The Lois Lane Effect

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That’s why Lois Lane is so perfect for him. She’s the perfect blend of firebrand, intelligent opponent and total doormat. And she’s hot.– Lois Lane as defined by “Jimmy Olsen”

Writing is hard. One of the hardest aspects of writing is evoking drama in a made-up story. Who really gives a shit if Mark Hamill has to sit in a fake plane in order to make a toy ball explode? This is where emotion comes into play: if the audience can relate to a conflict, even if it is contrived, they will be invested in that toy ball exploding. And of course, the easiest way to go about doing this is to shove into plots the greatest of all contrived conflicts: the quest for sweet, sweet nookie.

Fred Durst approves

Fred Durst approves

As i mentioned in another post of mine, modern Romantic fiction (and not just guy meets girl stories) was codified during the Middle Ages of Europe, with much of the coda coming from the Chivalric code. A man fights through everything from other men to Hell itself in order to prove himself worthy of his lady. It was supposedly as true for real life knights as it was for Lancelot himself. As such, this basic tenet of manliness passed on till modern times, where pretty much any “real man” in fiction has to kick ass and get laid (in either order). This sequence is especially important in the superhero genre.

           Action Comics #1 (June 1938)

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The golden standard for superhero love interests is Superman’s longtime girlfriend Lois Lane. Debuting in the very first issue of Action Comics, (where Superman first appeared) Lois is as old as the hero himself. Given that these were stories meant for children, their relationship was no more complex than ” Clark wants Lois. Lois wants Superman. Conflict. Ironically, she was actually more progressive than the characters she inspired in her Golden Age 1930’s-40’s appearances, being assertive and only occasionally used for “save the girl” plots.

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The Fleischer Superman cartoons even had her fighting in World War 2 as a covert agent.

And the ” Baddest Bitch ” award goes to…

This characterization ceased during the “Get Back In The Kitchen!” 50’s and the rise of the Comics Code Authority, which literally had doctrines such as “The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage“. This led to the Lois Lane who became a bane upon Superman and comics and general. She was reduced to an annoying hanger-on who’s only concern was marrying Superman.

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The biggest loss for the franchise was that she ceased to even have a reason to be around anymore. Golden Age Lois served as a challenge for Clark since he had to win her over without being Superman. She was a badass character in her own right which justified her astronomical standards. Reducing her to a satellite love interest nullified that romantic conflict and replaced it with a series of ” zany ” marriage schemes. You’d think she needed a green card or something. What was even worse is that as she became more arbitrary, her prevalence in media increased, to the point where she got a whole series dedicated to her desire to bone Superman.

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Lois was never good with linear reasoning

Batman #157 (August 1963)

Vicki Vale CompetitionGiven that Superman is the quintessential superhero, several other franchises had a Lois Lane equivalent just to keep up with the Joneses. Batman had Vicki Vale (played by Kim Basinger in the film) who was a reporter who wrote about Batman, intending to find out his identity and bone him (in either order). Oh, and she didn’t like Bruce Wayne that much. Sounds familiar? Barry Allen aka The Flash got his own model in Iris West, yet another “intrepid reporter” who couldn’t figure out his secret identity until they were already married. “Intrepid” must be old timey slang for “idiot”.

Marvel Comics dealt with this trope better in the 60’s, but still with a few Lois Lane influences. Before the arrival of plot tumor Mary Jane, Peter Parker started off with Betty Brant, who was sort of like a deconstruction of 50’s Lois Lane. She was also clingy and jealous, but instead of being played entirely for laughs, it was actually a serious relationship problem which caused him quite some grief.

The Amazing Spider-Man #15 (August 1964)

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He then went on to court Gwen Stacy, who began as actually quite vain, being interested in Peter literally because he had the nerve to not try boning her.

The Amazing Spider-Man #31 ( December 1965 )

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Once their relationship became settled, however, she started to become yet another satellite love interest. So much so that Marvel editors thought the most interesting thing they could do with the character is kill her off.

      Journey Into Mystery

Nurse Jane Foster Dreaming of Thor

Marvel’s other flagship hero, Thor, had a love interest in Jane Foster (who was carried over into the films but more on that later) back in his ” secret identity ” days. A doctor’s assistant in his mortal form’s (Donald Blake) practice, Foster and Blake were mutually attracted, but he thought she only pitied him due to his handicap (he couldn’t walk without a cane). This was exacerbated by the fact that she was (you guessed it) also attracted to Thor, but they couldn’t consummate due to Odin’s plot-drama doctrine of “don’t let mortals know about your secret identity”. To be fair, this dynamic was interesting at times because it injected a bit of classical myth: human/god coupling is an issue in almost every religion. Nevertheless, it was dropped once Thor stopped being a part-time human all-together and rationally decided to have sex with hot god babes instead.

Following suit with Thor, most superhero franchises drifted away from the generic love interest formula moving into the next few decades. Dimensions were added to pre-existing and new love interests. Many became (with varying levels of quality) “tougher” to compensate for previous portrayals. Lois Lane, the progenitor herself, was one of the first to get her metaphorical balls back.

                                                      Man of Steel

Maybe a little too much balls...

Or maybe her literal balls…

Some ladies went the Jane Foster route and were just phased out of focus; Hal Jordan/Green Lantern’s first love Carol Ferris became more important for becoming a hero/villain (it’s complicated) in her own right. Their love affair became just one of many flings for the bachelor hero. On the darker side of the spectrum, some were used as macabre drama fodder, such the aforementioned death of Gwen Stacy. Comic writer Gail Simone dubbed this trope “Women In Refrigerators“, referencing a controversial Green Lantern story where the hero’s girlfriend was brutally murdered and…well you could probably guess…

Green Lantern #54 (1994)

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“WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!?”

Obviously a fucked up trope it is in it’s own right, many writers consider this equally terrible (if not worse) as just having a living shallow love interest.

For the most part, the role of superhero girlfriend had a decent reinvention in mainstream comics. The days where love interests bogged down superhero tales were going away…until fucking Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002).

Keep in mind this is the official poster

Keep in mind this was the official poster

What Richard Donner’s Superman films were in the 70’s, Spider-Man was to the current generation. It reinvigorated the comic film and also set the stage for how these films will be adapted. This included how love interests would be integrated. And boy was it an awful model for it, since Mary Jane pretty much eclipses EVERYTHING in the film series. The film’s events unfold as such:

1. Peter takes a picture of MJ and gets bitten while he’s distracted

2. Peter becomes a wrestler with his new powers because he wants to buy a car to impress MJ (leading to his life-defining negligence)

3. Peter incorporates red into his costume because it’s her hair color (fuck patriotism, I guess)

4. Peter’s relationship with Harry is strained due to a love triangle with MJ

5. Norman Osborn goes on a homicidal rampage because Peter hooked up with MJ

And that’s not counting all of the damsel-in-distress nonsense. Fuck Norman Osborn; SHE’S clearly the antagonist of the film. The second film takes this even further by beginning with Peter’s voice over stating that ” She looks at me everyday. Mary Jane Watson. Oh boy! If she only knew how I felt about her “. The film basically establishes it’s premise as ” It’s all about MJ! “. Forget nuclear armageddon guys; how’s Petey going to go to MJ’s play? Is MJ going to marry that astronaut guy who we’ve never seen before? Pressing issues indeed.

