evil traits of our personality. Let’s take the case of evil or bad personality traits. They are lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy. If we were to talk about good personality traits, they could be characteristics such as altruism, selflessness, honesty, discipline, austerity and so on. Gotham’s villains represent the bad passions of our mind that keep springing up to show our bestial nature. Batman is the discriminatory agent of our intellect in controlling the mind. Batman not only subdues the villains, but he shows them the path to recovery by admitting them in Arkham Asylum for curing their psychological illness. In our lives, we try our best to subdue our negative traits while propping up our positive side. We often fail but we pick ourselves up again to continue our journey. Batman symbolizes this effort.
Reason 3: Batman embodies the saying “Duty is Worship”
Many ancient scriptures claim that our duty is to perform duty dutifully. Nice use of different part-of-speech types in a single sentence right? 😀 This saying is correct in the following sense. If we do our work just for the sake of doing it without any big expectations on top of it, there is less chance that we will be dejected at the end of it. Even though we think that we are in control of things, there are so many uncontrollable factors which affect the outcome of any task. We succeed in our tasks sometimes, we fail sometimes or in some cases, our success is postponed. So, if we do the task to our absolute best and don’t think about the status of the outcome, we are in a safe place. Simply said, the process is more important than the outcome. Batman is a perfect example for this characteristic. He does his job every night, sacrificing his sleep and personal life. There are days when he patrols the city and finds nothing. There are days when he follows some person due to a hunch. Even if the hunch is wrong, he is unperturbed and goes to the next suspect. Batman does his duty with utmost determination and skill. Of course, he wants it to end as he wants but when it doesn’t, he shows no remorse. Yet another reason to admire him!
Reason 4: Batman keeps the individual and the society glued to each other
There has been lots of stuff written on topics such as the role of the individual in the society, the relationship between individual and the society, how individual and the society affect each other and so on. Western style of thinking claims that the individuals create the society explicitly while the easterners say that the society always exists no matter whether the individuals want it or not. A civic society is one where the individuals play their roles honestly so that trade, material and spiritual growth flourish. However, how many successful civic societies do we have? There is always a outcry from some section of the society. There is exploitation, poverty, perversion and disobedience in the current day societies. At a macro level, Gotham city is a similar society in the comics world. Batman plays the role of a mediator between the individuals and the society. Sometimes, a villain finds the loopholes in the society and uses it for his own benefit (Penguin and Ra’s Al Ghul are prime examples). Characters such as the Joker trouble the society as he wants it to fail. Batman often saves the society from the evil individuals and also saves the individuals when the society is made to turn against them. Batman can be seen like a glue between these two constructs. As regular individuals, we often think of doing something good to the society. Batman does it for us and we enjoy such heroic acts.