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Don’t Blame Batman – He’s One Of The Good Guys
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Don’t Blame Batman – He’s One Of The Good Guys

Batman has always been my hero. Superman was great, but he was a God as much as a Hero, which made him hard to relate to—he was more fun to observe in Action (pardon the pun). But Batman’s ‘power’ was that he never touched a gun. Psychology was his other ‘power’—he took the fact that bullies are cowards and turned it into a defensive advantage—he fought the criminals he happened upon, but he frightened all of them.

Since he was the first superhero to be camped-up and ridiculed by the entertainment industry, I was inured to others’ ridicule of my hero at an early age. Batman, the icon, was the product of the comic book domain, a never-never land of the isolated bookworms and thrill-seekers of my 1960s childhood. He had a utility belt (another Batman ‘power’) and an orphaned acrobat sidekick, he lived in Wayne Manor; he had a Bat-cave and a Bat-mobile, and a butler, Alfred.

More often than not, Batman surprised his criminal prey ‘in the act’ at a bank or museum or laboratory, subdued them all with hand-to-hand combat, and left them trussed up for the police (a great way to sidestep the complications of Batman’s questionable vigilantism).

I watched the Batman TV series against my will—it was ‘Batman’, so I had to watch—but—the way they depicted the darkly serious hero as a joke offended my love of the iconic character. And there was plenty for the young boy to admire in those comics—Batman worked in secret, he didn’t brag; Batman never used firearms or explosives—indeed, he never killed anyone either, only subdued them for capture; Batman was even a hero in his secret identity—the millionaire philanthropist, Bruce Wayne.

No mention was ever made of the difference Batman made to citywide crime statistics, if any—he was simply a lone ranger (but without the six-shooters). His quest for justice was a personal battle he fought both with criminals and with himself—a crusader for good. Compared to the actual ‘Crusaders’ of medieval Europe, he was a saint—no conquest, rape, or pillage—none of that stuff.

Now the future is today—both my early love of science fiction and of comic book heroes have been proved irresistibly popular—our TV series’s (even a whole TV channel) dwell on every aspect of science fiction imagined so far. They were led there by the blockbuster movies than began with Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and continue up to today’s premiere of “The Rise Of Batman”. This was, by my count but don’t quote me, the eighth major motion picture featuring Batman, and still it has been mobbed with eager theater-goers, the first day of a week-end rush that was on deck to break ‘week-end gross’ records.

And now this horrible tragedy occurrs in a Colorado movie-theater leaving fifty people with large-caliber gunshot wounds, over ten of them fatally! The psychopath allegedly entered the theater normally, propped open an exit door, returned to his vehicle to don bullet-proof armor and take up three different firearms, and then walked back into the theater, tossed a tear-gas grenade into the crowd, and opened fire at the audience members.

He was apparently emulating the late Heath Ledger’s “Joker” character from the last big Batman picture. His home was wired with booby-traps and the police spent a lot of time entering safely into the apartment. Aside from his bullet-proofing ‘armor’, nothing about this tragedy has any real connection to Batman, the character, other than choosing a Batman premiere as his location.

And now, being a pessimist, I fully expect an avalanche of thoughtless verbiage about the darkness of the Batman franchise—which was only a scare tactic to use against bullies and crooks in the original comics. It was Tim Burton who chose to make Gotham City a place of darkness as well. Then Heath Ledger’s director apparently wanted some realism in the Joker’s psychopathology, which made the bad guys even scarier than Batman—an almost complete reversal of the original theme.

So I just want to throw in my two cents on the whole issue of ‘lone gunman massacres Batman movie audience’ before the shouting begins over this non-issue. The issue is the crazy person who shot at innocent people in a theater. If there is any blame to be attached to the movie’s franchise, I only hope that people will realize that it isn’t Batman that’s a bad influence, it is the fault of the movies based on Batman that are connecting somehow to this psychopath’s delusions. Batman, himself, remains the world’s finest Boy Scout (again, p the p).

These crazy shooters are worse than any criminal, or at least, as bad as the worst (seeing as how the two become one at some point). They were not raised, they were neglected. No one goes that crazy unless they are ignored for years and years before. Even the apparently normal child of normal parents that suddenly turns into something unrecognizably evil—even those will show signs of a predisposition towards cruelty, somewhere along the line. If their parents didn’t ignore them, they certainly ignored all the tell-tale signs of psychosis.

I’ll accept, for the sake of argument, that some people might just ‘snap’, and turn into frenzied killers, without any link to their past or their upbringing. But there are, if I haven’t been misinformed, always some signs of warning that a perceptive and sensitive person could have gleaned while living in the same house with a young and developing psychotic. Some of the backstories in real-life disasters, especially schools shootings, are as chilling as the crimes.

All that aside, there seems to be a very familiar pattern to the vast majority of these disasters. Kids being hurt, or ignored, or both, by parents (or other family or authority-figures) whose emotional stability isn’t very strong, either—and kids being bullied and ostracized by their peers without any interference from concerned adults, especially parents and schoolteachers—these young people are driven to become cold-blooded monsters.

People are animals—we are born as animals—we learn to be humane by examples set by our parents and others. When these examples are absent from a child’s experience, it figures their behavior is going to be asocial, which is easily converted to anti-social by the mistreatment they receive.

Most of our social progress has been a story of breaking down imaginary boundaries—of seeing high-born equal to peasant, of seeing colored persons equal to Caucasian persons, of seeing women as equals of men, and on and on. But the newest fight, the fight against bullying, is special. Before, the arguments were always about ignoring prejudice, but the fight against bullying is a fight to pay more attention to children—not just our own, but all of them. We are not being asked to forget old barriers; we are called upon to remember how important children are. And how easily they can turn on each other without a minimum of demonstrations of humane behavior. Daily witnessing of people being good to each other is the only safe way to rear children.