While i wouldn’t say that these films necessarily caused an insistence on superhero love interests, it wouldn’t be too wild to assume that film producers, always eager to emulate the success of hit movies, saw this as an affirmation of the Lois Lane formula. This meant that every hero who had some canonical squeeze had a love story shoehorned into his film.

Keep in mind this was ALSO the official poster

Keep in mind this was ALSO the official poster

As mentioned before, Thor and Jane Foster’s coupling was an artifact of his secret identity days when his human persona already had a longstanding relationship with her. Yet, she’s placed in the film (albeit with a different job) as the woman he falls in love with in about three days.  Once again: Asgard. Hot god babes. C’mon.

Ditto

Seriously guys?

For the Iron Man films, they took Pepper Potts who he only occasionally fucks when he’s not fucking super-models or super-heroes or anything with a hole in it, and turned her a convenient satellite love interest. In contrast, in the comics she eventually married Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau’s character) until he died, so it wasn’t even like her and Tony had that serious of a relationship. And as for Nolan’s Batman films, I had no issues with the character of Rachel Dawes (who was a pretty good moral compass)…buuut then he forced in a last minute hookup with Selina Kyle that was as plausible as the end of John Hughes’ Career Opportunities (and no, I don’t expect you to get that reference).

Good thing he isn't world-famous or anything...

Good thing he isn’t world-famous or anything…

As much as i’ve grown to be wary of love interests in comics, i’d be bereft to call them necessarily a bad thing. As i mentioned in the beginning, this trope’s defining nature is its relatability. Love is the most ubiquitious real-life concern; it’s something most people want and desire. And not everyone is necessarily smart about it. People do get obsessed with relationships and often put aside other important things in order to focus on them. And in the hands of a good writer, a love story can elevate a hero. With that being said, it’s a trope that needs moderation. If there’s a narrative point in a relationship, so be it, but it shouldn’t be a necessity for every hero. Those unfortunate stories with Lois Lane were made during a time when the country was trying to avoid certain truths. No one wanted to admit women could be independent. No one wanted to admit marriage wasn’t as great as we all believed. To some extent, we’re still thinking that way. But things are changing. And as we change, our heroes (and heroines) should too.

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For more posts on Superman and DC Comics:

Superman As Defined By Lex Luthor

Flash: The Quintessential Superhero

Bat In The Belfry: Batman As A Heroic Psychopath

Superstitious And Cowardly Cops: Police Corruption In Gotham City

Ben Affleck As Batman: Why So Serious?

Three Forms Of Comedy As Seen Through Justice League

For more posts on Marvel Comics:

Spidey Tackles The Human Torch: Spider-Man As A Classic Anti-Hero

Journey of Peter Parker from Amazing Fantasy to Amazing Spider-Man

Iron Man: Real American Hero

Iron Man 3 Review

Thor: The Dark World Review

For more posts on Romance in fiction:

The Unfortunate Undeath of Chivalry: The Implication Of Romance In Hollywood

Don Jon Review

Thor: The Dark World Review

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Thor is the Dos Equis guy of Marvel. Whereas Peter Parker cries about dead uncles and Tony Stark can’t put down that bottle of Jack Daniels, Thor fights rock giants and beds valkyries with a grin on his face and sledge in his hand. He’s omnipotent. He’s noble. He’s boring as shit. One of the reasons it took soooo long for Marvel to even create a film about one of it’s most significant characters was because he’s extremely difficult to adapt into a compelling protagonist. With that in mind, i saw the first Thor ( 2011 ) with apprehension and came out…neutrally. It’s about as good of an adaptation as one could do, but it’s not a good film in its own right. As mentioned, Thor was severely lags behind his Avengers kin in terms of character in the film. In addition, a large portion of the film ( by necessity i understand ) happens on Earth for the sole purpose of:

a) connecting the franchise with the awkwardly integrated S.H.I.E.L.D.

b ) connecting him with humanity despite the fact that it was established IN THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM that the Asgardians had already interacted with humans several times in the past

c ) forcing a relationship with all the chemistry of peanut butter and salami

With that being said, i thought it was well cast, which allowed for fairly boring characters to be interesting ( especially Loki ). In addition, i’ve grown to appreciate the artistic direction of the series in regards to its Asgard ( which i’ll touch upon later ). But enough about the first film, what do i think about it’s illustrious sequel?

Honestly? It’s better. Still not good, but better. And not for necessarily the best reasons.

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The plot: After the events of the first film, Thor has been busy maintaining order in the ( poorly defined ) nine realms of the universe. Back on Midgard / Earth, Padme and that busty CBS waitress happen to find a rip in the fabric of reality ( which happens sometimes ). It turns out that one of these rips leads to a macguffin known as “dark aether” which was previously a plot point in an ancient war between the Asgardians and the oddly-technologically-advanced Dark Elves, who want to use it to spread the daaaahkness across the realms.

The Dark Elves

The Dark Elves

One of the biggest problems i had with the first film was it’s scenes on Earth and this one more than makes up for it. The majority of the film takes place on Asgard and occasionally the titular dark world. As such, we get the sheer scope of the world of Thor. This is helped by another narrated “historical lecture” by Anthony Hopkins as Odin in the beginning. Though he’s clearly a little checked out in this film, Hopkins as always manages to get across the gravitas that a film featuring Norse myth should have. Speaking of which, one of the most under-appreciated aspects of these films is the art direction. And i don’t mean flashy Hollywood CGI ( which is still good, i’ll admit ) , i mean the actual aesthetic choices. The film furthers a sort of “magitech” feeling for the Asgardians and their technology. When Loki is imprisoned, his force field cell looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in Star Trek if it weren’t for those stock “fantasy runes”. Choices like this keeps Asgard from feeling like a generic Dungeons and Dragons locale and also makes it fit in a world where Iron Men and Heli-carriers abound. The villainous Dark Elves take this even further by using weapons straight out of Halo such as energy rifles and grenades. Overall, like the last film, The Dark World has a very strong aesthetic goal and concept that makes for compelling visuals…

