zondag 24 maart 2013

Why Batman is my Role Model


Why Batman is my rolemodel.
Those who know me either intimately or platonically know I harbor a deep affinity for superheroes and most especially for Batman. Sometimes this affinity borders to the edge of obsession from which many are, understandably, creep out. What sane person of my age would dive so deeply into the legend of the Dark Knight? – There are so many important things out there, like politics, economics and even social events. The most likely answer would be that the state of such business depresses me so much I flee into escapism fiction to avoid dealing with those matters. Well, that is partially true, but there is much more behind it. With this short, uhm, essay I will allow you a glimmer in my mind – and I’ll try to avoid such pretentious words like I just did. I will show you why I love Batman so much, and why these reasons differ from many other Bat-lover who have watched the same animated series, movies, comics and whatnot like me. So, why does Batman affect me, Zerachiel van Mark, in such an intimate way that differs from other people?

Let’s first start with some background information. I will ignore the stuff everyone probable knows or are unnecessary in my explanation later on. Let’s start with young Bruce Wayne who goes out one night with his parents to the movies/play. Either after the movie/play is over, or during it, the family leaves the building and is gunned down on the street – leaving Bruce as sole survivor. Now there are several origins, and all show the parents death in flashbacks while incorporating the exact events in the main story. In the Frank Miller origin, Year One, the death of his parents leads Bruce to travel the world to strengthen him to fight crime. After coming back, he fails his first mission and while in a wounded state and half delirious, sees a bat crashing through his windows. This makes him realize that physical strength is not enough, but he has to play into the emotions of criminals. The origin of the Tim Burton movies and latter two following movies state it was a trauma Bruce endured as a kid with a bat that made him decide make his personal fear into the fear of all Gotham’s crime. The Christopher Nolan movies have the ingenuity of mixing several of these elements together.  Young Bruce endures the trauma, and his parents get killed when they exited the ballerina play early on his request. This gives Bruce survivors guilt about causing his parents death – his traveling around the world was less a mission to fight crime than it was to escape from himself. Eventually, in the cult of The League of Assassins, he learns to face and embrace his fears. He also gets a sense of patriotism towards his city, and will do everything he can to fight the corruption inside. The idea of Batman comes to him spontaneously, in a realization that one man can be killed, corrupted and even broken – but a symbol lasts forever. One to inspire people, to become a supernatural force that cannot be shot or bought.  As a note, I will also bring up the movie “Mask of Phantasm” which gave Bruce an escape clause to his oath to his parents. A love interest that gives him a chance to leave Batman behind before it even started, and to instead start a family. But once again the corruption within Gotham strikes and she is driven away, and later into another of the city pawns. The idea of Gotham City being a living demon entity will also be addressed later on. Most importantly in the animated movie, we see the love interest, Andrea, being turned into a creature of the night not unlike Batman. And thus we are shown WHY Batman is special, even among his peers of costumed vigilantes.
I feel like I should also talk about the Bat-family, since in a way they are also essential to my point. I do consider the Bat-family, consisting of the various Robins, Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl, Batwoman, The Bat, Huntress and Oracle, on the same league as Batman rogues like Joker, Two-Face, Riddler etc. Let’s compare them to the Tarot cards: We have the Higher Arcana consisting of Gotham City, Arkham Asylum, The Bat Signal, the Cave, the Butler, the Death and the Awakening. And next we have the inhabitants of these grand scenarios and environments: the Lower Arcana who are fragmented pieces of Batman himself.  The rogues however are fragmented pieces more akin to the Joker, who can be considered the flipside of the coin that is Batman.
Now, I can write another whole essay about this Deck of cards, which I have only barely begun scratching the surface within a short paragraph, but my understanding and analysis of the deck has not even been completed. When it is, if it will ever be, I can assure only few will lay eyes on it.

