Batman: The Ultimate Plutocratic Hero
One of the inspirations for this remix project was an excellent article I read back in January 2011 on Tor.com written by comic book editor Steven Padnick entitled Batman Plutocrat. In the post he argues that Bruce Wayne as Batman is essentially an aristocratic class warrior fighting on behalf of the wealthy (or at least on behalf of the system which upholds their power - and by extension his own power).
Here are a few choice excerpts that, as a lifelong Batman fan, rang extra true:
"By their nature as vigilantes, acting outside or above the law, most superheroes have a troubling undercurrent of aristocratic, undemocratic, authoritarian values. Only the hero, not the police, judges, lawmakers, and average citizen, can effectively protect and improve the city they patrol, and god help anyone who gets in their way. No one exemplifies these tendencies more than Batman, the ultimate aristocratic hero."
Padnick goes on to point out that Bruce Wayne sits at the very top of the socioeconomic food chain:
"Batman isn’t just “the man,” Bruce Wayne is also The Man. He’s a rich, white, handsome man who comes from an old money family and is the main employer in Gotham. He owns half the property in the city. In a very real sense, Gotham belongs to him, and he inherited all of it.”
This next paragraph also got me thinking about what Gotham City would look like if the villain/hero roles were reversed in the narrative which is what I’m attempting to do with my remixed film:
"Just look at who he fights. Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham.”
Make sure to read the full article for more detailed insights from Padnick on Batman and class. I was a little dismayed at the comment section of the article which was filled with fans defending the Batman myth by using the fictional situations as justification for the fictional character’s actions.
Here is my response to that line of reasoning in the comments:
"It always amazes me when I see people try use fictional contexts and fictional events inside of fictional worlds in order to try to rationalize or excuse the actions of fictional characters. Batman does not exist, we all know this, he is a construct. He is made up by the same people that make up everything that happens to him. He is written by writers making certain choices and as such they could, if they wanted to, make different choices. The writers create the narratives and in those narratives they make the hero an aristocratic, undemocratic, authoritarian, violent vigilantly. The writers also create the entire world Batman inhabits, create every single situation, as well as create all the "villains" he interacts with - all of it is specifically designed to justify Batman’s actions. Because the stories are meant to justify Batman’s actions those stories, of course, have an internal logic to them. Outside of Batman’s world however (the place all of us actually live) his actions can not be easily justified and are, more often than not, deeply problematic on a number of levels including class - as Steven’s article points out so well."
Batman is both fictional and impossible. He is a fantasy. As such it is important to ask exactly who’s fantasy? And what ideological frameworks does that fantasy serve? My remix project will attempt to deconstruct that fantasy and create a Batman “anti-fantasy”.
[Above image of Bruce Wayne is from Batman issue #1 of the New 52]