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…which doesn’t do much for uncompelling plot. Thor: The Dark World suffers from the same condition as Iron Man 2 ( 2010 ) by being an uninspired franchise sequel. By the end of Thor, Thor goes from being a cocky guy who cares little for his enemies to being a cocky guy who cares a little for his enemies. That’s it. That’s the only psychology you could milk out of that asshole. As hard as it is to believe, there’s LESS characterization in this film. The only driving aspect of the character is, of course, his arbitrary love for Jane Foster ( Natalie Portman ).Once they’re reunited, that becomes the only thing we get out of the guy emotionally. Even when a MUCH more terrible event occurs during the film, he barely has emotional reaction. This is why Thor is such a god-awful film protagonist: no matter how charismatic Hemsworth is, he can’t make up for a character with absolutely no pathos. There’s nothing for him to grow into at this point, his narrative journey ended in the first film. This makes the scenes on Earth more painful than they were in the first film, since they literally have no bearing on anything. Ironically, the film’s choice to use Earth comedically actually undercuts most of the point of the first film. The first scene with Jane Foster shows her on a date with the affable Chris O’Dowd ( Bridesmaids ) who looking like this…

Chris O'Dowd At Jameson Done In 60 Seconds Media Day

…pales in comparison the dreamy Thor. During the scene, Darcy ( Kat Dennings ) shows up and basically cuts the poor sod off, while Jane purposely ignores him, which is funny because…it’s actually not that funny. It underscores the biggest problem with this film and the challenge of Thor as a superhero. Once all of the “character development” of Thor was finished, humans became punchlines to the film’s jokes. “Look at this limey loser! He ain’t shit compared to Asgardians!”. Even Jane ends up being portrayed as more of a commoner during her brief stay on Asgard, where she can barely has any screen presence when compared to her godly costars. So with all that in mind: how do you then justify Thor’s interest in Earth? Asgardians and whatever the fuck Hogun is are essentially humans but better. Why the fuck was it important for him to be a hero on Earth? The film seems to forget it has to even establish that reasoning. This lack of motivation stretches an already stretched-thin excuse plot.

Speaking of plot, it’s actually the opposite of Iron Man 2 in terms of complexity. Which is a bad thing. Obviously, no one really cared about writing a good story for Iron Man 2. So instead, they have a quick plot that needs little explanation AND could be conveniently wrapped up succinctly. The Dark World takes a fairly uninteresting macguffin plot and actually makes it hard to understand through a whole shit load of plot elements. This is where the ” magitech” elements work against the film, since we’re given obscure technobabble for almost every aspect of the climax. I dare any viewer to honestly tell me how exactly Thor defeats the Elves by the end. In terms of subplot, the only one of note is the hinted at Jane / Sif rivalry. I’ll just tell ya, it’s not that big of a deal. See it for yourself and you’ll probably agree.

One of the most criminal sins for the more passive viewer is the fact that, once again, Thor barely fights. I get it, i really do. Thor is a god. Because of this, showing him in combat often would kind of diminish the majesty of his might. This is the reason why this is one of the few elements that didn’t bother me. As i said, Thor just ain’t interesting. There’s no way for him to lose and he has no personal struggles to overcome. This film manages to spend just enough time away from Thor in order to actually be somewhat compelling. We get more screen time with his mother Frigga ( Rene Russo ) who has some tense moments. As per fan-girl request ( literally ), we get plenty of Loki as well. While it’s obvious he’s a bit tacked on to the plot, i’ll admit Hiddleston plays his role well as usual as Thor’s untrustworthy sidekick. Personally, i think the time could have been better spent with supporting characters Thor actually LIKES like, i don’t know, the four fucking badass warriors who would follow him to death. But as a non-fifteen year old white girl, i am clearly not part of Thor’s fanbase.

Thor: The Dark World film still

Final Verdict

This film is the lowest form of ‘ok’ to me. The first act is impressive and really ties you into the Norse mythos the film creates. The best parts for me were when they didn’t focus on Thor or Jane and instead had us soaring around this world. The actors make due with what they got, but it ain’t much. Not to mention the plot is almost pointless. See this film if you liked the first one, appreciate the talents of the cast, or have the money for IMAX 3D. Don’t see this film if you didn’t like the first, actually want character development, or want an interesting story.

For more posts on Marvel heroes:

Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man: Real American Hero

Journey of Peter Parker from Amazing Fantasy to Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man Tackles The Torch: Spider-Man as a Classic Anti-Hero

The Lois Lane Effect

Ben Affleck As Batman: Why So Serious?

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“…by playing a superhero in Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero… Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn’t want to do again soon”-Ben Affleck preparing the words he’s going to eat

You ever have one of those moments where you perceive something but don’t really believe it? To the point where it seemed surreal? I had one of those last week when I perused IMDB to come upon the news that Ben Affleck is playing Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel (2013). Ben “Fucking” Affleck. My response was…confused. I didn’t know how to feel, but i know i had a feel. For most, this feel was pretty straightforward: fuck that guy. The internet exploded with a surge of hate that I will dub the “Affleck-tion”. The Afflecktion has taken many forms. For example: there’s a twitter hashtag titled “betterthanbenaffleck” that contains “suggestions” for better actors.

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There’s even an honest-to-God petition by fans to somehow oust Affleck from the role. So why all the hate for the guy? He just won an Oscar, is married with kids, and has several great films under his belt recently (Argo, The TownGone Baby Gone). Isn’t that good enough to get some respect? Unfortunately, the Afflecktion runs deep in the body of American moviegoers, far before his casting as Batman.

I subscribe to three primary reasons why Ben Affleck has such a bad rap…

1. Perceived lack of contribution to Good Will Hunting 

When Good Will Hunting debuted in 1998, Hollywood was enamored with the Cinderella tale of two Bostonians who wrote and starred in an Oscar-winning film. So much so that, of course, many inquired about the impetus for such a film. Here it goes (as described by the writers themselves in Boston Magazine): Matt Damon, a Harvard student, wrote a short story about a genius Southie who’s brilliance garners the attention of the government. Later, Damon took a screenwriting class, where for a final project he turned his story into the first act of a film, telling his professor “I might have failed your class, but it is the first act of something longer“. The professor, Anthony Kubiak claimed that it even in its early stages “it was very authentic and real“. Wow, Matt sure did a good job on that screenplay. Ben Affleck’s account? He helped write it. That’s it. No specifics. No details. He. Helped. Write it. Mind you, this is his OWN WORDS.

The only thing in his interview Ben mentions that speaks on his specific contribution is that, when he thought the producers weren’t paying enough attention, he’d sneak in blowjob scenes just to see if they would notice. No, really. So as you could imagine, many began to feel that Ben Affleck basically broke into Hollywood on the coattails of Matt Damon with minimal effort on his part. People thought he didn’t “deserve” his success. It didn’t help that many filmgoers viewed Affleck as an idiot due to his brashness and boisterousness. It made it easier to visualize a drunk frat boy Ben offering meager assistance whereas bookish Harvard alum Matt Damon actually writes the film, which is realized in this Family Guy clip.

