2017 · Comics: Meta

On the socio-economics of Batman, part one

Part one because I am way too sleep deprived and way too busy to give this the full on analysis I’d like, but here we go, some thoughts while they still exist in my head. (One day I should go back through the archives and do full essays on all the things I’ve promised full essays on. )

I’ve never been a big Batman fan (I enjoyed Year One but it’s all a bit too gravely man pain for me) but the boyfriend has been replaying the Arkham games over the last couple of weeks, so of course that got me thinking about the socio-economic structure of Gotham. This is just a brief, top-of-my-head kind of thing and as such I’m going to stick to a couple of points that I might be able to expand on some time in the future. Or not. Don’t hold me to any of this.

• Gotham is an area high in crime, with a widely corrupted and/or under-equipped police force and a large gap between the socio-economic classes, that in itself a contributing factor to high crime rates and dissatisfaction.

• Bruce Wayne is a major financial player, with a seemingly endless access to money. Rather than using this money to solve the actual socio-economic problems within Gotham, he dresses himself as a male power fantasy and punches bad guys in the chin. I don’t think I need to get into what that says about his psyche. The games are pointing that out plenty for me.

• While vigilanteing is sometimes questioned within the Batverse, in the games he’s an established companion to the still under-funded and ill-equipped police force. It’s basically his job to clean up the city and by clean up the city I mean punch bad guys in the head.

• Arkham Asylum is especially interesting, seeing as that’s where Batman brings so many of these highly unstable, very dangerous people. It was modelled after Danver’s State Hospital that started its life as a state of the art mental health institution and ended a real life horror movie.  Lore, one of my favorite podcasts, does a fun episode on it if you want to hear more.

The point to all this is that while Danver’s State Hospital, the real life Arkham Asylum, was a successful endeavour at first it failed because of underfunding. Arkham displays similar symptoms in the first game and considering how easy it seems to be to either escape or take over the place, the budget has to be pretty slim by now. It seems like it would be in someone’s best interest to maybe do something about that, so he doesn’t have to swing from the rooftops to catch the Joker again. He’s got the money for it. Some proactive measures would be nice.

• Gotham fucking sucks. I get that it’s part of the aesthetic but at some point you have to stop and wonder why 6 million people continue to live in this pit of a city. Where are the parks? The schools? The civilians who aren’t being slaughtered in diners for the sake of plot? Why does Batman feel like he need to save Gotham – and the people in it, I’d assume – but doesn’t really do anything to make that a reality? Is he scared of being made obsolete? Or does he simply not give a shit about the people he claim to protect? And if he doesn’t want to get involved in community projects, how about helping out the police force so his good friend Gordon doesn’t have to climb up on the roof to light the Batsignal quite so often? Jerk.

There’s so much to unpack here and I think it may be important to make a distinction between the acts of Batman/Bruce Wayne as well as the socio-economic mess of Gotham itself. The fact of the matter is that Bruce has been raised in an environment where he has enormous privilege, even without parents and that’s a privilege he’s continued to cash in on in order to fulfil some kind of fantasy about power and control that he’s been missing ever since his parents died.

Like I said, this is some off the top of my head stuff, based on a casual watch of the Arkham games, coupled with a couple of Batman movies, the Year One comic and general pop culture osmosis. DC isn’t my bag, most days so hardcore fans can just scroll past this, okay? Either way, I’m sure most of this has been said. Heck, Movies with Mikey did a much better analysis of the Dark Knight so maybe you should watch that instead.

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