But, now to answer the question in bold, why do I love Batman? Simply because I am Batman.
As you know, the key of a profitable product (which make no mistake, Batman is without doubt the ACE of capitalism) within a franchise of fiction is that the main character should be likeable. He should be relatable to kids in a way they can imagine being him. The more he is in their thoughts, the more they’ll bug their parents to buy Batman toys and Batmobils and whatnot.  Batman is a shallow device to attract money for his owner. He is a prostitute rather than a role model, and not even the kind the Queen of Paramaribo  used to be. A corporate sellout that takes a more kid friendly appearance during the Silver Age of comics and adopt a cute 5th dimensional creature (Batmite)like was the trend for cartoons of that time, just to appease children.  The reason he became a darker creature of the night in the comic world during the seventies was that the sales were failing and editors were desperate to try ANYTHING to restore the sales. And not two years ago editors were desperate again and rebooted his whole universe, making him younger – because old guys are ewwww to tweens – and cramming the existence of four Robins (because they were popular) in a mere five years.  But I’m not here to rage about that. I’ve made points to show why I should hate him. But I don’t, and why is that?
Because fuck DC comics Batman. The Batman that was formed in my mind has grown his own life, like he has done into the minds of many others. We all have a personal reason we love Batman – one we keep secret because it’s too damn childish. All these goofy stuff worked perfectly in putting Batman in our minds, but within our minds we have molded him – this corporate piece of plastic – into something living.  Based on our selves, so yeah, in our mind we are all Batman in some extent. But I’m not here to tell you why you are Batman; I’m here to tell you why I am Batman.
Tell me, how many friends did Batman have during his childhood? Answer: not many. In fact, before the murder of his parents he didn’t seem to have any friends, save Thomas Elliot who later became the villain Hush, but this was a retcon so let’s leave him out. Bruce was a loner during his childhood, pre and post Death. This has left him disconnected with other people. Sure he can blend in, act goofy and sleep with women like a total player. But even within his world his environment sees it as him acting out on witnessing his parent’s murder as a child. Like Bruce, I can act to blend in. I can say hi to people and inform to their wellbeing – but do I actually care? Well not always. I certainly don’t wish everyone ill who I see. Just like Bruce has in various degrees people he can talk to and trust, just like him I have those kind of people I care about. I have the ability to care about other people, but it seems like I can’t really connect to any at all. Even those whom I trust more and care more about, seem emotionally appalled from me.  Just like Batman has his loneliness, I have my loneliness.
But how can anyone say Batman is lonely with all his freaking Bat-family? He’s a member of the Justice League, founder of the Outsiders, CEO of Batman Inc. has three adoptive sons and one biological, a network of geniuses for stationed assistance during his missions, a friend/enemy with benefits, and a father figure. He seems far from a lonely avenger!
Well, lets compare this to Ed, a fictional kid from Facebook who has 1000 Friends online, all of whom can provide him with money, entertainment, food and even virtual sex. Great friendships…but who does Ed have in real life? Does he go out and talk to new people? Does he have a job that enables him contact with people? An actual girlfriend? No he doesn’t, he is alone within himself. There is an haiku about being alone within a crowd, and I believe Batman is a crowd in his loneliness. His bat-family is an extension of himself.  He is not alone, but in some way with all these people around he is never leaving his comfort zone and meeting people unlike himself.
Second: while Superman is considered the Sun God meant to expose the hidden snake (Lex Luthor) within the Golden City (Metropolis), Batman is considered a knight who trained himself to see the shining stars and give them a chance to shine bright within a dark city that seems to be alive and malicious. How about this for a contrast? I promised to talk about Gotham, and now I will. The nature and certain aspects of Gotham were added gradually during the run of early and latter Batman stories. Slowly, the city became much more than a knock-off to New York / Chicago, and more into a monster itself. It became the ultimate villain that lies dormant, a machine that produces more monsters with every step. In the beginning it was the mafia that terrorized the city, soaked the alleyways with murders and chopped off fingers. It orphaned a young boy, turning him into a monster himself. But this monster tried to fight the mob within the city, but when succeeded, the city threw something worse at him. Something on his on level: the Joker, the Riddler, Two face, etc etc. All normal humans who in some way got twisted into horrors that stalk the night and spill gallons of blood on the main streets of Gotham. In recent development, it was shown that through its own ancient infrastructure and history, Gotham was an evil entity. Still Batman continues the fight against the city, recognizing the people worth saving inside. Realizing if a monster like him can fight for good, everyone has the potential to do so. He doesn’t kill criminals, because everyone deserves a chance to proof right – and because he’s afraid that if he removes one such servant of the city, Gotham will throw something worse back at him.
So how in hell do I relate to that? In every sense. As an anarchist, I believe Gotham is the world. The human world at least. With its corrupt institutes like governments, churches and schools meant only to take the newborn people of the this earth and turn them into their servants. Blind, obedient to their cause only. This world-city is a chaos himself. It’s never only one big baddie in charge here, it’s always small fractions (governments) who either work independently or together to suppress people. Do I intend to fight them? Is this where my note turns into a dark foreshadowing of another school-shooting or a terror-attack?
Well re-reading my note now, even I see it going in that direction. But let’s make this clear: I have no intention of physically attacking the world. I don’t want to wear a mask and shoot at things in a hope to make it better. This is Corporate Batman way of doing things, and considering he’s been fighting crime for more than 80 years now I don’t believe his way actually works. I think I made it pretty clear I’m not supportive of real-live Superheroes or vigilantes. This is not my way of fighting.
I am thematically inspired by Batman, using the own fear of criminals to destroy themselves. Governments will, as William Godwin intended, destroy themselves – though not due to a self-realization of its own failings and altruism. At this moment governments are running on the fear of people, they exist solely to play into the fears of the people. They are the big daddy holding the hands of the people and comforting them, never letting their child grow up or too far out of range. If we can eliminate this fear out of the people, make them grow up as a global society, the needs for a government – ANY kind will be unnecessary. But I’m not here to talk about this yet. Why in fact, I’m still too uneducated to talk even more about it.
So this brings me back to Batman. The difference between Batman and all the so called Real Life Superheroes? Batman trained himself for years. DC might’ve had this crazy idea of making Batman as young as possible to connect to the masses of kids, but in my mind Batman must already have hit 30 when he took on the cowl. If he ran away from home at 17 or 19, then he’d have spent more than 10 years educating in law, science and martial arts. Sure he pushed his body and mind like no other, and had an incredible dedication, but even the best martial artist know it’s not how hard you train in a short time, but how consistent you train that will achieve better result.
And same here. I’m not exactly dropping my family and school to dive into anarchism and think of ways to make the world better, I’m following a plan. Every day I learn new stuff about anarchism, and the great thing about education is that it never ends. There is no regulated timing or graduations involved in real education. I have years ahead of me (hopefully) and sure, I could die tomorrow and all my plans are up in smoke. I don’t care. The city will produce someone else, hopefully someone more driven. How bad things might get, there will always be a light. It balances it own it own. I wasn’t born with a job description: be a janitor, be an accountant, be Batman…I was born as any human, totally pointless. I do as I wish, and I wish to be educated. I drive to better the world, in one way or another.
And when, at some point I think I have educated myself well enough, I’ll come back to the city and hopefully teach people to follow a better path. And I hope that by that time, I’ll have both my family and my allies to assist and support me. 

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