The relationship between Sean and Will in the film was oddly paralleled with the image of Matt and Ben in real life: Matt was a genius who far outstripped his lesser best friend Ben. This dynamic defined the two for awhile: Matt Damon went on to be in other well received flicks such as Rounders, Saving Private Ryan, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Ben Affleck? Well, here’s where we get to the next reason…

2. High-profile yet lowly-received films

Like Matt, Ben was in some pretty big name films after Good Will Hunting, particularly Armageddon and Shakespeare In Love (both in 1998). He wasn’t the star of either film, however, and most of his films as a leading man were mediocre in terms of audience turnout and reception. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, since it means most of the filmgoing audience didn’t have a record of bad movies to look to. Unfortunately, when Ben Affleck did start heading major flops, it was something everyone remembered. The first was Pearl Harbor (2001), which was an obvious Hollywood attempt to recreate the success of James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). It didn’t turn out that way: the film’s several inaccuracies, tedious love triangle, and association with the increasingly despised Michael Bay made it a commercial disappointment. And guess who’s name is on full display on every poster?

PearlHarborPoster

Afterwards, he was in Daredevil (2003), Marvel’s attempt at another blockbuster superhero film that combined the stylishness of Spider-Man (2002) with the “dark and edginess” of X-Men (2000). While the film did a decent job of characterization, audiences didn’t know what to make of the obscure character and therefore spent more time focusing on the actor, who had already begun to lose public credibility. The film’s lukewarm reception was heaped onto Affleck and comic fans never forgot about it. While these films garnered negative feedback, none of them put as big a nail in the coffin as Gigli (2003)

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This film had bad press before it was even released due to conflicts between the screenwriter and the director, leading many to believe that the final product would be disjointed. Once it was released it set box office records for the biggest second-weekend drop in box office gross of any film in wide release since that statistic was kept; it dropped by almost 82% in its second weekend compared to its first. By its third weekend in release, only 73 U.S. theaters were showing it, down from 2,215 during its first weekend, a drop of 97%. The film has since gone onto be considered one of the worst films of all time. One of the primary reasons for the failure of the film is also my final reason for the Afflecktion…

3. Bennifer

Generally speaking, America loves “super couples”.

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Drake and Josh were meant for each other

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Unfortunately, one they didn’t care for much was Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Sure, at first they grabbed the public eye like any other celebrity couple, but that attention quickly turned to scorn. I postulate that it was due to the fact thatbecause they had the unfortunate distinction of being both absurdly famous and absurdly unrelatable. Ben was viewed as a jockish douchenozzle and J.Lo was viewed as an egotistical diva. A blog post on whatever-dude.com called them Hollywood’s Hitler and Eva Braun“. Ben himself recognized the hate they received, outright saying in an interview with Suzy Byrne that he felt as if he was “the press’ whipping boy” during those two years. What’s worse is that much of the hate was due to Jennifer Lopez being considered “better” than him. She had a more successful film career, and a music career, AND a fashion line. Doesn’t help that SHE broke off the engagement. As one blogger put it, he came across as being “desperate and needy and lacking in self confidence, as if he were under some kind of love spell“. Arguably, the ultimate Hollywood insult directed at him during this period was during VH1’s “200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons” television special. Oh sure, he was included as #119, but look closely at his portrait by Robert Risko…

7373 (1)Yes, they literally have J.Lo on his jacket for NO discernable reason other than to remind the viewer that a large amount of his fame is due to being engaged to someone more famous (she was on the same list as #15, btw) . Even worse, every celeb in the special had an indicative tagline that was a famous quote or phrase (i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger-“I’ll be back“, Hugh Hefner-“Big Pimpin‘”) . Guess what his was? Mr. Jennifer Lopez. Damn.

So should Ben Affleck play Batman?

Given all the vitriol i’ve just shown, obviously not, right? Honestly, I know i’m blasphemous for saying this but I really DON’T CARE who plays Batman. Batman isn’t this deep, nuanced character, he’s a franchise. The reason why DC has gotten so much use out of the property was because they can do whatever the fuck they want with the character without violating his identity. He hasn’t “grown” in the near century since his inception, just reinvented. Why do you think that the 60’s Batman series, the Burton films, the Schumacher films, the Nolan Trilogy, and the Animated series are all so different yet successful? It’s because the character is malleable. He’s a concept that can fit any story imaginable. Compare Batman to Spider-Man, who, while having different series, is always the same character that Stan Lee envisioned him to be. You’ll never see a “dark and gritty” Spider-Man or a “realist” Spider-Man. That’s because Peter Parker is intended a REAL person who has a specific personality. If he were to be in a world similar to the 60’s Batman series, he’d have to lose most of his flippancy just to sell us on the campiness. If he were in a comic similar to The Dark Knight Returns (1986), he’d have to lose much of the whimsy associated with the character. He has his limits as a property, you can’t just make him, say, a pirate.

Unlike some people

Unlike some people

Fact is, Batman is such a loosely conceived character that anyone with a decent chin could put on his costume. This isn’t to say he’s a flat character, he’s just a ‘high concept’ character, like Superman, who focuses more on connotations and iconography than character traits. By virtue of this, any actor can bring something to the character: Michael Keaton brought an eccentricity to Wayne that made him more affable, Val Kilmer brought a coldness that made Batman seem more like a shell-shocked soldier. I’m not the best person to comment on Ben Affleck as an actor (i’ve only seen a few of his films), but I think he could have a very interesting take on the character. Maybe he’ll have a lighter approach than Bale; maybe he’ll be a bit more vulnerable. It’s hard to tell. A lot of people said Michael Keaton was a bad fit for Batman, but afterwards many said he put in a decent performance. Same was said for Heath Ledger as Joker, and look at how THAT turned out. Personally, I think that no matter how he plays it, Affleck will add to the wonderful tapestry of Batmen to date. Or at least fuel some great memes.

For more commentary on the Batman franchise:

Batman As A Heroic Psychopath

Superstitious and Cowardly Cops: Police Corruption in Gotham City

Superstitious and Cowardly Cops: Police Corruption in the Batman Mythos

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“This isn’t Metropolis…this isn’t the city of tomorrow…it’s Gotham,and if you want to see what that means, just check out your squad room”-Gotham Central #7

Superheroes tend to be subversive of law enforcement. Aside from the illegality of vigilantism, it’s difficult to have much respect for a a moderately trained guy with pistol when compared to a billionaire genius ninja detective. Despite this, most superheroes since the induction of the comic code have had genial relations with law enforcement. It helps that superheroes rarely target “mundane” crime. Superman’s enemies tend to be as strong as he is; the X-men stick to “mutant crime” and so on. Despite this, Batman works with the police. Or really, I should say a single policeman: Commissioner Gordon. Mostly because Gotham cops are fucking dicks. Most “gritty” iterations of the franchise portray the police as at best impotent and at worst, as bad as Gotham’s criminals. This element is prevalent enough to even be present in video games such as MMORPG DC Universe Online, where Gotham cops are enemies to hero players.

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Just so you know: he’s a dirty cop

The GCPD’s corruption makes sense for a few reasons. For one, the Batman franchise derives heavily from film noir, a genre with cynical attitudes towards humanity and fate. Even the police can’t be relied upon in the genre; in Frank Miller’s Sin City, every character, no matter their alignment, is wary of the police.

