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A Dark Knight In an Endless Night: Why Batman Matters

A Dark Knight In an Endless Night: Why Batman Matters

By Michael Miranda

On a dark night while walking home from the theater with their son Bruce, Thomas and Martha Wayne were gunned down.  What happened next is the birth of one of the greatest heroes the world has ever known: Batman. Batman is a very morally gray character in a world that isn’t all black and white.  He is a creation of the darkness around him, and the unchecked pain of a ten-year-old boy who made a promise to his parents that he would do everything he could to make sure no one had to go through a loss like he did.  

I see a lot of people lately that are debating the usefulness of Batman.  It makes sense that they’d do it now, in a world where more and more civil servants are being held accountable for their acts of violence against people, Batman as a proto-civil servant would be just as susceptible to this criticism.  But I am here to say, that in the realm of Gotham City, Batman is absolutely a necessary symbol of hope and perseverance in the face of almost unconquerable odds. 

I was having a discussion with a friend yesterday about Batman. What it essentially came down to is this notion that he’d be more productive as an agent of good in the light – without the cape and cowl, than he Is as Gotham’s Dark Knight.  I have to respectfully disagree.  While I agree that crime essentially happens because people are struggling and they want to not struggle anymore, a lot of the crime in Gotham, is happening because the criminals just want to commit crimes.  

Sure, Bruce could build new schools, libraries, hospitals, youth centers and the like.  But what happens when the employees, the board members and even some of the people going there to try and better themselves are bought by this notion of a fast rise in power and economic status? The fact of the matter is that money and people are corruptible, but symbols aren’t.  Batman isn’t just a rich guy with dead parents beating up mentally ill people.  

Batman is a morally gray symbol of hope in a city where darkness reigns.  Gotham is fueled by corruption and fear. Batman is the antithesis to that fear. He takes that fear and channels it as a force for good, giving the people involved in the corruption a reason to be afraid.  Batman can’t be bought, threatened or reasoned with.  As a symbol he is unable to be corrupted despite anyone’s best efforts, and this is what makes Batman such an important symbol to the world at large, and to Gotham. 

Not to mention, Bruce Wayne does in fact contribute to society as a philanthropist. Bit for the evil that can’t be swayed with good intentions, Batman is needed to stand against that supreme indifference to human life.  His methodologies reflect a man who is doing the best that he can, in a world where people at their core, re good, but doing the wrong thing is easier, and the payoff is quicker.  

Another absurd assumption I’ve heard regarding Batman is that he is the reason there are so many “super villains” in Gotham.  But again, I think that this is false, and I think that it isn’t quite so simple.  I think that while Batman’s appearance may have exacerbated their issues, they were always destined to be who they are. Batman was just the catalyst and gave them a stage on which to perform. Below, I’m going to lay out a super succinct baseline of a few of Batman’s more popular rogues to prove this point. 

  • The Joker  – He was a failed comedian whose wife died in an electrical accident. He was committing a crime with a notorious gang and in his attempt to run away from Batman trying to capture him, he fell into a vat of chemicals which not only gave him his look, but finally broke him and showed him that life is just a big joke.  I think even without Batman scaring him, he would’ve turned into the Joker. He chose to join that gang for that crime, trying to find a quick and easy out for he and his wife.  No one forced him. 
  • Mr. Freeze – Victor Fries was a brilliant scientist whose wife was diagnosed with a degenerative disease without a cure. In order to prolong her life, he put her in a state of cryostasis in his lab in one of the various Wayne buildings in the city.  His funding was pulled and in the heat of the moment, he was doused in the liquid nitrogen used for his wife Nora.  His motivations for crime are solely to get what he needs to sustain and eventually save his wife.  The suit he wears, is the only way he can survive now since he cannot survive outside of subzero temperatures.  Batman didn’t make Mr. Freeze, an unfortunate circumstance did. 
  • Poison Ivy – In the original telling of how she went from Pamela Isley to Poison Ivy, she was betrayed when her professor poisoned her after she helped him recover an Ancient Egyptian artifact.  She was poisoned to keep her silence.  Bruce Wayne had nothing to do with that and neither did Batman.  Poison Ivy’s birth was a result of corruption and greed. 
  • Catwoman – Selina Kyle was a cat burglar with a whip and a penchant for high stakes thefts.  She was a cat burglar before Batman, and even throughout her history in the DC  Universe, despite her feelings for Batman, she still chose to be a burglar for high stakes thefts.  Only fairly recently has she become more of a chaotic neutral ally – akin to Jason Todd. 
  • The Riddler – Edward Nygma was a disgruntled ex-Wayne Tech employee who thought he was better than everyone else. He has a narcissistic superiority complex where he feels everyone is inferior.  He commits the crimes that he does as a justification of his own narcissism. 
  • The Penguin – Oswald Cobblepot has a chip on his shoulders and being related to one of the first families of Gotham, he feels he is entitled to Gotham City and everything it has to offer. He is a gangster and a gun runner through and through and even without Batman, he’d be a gangster and gun runner. 
  • Two-Face – Harvey Dent was Gotham’s White Knight, a symbol of hope and light in a dark world. He stood up to the gangsters that everyone else was afraid to, and as a result, they got even with him.  Him becoming Two-Face was an unfortunate side effect of his fight with the gangsters of Gotham.  

I think I made a solid case showing that, the rogues in Batman’s life don’t exist BECAUSE of him, they exist IN SPITE of him.  Looking at this list, you can see that the GCPD would never be well enough equipped to handle the threats these rogues present to Gotham.  On the contrary, when you really think about it, if the Bat Family is essentially a larger embodiment of the prowess of Sherlock Holmes, then the GCPD is the embodiment of the Watson character. They are the springboard from which Batman and his family can be elevated in popular fiction and detective fiction in particular.  

With that being said, John Watson could never have the acumens to take on Professor Moriarty, without Sherlock Holmes, no matter how destructive he is, Moriarty would win.  The same could be said of Batman’s rogues gallery.  They are the Moriarty for Batman’s Holmes, and the GCPD’s Watson.  The GCPD needs Batman, and so does Gotham.  

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