The rise and rise of Batman
Here is the first post in a season of blog posts by members of the group that attempts to look at the question: what do super heroes mean to you?
This summer sees the release of the final part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy withThe Dark Knight Rises. Arguably one of the most popular comic book franchises to hit the big screen, based on box office figures alone, just what is it about the Batman that clearly resonates with the public even more than it did with the 1980s and 1990s Batman films?
Is it because he’s a hero that protects the weak from those who seek to use and abuse? Or, is it because the world of Batman and the society he finds himself - and his alter ego Bruce Wayne - in, resonates so much with our own?
For me, there are numerous facets of the Batman mythos that are fascinating. But what draws me toward his part of the DC universe the most are the similarities between his world and ours.
Think about it: Gotham City is a cultural, social, political, and religious melting pot. If - and this is taking the comics into account, not just the films - the city’s politicians and people in positions of authority aren’t abusing their place, then criminals are helping them get on with it. Or the crooks are the ones in charge. When there isn’t a culture clash between different groups, then some cult could very well be lurking in the wings and waiting to take over. And the media would often have us be fools.
Then there’s the divide between the rich and the poor.
And it is perhaps that last aspect that reaches out to me the most. The division between the 99% and the 1% has always been noticeable in the tales of Gotham. Money is also often the cause of the capers carried out by Batman’s many villains. Then there’s Bruce Wayne trying to be a philanthropist and deal with the sources of the city’s problems, investing his own money to degrees that only a few of our own, real, elite bother to.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing
But the fiscal similarities aren’t the only things that help an audience to identify with Batman and his world. There’s the constant inability to truly realise why those who are perceived as evil in the world, do the truly evil things that they do. And while this aspect of Batman is something that’s become more prevalent since the 1980s, there is a huge parallel there with our own societies’ in-abilities to handle the psychopath and the sociopath.
And hear the similarities end, for a time. Gotham’s unhinged villains often wear clear costumes that mark them out as dangerous and this is an advantage that we don’t have in the real world. To me there’s a level of wish fulfillment here, where being able to identify those who are dangerous is actually easy, unlike in our own world.
For me, I find it far easier to identify with a super hero if the world they are set in is like our own. That their world is repeating the same problems we have. So to try and answer the question above: a super hero is someone of great ability, grounded in part of the audience’s’ reality.