Sin City: The Big Fat Kill #3 1995

Sin City

In addition, Batman fights predominantly “normal” people (at least by comic book standards), who the cops should be able to handle. Law enforcement has to be ineffectual in order to justify the need for a Batman. Sometimes they’re just incompetent; Tim Burton’s Batman had a Commissioner Gordon who was nothing more than a face for the police (the guy wears fucking tuxedos to busts).

Batman (1989)

Dumbass

Incompetent cops just aren’t enough to get across the dramatic weight of Batman’s quest. Giving the city a culture that enforces crime allows for an even bleaker Gotham to save. This is most prevalent in Batman: Year One (1987), Frank Miller’s origin story that details the beginning of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon’s careers. We see through Gordon’s introduction that calling the GCPD corrupt would be an understatement…

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The Commissioner even implies that he wants officers who are dirty.

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As you could see, Frank Miller tends to veer towards the “extreme” side of police corruption where everyone is as evil as possible. This isn’t totally ridiculous; LA’s infamous “Rampart scandal” in the 90’s involved a branch of the police called C.R.A.S.H. who literally REWARDED murder and evidence tampering with commendations. In Dekalb County Georgia, corrupt sheriff Sidney Dorsey assembled a group of cops to pose as gang-bangers in order to assassinate his political rival Derwin Brown, showing that even those at the top can be as corrupt as Gotham’s ex-commissioner.

Despite Frank Miller’s extreme depictions, Batman:Year One was considered canonical by DC Comics, meaning that all of the events “really” occurred in continuity. So Gotham’s previous police department ordered a hit on a newborn, blew up a tenement with civilians in the vicinity, and casually beat up teenagers on the street. Holy shit. Miller definitely went with the amoral cops route for police corruption, which works well for his “dark and edgy” stories, but has several unfortunate implications. In Metropolis, we can at least assume that the police department works in the favor of the people’s interest (as one would like to assume of most law enforcement), meaning that we can trust the local government by extension, and thus we can trust the city itself. If Gotham’s cops are corrupt, and its government is corrupt, then the CITY itself is, by default, corrupt. And if that’s true,why should anyone care if it gets saved? As with most superhero works, there are no “normal” people to care about, just heroes and villains. If the police are bad guys too it almost makes Batman’s quest silly (well, silli-er). It’s no wonder why so many antagonists seem to suggest just destroying Gotham; what Ra’s Al Ghul, Joker, and Bane all seem to agree on in the Nolan trilogy is that crime is inherently systemic. It begins from the top and ends at the bottom in the slums of Gotham. Until the police are reformed, the city can’t improve.

250px-GothamCentralCv22 One way to alleviate the unfortunate implications of Gotham’s corruption is by showing that the police force, even when misconducting themselves, have the best intentions. The biggest canonical kinda dirty/kinda good cop in the franchise is Detective Harvey Bullock (to the left). In case you’re wondering, he’s that fat cop in the animated series who’s kind of a douche. In comics, he’s probably the closest thing you get to a sympathetic corrupt cop. He takes bribes, but other cops trust him. He allows a attempted murder suspect’s identity to leak to the mafia, but that’s to avenge Commissioner Gordon. He has ties to the organized crime but uses it to gain info on crimes. He’s complicated.

Strangely enough, despite being quite a staple of the franchise, Bullock doesn’t appear in media outside of the comics and the animated series but is represented by characters who are pretty much the same person. His representatives in the Batman films are decidedly less morally ambiguous. In 1989’s Batman, his stand-in Detective Eckhardt accepts bribes from criminals and attempts to murder the same guys in order to stay out of trouble. In Batman Begins (2005), his stand-in Detective Flass (who for some reason has the name of the guy from Batman: Year One) is just as corrupt. I guess Bullock just looks so unsavory due to his fatness and manner that most adaptations just make him dirty to contrast with Gordon. In addition, comic writers can’t seem to decide if he has good intentions or is just corrupt. The is probably because, no offense to them, most comic writers aren’t capable or willing to get across the conflicts of being an ACTUAL crime fighter. The series Gotham Central goes in this direction, basically turning the Bat mythos into Dragnet with real cops interacting with the rogues gallery the way real cops would. Police misconduct is portrayed in reasonable degrees as opposed to extremes.

Gotham Central #15

Gotham Central

Gotham Central2 Gotham Central3Sometimes cops have to break the rules in order to get a job done. Sometimes cops just run out of ideas. While these methods aren’t always the best, they are human responses to often difficult scenarios. In the world of Gotham Central, normal cops have to go against men like Mr. Freeze and the Joker, people way outside of their pay-grade. It would be hard to conceive of how would one deal with such threats without being forced or compelled to go outside the line.

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Arguably, the best commentary on police misconduct in Gotham is the character Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), played by Matthew Modine (who oddly enough WASN’T a character from the comics). Remember how I said a cop has to be either corrupt or stupid in order to make Batman look good? Well he manages to do both to a realistic degree.

Foley is introduced talking to Gordon at a high-class party, where Foley tries to convince him to pay attention to crime statistics, which Gordon rejects in favor of his “gut” feelings. He also suggests that he talks to the mayor, which Gordon also dismisses by saying that’s Foley’s department. We get some quick distinctions here between the two: Gordon is more concerned with crime on a personal level that goes beyond statistics, which is all Foley knows about. Gordon doesn’t care about political maneuvering whereas Foley relishes it. If Gordon is the “good cop” than Foley is by default the “bad cop”. He’s not evil at all, only his aims have been “corrupted”. Rather than focusing on public service, he’s more concerned with personal glory. For example, when Batman appears, his main interest is one-upping Gordon to make himself look good by catching him, rather than containing the more immediate threat of Bane’s gang. His lack of “good cop” goals seems to affect his competency as well; when Blake is introduced as another “good cop”, his passion for the job allows him to believe fellow good cop Gordon’s story about soldiers in the sewers, which Foley of course scoffs at. Blake also manages to connect corrupt Wayne Industries board member Roland Daggett to Bane through ambitious detective work, which Gordon implies Foley was supposed to do, but clearly failed. Foley’s lack of “good cop-ness” comes to a head after Bane’s takeover, where he flat out decides to not get involved with the plan to save his fellow officers. Up until this point, the guy seems like a lost cause…until Batman returns to Gotham.

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Eventually, we see the effect the symbol had on Foley during the siege on Bane’s troops, when Foley not only joins the cops, but leads them in full uniform.