So, my message is as follows: Ignore the movie’s title, and keep your focus on the fact that some miserable soul was tormented into becoming a mass murderer and—sympathy and condolences to the victims’ families.


Street Talk

I love Batman and can't be blamed for the actions of one individual. If someone wants to do something like this if it wasn't there it would be been somewhere else. The location was not the drive mental disposition was. Sympathy to all involved.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Interesting article. I find myself wondering where we have gone wrong in this American society. You speak as though the movie is the issue at first, then turn to parents neglecting their kids and so forth. I am not sure of what causes a person to do something this horrible. But I do know of a possible deterrent to this behavior. What if a majority of those people in that theater were armed? Would that have been a deterrent? Possibly. Did the fact that this nation was so well armed with nuclear weapons help deter Russia from attacking? I don't remember the Russians attacking the US. Do you? Just a thought from an ole cowboy that has served in the military of this great nation and understands the importance of leading from a position of strength. I do, however know that instances like these bring up the right to keep and bear arms argument. To me, there is no argument. We have the right to keep and bear arms so that the things like 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' can continue here in this country. Oops, there I go getting up on my soap box! Just an ole cowboy's opinion, take it for what is worth.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Welcome, McK--and thanks for your comment. I see your side of this--but something just occurred to me--all the westerns (and I'm not trying to hold up Hollywood as historical fact) have a common theme--the marshals make the town safe for civilized folks, then come the women, the school-houses, and the churches. Eventually, they even had sidewalks to keep the townsfolk out of the mud that Main Street becomes whenever it rains. There is the inevitable aside from some minor character, "Sho' would be nice if folks could walk down the street without wearing a gun." In those times, the less-civilized would hie themselves off to the next frontier, further west. We don't have that escape valve anymore, but we also have come to a place in our history where we expect the USA, from coast to coast, to be a place where a person doesn't need to wear a gun to walk down Main Street. That this is no longer true (if it ever was) is a problem--not because we've gone backwards, but because the lawlessness pops up at random times and places. Crazy individuals suddenly go rogue and start blasting. Meanwhile, the rest of us go around unarmed because we won't let a few crazies redefine our lives as deadly dangerous. Perhaps public places, like malls, schools, theaters, and other gatherings, need marshals. They could see to our safety without encouraging all the rest of us to join in the gun-play, maybe? I know what you mean about the soapbox--my own is very heavily used.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Your last sentence says it all Christopher.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thanks, Shawn--I had an almost compulsive need to divert myself from this chaotic reality in CO--and I felt personally affronted that the scene had a connection to an important icon of mine. But it worked, I did feel better after writing about my love of comic-book superheroes, especially 'silver age' DC characters.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I too was a fan of Batman and Robin as a kid but my real hero was E.R.Burrough's Tarzan (Lord Greystoke) who was really violent when pushed. However this is all fiction. What happened in Colorado and indeed Norway last year is horrible fact and this sort of event is totally beyond my comprehension. Thanks for the article Christopher and yours too Rob

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I missed out on Bourrough's Tarzan and John Carter--I was turned off by the idea that a great civilization existed on Mars, when any astronomer could tell you there was no life on Mars. Being an ardent fan of NASA, and a space cadet of the highest order, I couldn't get into a fantasy based on an impossibility--even though most sci-fi is just that! I think there may be a quantum level of dissociation that modern global culture has reached, wherein the effect on raising children is broad enough to turn them, secretly, invisibly, into darknesses of pure need and rage--and then provides them with incredibly powerful tools for mass murder. Much is made of this killer being 'intelligent'--as if intelligence is a barrier to evil. A strong mind is capable of greatness or infamy or both (Oppenheimer comes to mind) but the feelings of these monsters have been tortured--it isn't their thinking that is wrong here, it is their feeling--or complete lack of it.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I can't see the movie being blamed but your second amendment of the constitution needs a realignment.. I find it astounding that this person could buy 4 weapons that can start a small revolution, 6000 rounds of ammo and no one picks up the fact.. that is not the mind of a psychotic, but rather a well thought out plan of action... a defense lawyer will claim madness.. loss of mental health, and that is absolute bull sh.. he is mad in a way, but one that was doing a Ph.D. ... no the system has failed the populace.. the right to bear arms... for protection or hunting... all go every where armed to the teeth.. its for your own protection... I still can't believe this and the fact its not really the first time...

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Yes, Americans are over-fond of their weaponry--other countries have more guns per capita than the US, but nowhere near the number of wounded or killed. The second amendment doesn't need repealing, it needs forgetting. Part of our pride of country is linked to the Revolutionaries who took up arms as local militias, thus creating a revolutionary army--and that was the purpose of the Second Amendment. Then there are the many stories of rifles and six-shooters in the 'taming of the frontier' (as it was thought of, back then). The old West faded away, but even before that happened, there were penny-story books all about Wild Bill, Billy the Kid, and the Earps, and the Pony Express... well, you get the picture. It isn't our access to guns that is the problem--it is our attitudes towards guns that make us a land of frequent shootings--as Americans, it is almost incumbent upon us to shoot somebody--to 'make one's bones' in a gang (a significant advance in status) one is expected to 'cap' a person--preferably a rival gang's member. By the same token, we have several folk heroes, Batman included, who earn our admiration by eschewing guns (a seemingly suicidal choice in the eyes of Americans) and still winning the day (though, perhaps wounded--for dramatic effect). I believe Glenn Ford and John Wayne have at least one movie role which showed them tough while unarmed--a feat of daring to we here. And General Patton was right--"Americans love a good war"--why do you think our army gets to do so much more traveling than the other countries' armies?

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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