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Foley dies doing his duty. The film never elaborates why the symbol of Batman meant so much to Foley then when it didn’t mean anything before, perhaps it was something akin to a “spiritual rebirth” that born-again Christians often allude to. While this could easily be chalked up to sentimentality (and it definitely is), that doesn’t take away from the fact Foley, a cop who seemingly had no more “good cop” left in him, was redeemed by the hope Batman brought. He became a “born-again officer”. In a “realist” scenario that Nolan claims the films take place in, Batman is just a man. He can beat up bad guys but he can’t fight crime alone. As Bruce Wayne postulates in Batman Begins: “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy”. For the police officers of Gotham, that meant inspiring them to risk their lives to save their city. This is in stark contrast to The Dark Knight (2008), where many police officers are said to have been in the pocket of organized criminals which culminated in the fall of Harvey Dent. The last film left us with a disturbing view of the GCPD, but this film manages to redeem them along with Foley. The cops retaking of Gotham and Foley’s sacrifice shows what makes Batman (and the superhero in general) such a resonant character: he makes us want to be better.

For commentary on the questionable morals of Batman himself: 

Batman as a Heroic Psychopath

Iron Man 3 Review

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With all due respect, Iron Man is a pretty hard character to adapt to screen. He doesn’t have a noteworthy rogues gallery and it’s difficult to create believable threats for him. Without a secret identity, there’s no worry of revealing who he is, which tends to be a heavy amount of most superhero drama. He’s also practically a one man army with unlimited arms and resources to. This makes it all the more impressive how well the Iron Man film series has turned out. I honestly believe that the series is the best comic book adaptation to date, managing to translate the franchise, which has a lot of issues, to modern film. The third film shares a good amount of the quality of previous installments, albeit with a few missteps as well.

In the film,Tony suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the events of The Avengers ( 2012 ) His condition causes him insomnia and impaired judgement. By impaired judgement, i mean pissing off an international terrorist named the Mandarin, who declares war on Tony. Backing Mandarin is a new rival of Tony’s, a wealthy bio-engineer dabbling in human experimentation. The cast includes Ben Kingsley ( yes, Ghandhi ) as the Mandarin and Guy Pearce ( Prometheus, The King’s Speech ) as Aldrich Killian. The plot draws from several comic arcs, including Warren Ellis’ Extremis arc (the use of genetically modified super soldiers) and the Armor Wars ( Tony’s suit variations ) and the Joe Quesada’s ‘ Sentient Armor ‘ arc, which thank god didn’t factor too much into the plot since it features an armor who gets a mind of its own, falls in love with Tony,vthen becomes violent towards him.

You could call him an abusive SUITor. Get it?

You could call him an abusive SUITor. Get it?

The film acts as a reconstruction of Tony Stark as a character. Before the end of The Avengers, he was basically the world’s greatest man;not only having the wealth and brilliance of his own series, but also the love of his life and the admiration of the planet. This is a common issue in sequels; satisfying conclusions need to include character development of some kind. Therefore, the protagonist of a film should have already settled whatever problems he or she suffered from. One of the MANY reasons i found The Hangover Part 2 ( 2011 ) so stupid is that in order for the events of the film to take place, everyone would have to trust Alan enough to take him along ( despite his mistakes from the previous film ) and Alan would have to be the same reckless idiot he started as. Sure, one could say people don’t necessarily learn from every mistake, but growth of some kind is often a necessity for compelling stories. Since Iron Man ( 2008 ) is a decently written film franchise Tony Stark has loads of development, so much so that when Pepper asks what’s wrong with him in the beginning of the film, he just tells her. No lies,no drinking, he just acknowledges his PTSD. Big improvement over the guy who drunkenly beat up his best friend in the previous film in order to ‘cope’. The remaining challenge for Tony is reconciling the implications of a larger Marvel Universe. Both film and comic Tony Stark are men at the height of human potential, but they are still only human. How does someone like Tony stark cope with beings who’s abilities dwarf him soundly? He gets back to basics, which for him means tinkering and snark.

The film begins with him creating a new suit that can be summoned piece by piece onto his body via ” body computer ” ( which of course becomes a recurring Chekhov’s gun throughout the film ) which is just cool as hell. This is one of the first things i like about the film and the franchise as a whole: brand new shit every film. Yes, i know some dude at Mattel would probably make the filmmakers include new toys anyway, but for once it works perfectly for a franchise like this. Iron Man is always making new suits to do all kinds of shit, he even makes one to fight THOR of all people ( spoiler: it doesn’t work ).

Tony Stark, despite a few issues, is very much an escapist character, like James Bond. Iron Man is what every child with an erector set wishes he was making. Unfortunately, the coolness of being Iron Man and Tony’s general flippancy undercuts the ” PTSD ” he’s supposedly going through. In the film, Tony literally sees a woman get shot and a friend’s bruised body, yet still seems perfectly able to crack wise. I wouldn’t call this a huge fault of the film, however, this is Tony Stark, not Bruce Wayne we’re talking about. The character’s personality allows for his banter to be played as a coping mechanism.

In terms of pacing, nothing in the film is dragged on. There’s not too much exposition going on in the film’s beginning, which is appropriate given that this is the third film in a series. What might be a point of contention for many people is part of the reason why there’s no need to exposit: both antagonists are quite familiar.

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Aldrich Killian, Tony’s rival industrialist, is a nerd who gets rich and sexy. He’s a character originating from the Iron Man Extremis arc. As the guys at spill.com pointed out, he’s basically The Riddler from Batman Forever ( 1995 ); an awkward scientist who is rejected by the wealthy protagonist and later uses his success to beat him at his own game. Some will probably say that another evil industrialist is getting redundant, and i would agree. Mind you, this isn’t a criticism of the film, it’s more of an acknowledgment about the nature of the franchise. Who the fuck is going to fight a billionaire with powered armor unless they had the same amount of resources? Due to the level of power Tony wields, he can only really be opposed by someone like him. Guy Pearce puts in an okay performance: it’s just enough for the film, but doesn’t really distinguish itself from similar characters. I could sum up his performance as a more reserved Tony Stark. Nothing more than that. As such, he’s not so much menacing, but then it’s kind of hard to be a sexy billionaire scientist AND a personal threat, so it’s passable.

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Who isn’t like him is the film’s designated ethnic antagonist, The Mandarin. The Mandarin appeared not too long after the first issue of Iron Man’s series in 1963 and was intended to be his archnemesis, but due to the obvious racist overtones, was mostly overlooked. With he and Killian, we once again see the franchise’s habit of, without intending it i assume, having an American and a non-American antagonist. This is a carryover from the comic series, where the only threats Tony dealt with were either corrupt corporations or enemies of the state. In 1963, the boy reading an Iron Man comic would know that communist China is always fodder for villainy, and in 2013, the equivalent would be a (lets be honest) a bearded Middle Eastern dude makin’ movies. Yes the character’s racist, but without spoiling anything,the film manages to justify why so. Ben Kingsley basically plays a supervillainous version of Osama Bin Laden. I’m pretty sure a vocal coach told him that film supervillains have strange, unrealistic accents like Joker and Bane, so he sounds a lot like Richard Nixon. I find it kind of funny, to be honest, but it works in the context of the film. Since both characters are basically variations of previous ones, the film doesn’t need to build either of them. Even thought two villain comic films have become synonymous with shit, the combination of the two allows for it to avoid the pitfalls of the previous film in terms of action. In Iron Man 2 ( 2010 ), Ivan Vanko didn’t have nearly enough weapons or resources upon his first battle with Stark, so it barely manages to be compelling outside of the fact that he just jumps him. Justin Hammer wasn’t even a “supervillain”, just an envious industrial rival. It took till the end of the film before their combined threat managed to lead towards an exciting action scene. This film, on the other hand, manages to seamlessly integrate both villains into a viable threat from the moment Tony’s house is attacked. The two antagonists end up having a very logical connection that works brilliantly. This leads to the film having several exciting twists, even if some of the bigger ones might be somewhat predictable.

Final Verdict

Overall, despite some initial reservations, i believe Iron Man 3 is a sufficient end to the franchise. The film is entertaining and a great conclusion to the character development of Tony Stark. He manages to reassert his significance to the world, even outside of Iron Man, and makes a ( mostly ) logical decision about what to do with his life at the film’s climax. Hopefully the character will continue to entertain in the almost certain cameos he will have in other Marvel films.

For more thoughts on Iron Man:

Iron Man: Real American Hero

 

Bats In The Belfry: Batman as a Heroic Psychopath

Batman-Begins

“ And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge…Me ” – Batman Begins Teaser Trailer

What constitutes heroism has always been fluid. Should one’s actions be the deciding factor, or one’s intent? I’m certain most have heard the story of the late ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, who after a long, failed attempt to expose police corruption, decided to take martial action against the LAPD itself. His story isn’t too different from Frank Serpico’s, a police officer who also recognized corruption and sought to stamp it out ( with some mild success ). Paramount even made a film made about his crusade starring Al Pacino, which many would call the ultimate stamp of public approval. Will a film be made about Chris Dorner? I mean, he had good intentions (well, up until the multiple murders). We could assume the answer. This illustrates the common dissonance that exists between heroic intent and heroic action. Both men had goals that most would consider heroic, but disconnected when it came to their final actions. Dorner will never be considered a hero, in fact he would be considered quite the villain.

Compared to the other major heroes in the DC universe, Batman has consistently been written as the most suspect. Sure, all superheroes are by definition vigilantes, but Batman’s particular brand of vigilantism has an aire of madness to it.

Batman R.I.P. (2008)

Case in point

Case in point

He’s no god like Superman, just a guy who forced himself to become one in order to fight crime. He also has the additional peculiarities that come with the genre ( motif, modus operandi, etc ). His impetus for heroics just adds to how crazy he seems, after seeing the death of his parents, he decides “why not become a bat monster?”. That’s weird. This is probably why most works tiptoe around what happened in-between his parents murder and his modern day exploits. Hell, it took seven months into his original comic series for Bob Kane to even establish that his parents WERE murdered.

Detective Comics (1940)

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Such a detail might have been considered too morbid to begin a comic series, since it casts Batman’s seemingly gallant crusade as a little more pathological. Despite this, his early appearances in Detective Comics portrayed him as not being shy about enacting extreme violence upon criminals. In his first comic appearance, Detective Comics #27 in 1939, he casually throws an unarmed robber OFF A BUILDING!!!

He also purple gloves for some reason

He also purple gloves for some reason

In the same issue, he punches a man into a VAT OF ACID.

He has a bit of a penchant for that

He has a bit of a penchant for that

He even expresses his pleasure at the outcome, saying that it was “a fitting end for his kind”. Cold-blooded. Oh and he occasionally carried a gun as well.

"What? Guns? That's your power, you shoot guns? There's no theme at all here."

“What? Guns? That’s your power, you shoot guns? There’s no theme at all here.”-Mystery Men

While this might sound jarring to modern fans of the character, it’s important to know that the Batman your familiar with is partially the product of censorship, particularly from an organization known as the Comics Code Authority. The organization was created in 1954 when many moral guardians were concerned with the message comics, especially ones featuring superheroes, were sending to youngsters. As you could imagine, a guy who punches people into acid was pretty disconcerting to these people. Therefore, Bats (and all superheroes for that matter) had to take on more family friendly aspects: instead of being a wanted criminal, Batman worked along with the cops through Commissioner Gordon, instead of using real weapons, Batman used gimmicky tools, and most importantly, he acquired a code to not kill.

Infinite Crisis (2005)

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Whereas many other popular superheroes fit well into the brave new world of censorship, there was always some incongruity with Batman’s role as a non-killer. Bob Kane and Bill Finger based Batman on unfettered heroes such as the Phantom and Zorro, who wouldn’t hesitate to kill someone. Superman can play with kid gloves due to his power, but Batman can’t. More importantly, he still has that horrific origin driving him. His abilities stem from the pain of loss, his motif from childhood terror. Even the whimsy of the Silver Age of Comics couldn’t reconcile that, hence why it was rarely acknowledged in mediums such as the 60’s Batman live action series.

Batman Begins has a very unique take on Bruce’s mental transition from disturbed child to Batman. The film gives us a flashback to a young adult Bruce, well before his international journey, when he realizes his father’s killer has been caught. Bruce appears at the trial, only to see the man shot by a mafia gunman. In the ensuing chaos, Rachel Dawes (the attractive one) scoops him up and drives him to safety, during which he reveals that he intended to shoot the killer himself.

Batman Begins (2005)

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The implications of the scene are reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, where the deranged Travis Bickle intends to shoot a senator, but is thwarted by his bodyguards, which leads Bickle to “save” a child prostitute by killing her pimp and all of his associates (it makes more sense in context). This turns him into a local hero.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Overhead View of Carnage in tax331cy

Like Travis Bickle, Bruce’s intentions here are driven more from rage than heroism. He intends to get revenge upon the man who killed his father by killing him. If he could have accomplished this, would he have still become Batman, or would his bloodlust have been sated? Keep in mind that Bruce is clearly in at least his mid-twenties by the time this trial takes place, meaning that he spent most of his life wanting to kill this man, not learning how to be a ninja in order to save people. The assertion could be made that whatever compulsion makes him want to be Batman is something akin to what made him want to kill that guy. In addition, there’s no way Bruce could have committed that act without being immediately recognized as the killer. Bruce Wayne’s name would have been coupled with the title “assassin” for all history, just like the aforementioned Christopher Dorner (see, there was a point to that tangent after all!).

Bruce’s morals is a lens for real-life history,which is filled with almost heroes/almost villains. The prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point would have almost assuredly been named after Benedict Arnold, who was the commander at the military fort it was based on, if it wasn’t for that whole treason thing. Now he’s American history’s greatest traitor, despite his admirable pre-War career. Likewise, Bruce Wayne, Gotham’s favorite son, could have easily been Gotham’s infamous murderer.

Batman:Gotham Knight (2008)/Taxi Driver

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Outside of the film, the idea of Batman’s heroism being a front has been touched upon in works such as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (1988), where Joker tells one of his many possible origin stories, this one stating that he was a down-on-his-luck comedian and husband who pretended to be the Red Hood, another Batman villain, in order to rob a chemical factory. I think you know where the rest of this goes (they really need more OSHA inspectors in Gotham). This caper was supposed to help out his wife, who dies before the heist happens anyway, on the same day he takes the dip. Joker, in a moment of terrifying insight, postulates that Batman probably had a “really bad day” like he did. Joker sees Batman as a psychopath, like he is, who went through a tragedy so jarring that he couldn’t reconcile it rationally. This casts Batman’s actions as equally as insane as Joker’s. His persona is borne of madness, not heroism.

Unlike the man Joker once was, Bruce in Batman Begins has the benefit of Rachel Dawes to set him straight about what’s just. Her response to Bruce’s confession is a slap and a trip to the ghetto to look at Gotham’s underclass, which she punctuates with “I know you are a good person Bruce, but it’s not who you are, but what you do that defines you”. For a genre as unambiguously black and white as the superhero genre, this is a very odd notion. Shouldn’t right and what’s wrong be decided by intent? Shouldn’t good intentions yield good actions?

In Batman Begins’ screenplay, writer David Goyer makes excellent use of supporting characters as a way to connect Batman with the “real” world that Bruce doesn’t exist in. Bruce is a kid dressing up and playing cowboys and Indians, he doesn’t have any social conscience for the most part. In Batman: Year One (1987), Bruce laments having to fly for his return to Gotham, claiming that “he wants to see the enemy”, indicating a fairly stark view of Gotham’s criminal underworld. In Batman: Noel ( 2011 ), A Christmas Carol homage casting Batman as a Scrooge analogue, Batman even threatens violence upon a low level Joker minion on Christmas Eve who is trying to support his children.

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Due to his wealth, constant travelling, and his status as a wacko, Bruce is vastly disconnected from the concerns of normal people. This is pointed out by Rachel and the film’s warm-up antagonist, Carmine Falcone, who reminds Bruce that he’s still several times better off than most people in Gotham. Because of his disconnectedness, he views crime-fighting as almost a holy crusade rather than a social necessity. Rachel Dawes, as a district attorney, represents real life law and order, a system that wouldn’t allow the type of violent, indiscriminate action Bruce wishes to take. In a way, Rachel becomes the diegetic equivalent to the Comics Code Authority; she forces him to continue his exploits in a more socially palatable manner. He reiterates her lesson later in the film when she asks who he (dressed as Batman) is: “Someone once told me it doesn’t matter who I am inside; it’s what I do that counts”. Bruce has apparently adopted what Rachel has espoused by the film’s end; he’s subordinated his malice for the good of the city.

Even though the modern Batman has been consistently portrayed as never breaking the sixth commandment, it hasn’t stopped many writers from alluding to his desire to kill. In The Dark Knight Returns, in order to stop a bomb from destroying a skyscraper, he rewires an explosive in some goons’ helicopter to explode while they’re flying. His comment on the act?  “Two men die, leaving the world no poorer”. Bruce recognizes the consequence of his decision, but is almost callous in his indifference towards it. As with the Joker minion in Noel, all criminals are pieces of shit as far as he’s concerned, so who cares if they die? What keeps him from making lethal action a norm doesn’t seem to be concern for his enemies, but instead a fear of who he will become if he does take such action.

Batman Forever (1995)

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In Batman Forever, Bruce makes an appeal to Dick Grayson/Robin as to why he shouldn’t kill his parents’ murderer;

“It will happen this way: you make the kill, but your pain doesn’t die with Harvey, it grows, so you run out into the night to find another face, and another, and another, until one terrible morning you wake up and realize that revenge has become your whole life. And you don’t know why…We’re the same”

Bruce sees the same anger that drives him in Dick (which is similar to how Robin recognizes Bruce as Batman due to his “hidden anger” in The Dark Knight Rises [2012] ) and gives him what is his rationale for not going down a lethal path. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t speak hypothetically, he’s making an assertion (“It will happen this way“). One could hypothesize that the film’s Batman HAS killed men in the past, but another argument is that Bruce views his crusade as Batman as a long revenge mission anyway, sans killing. If Dick is destined to follow the same path, he could at least live with it better if he foregoes lethal methods. Robin works well as a foil for Bruce’s psychoses since he represents the child that Bruce was when his parents died (specifically, the first Robin). This is why it’s so important for Bruce to guide Robin, since he fears that the boy could possibly succumb to the compulsions that plague him.

Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

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In the comic arc Under the Red Hood , Robin (albeit a different one) once again acts as a foil for Bruce’s mental state. Jason Todd, a Robin who died in a fight with Joker, is resurrected and attempts to get revenge on the clown.

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During a tense showdown with Joker and Batman, Robin asks Batman why he didn’t kill Joker to avenge him (or at least for all the countless others). He responds:

It’d be too damned easy. All I’ve ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn’t go by I don’t think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he’s dealt out to others and then end him…but if I do that, I’ll allow myself to go down into that place, I’ll never come back”.

Notice that Bruce doesn’t make an appeal to a social code of any kind (which Robin assumes he will). Instead, he makes an appeal to his desire for self-control. He knows his desires are not as pure-of-heart as others may think, and allowing himself to exercise them will possibly destroy what he’s been trying to create his whole career. Would the people of Gotham be as inspired by a murderous vigilante? Would children have the same admiration for him? Would law enforcement be as willing to rally behind him, as they do in The Dark Knight Rises? Probably not, since killing is often considered the most savage of human compulsions. As Ra’s al Ghul instructs him in Batman Begins, in order to change Gotham, he must transcend humanity and become an ideal. While this sounds like motivational bullshit, it isn’t really. Look at Marxism, Nazism, Christianity, all bodies of thought created by humans. These men were not their ideals in life, but in legacy. The Bruce Wayne of Batman Begins succeeds in leaving a legacy in The Dark Knight Rises, as his defeat of Bane and liberation of Gotham causes a monument to be erected in his honor. He will be associated, for better or worse, with the preservation of life, not the deliverance of death. Batman Begins’ Bruce Wayne could be thought of as attempting to create the image of Batman that exists in mainstream comics; a man who utilized personal tragedy in order to change the world for the better.

Batman Incorporated (2010)

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“My parents taught me a…lesson… lying on this street… shaking in deep shock… dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to”-The Dark Knight Returns

For more Batman related posts:

Superstitious and Cowardly Cops: Police Corruption in Gotham City

Ben Affleck as Batman: Why So Serious?

For more DC Comics related posts:

Superman as Defined by Lex Luthor

The Lois Lane Effect

From Comic to TV: CW’s Arrow as an Adaptation of Green Arrow

Flash: The Quintessential Superhero

For more superhero related posts:

Journey of Peter Parker from Amazing Fantasy to Amazing Spider-Man

The Best Spider-Man Issue Ever / Why Spider-Man is a Classic Anti-Hero

Iron Man: Real American Hero

Iron Man 3 Review

Thor: The Dark World Review

And finally, proof of Batman’s douchiness: