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 Batman: A Philosophic Study

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PostSubject: Batman: A Philosophic Study   Thu Dec 06, 2007 9:08 pm

I've been very excited about the upcoming Batman film, "The Dark Knight", where both the Joker and Two-Face make their appearance. I've been a Batman fan off and on since I was a child. I've even tried writing my own Batman stories but they always fall short; something about the symbolism or metaphors just strike me the wrong way. And I started thinking about that earlier in my kitchen while listening to dark edgy music. Why is it that I am so excited about the prospect of a second well-made Batman film, and yet I feel as a storyteller that something in its metaphorical brew falls short of personal value? When I thought on it I began finding some interesting answers.

Something big happened long ago -- which some historians estimate at 200, 000 years ago -- that forever changed the Human psyche. Actually, two things happened: the arrival of unpleasant visitors and the Great Flood. The True Self was overwhelmed, and as when a person is traumatized they develop alternate personalities (schizophrenia), so too did the Human race. Thus the ego was born as a defensive mechanism, and the True Self has been shielded by it ever since. The Human psychosis has plagued our world for indeed a very long time, but with the coming of Pluto astrologers are calling this the Age of Awakening; a period of psychic cleansing, of revealing, facing the truth and searching for answers. With the end of the Age of Pisces we are entering the Age of Aquarius, and what has been will die and rot away to make room for the new. We are to undergo a period of death, darkness and confusion, before we can awaken from the ego. The True Self is fated to take rulership over humanity. There is, and will be, a struggle between good (nature) and evil (behind-the-scenes forces we've discussed in other threads.) But the mask of the ego will be removed, the easy way or the hard way; the truth must rise to the surface.



Now what does this have to do with Batman as a symbol? He is the ego, donning the black armour and mask -- the True Self is hidden for protection. He battles primarily the Joker, who represents the force of the Human psychosis, and an assortment of others who get caught up in it one way or another. But all of them wear costumes and guises, hiding their true selves (or having lost them.) Writers of Batman often say, "Batman needs the Joker, the Joker needs Batman. One couldn't exist without the other." Well said. The Joker is the embodiment of anarchy, and Batman is the symbol for the defensive mechanism (the ego) which rises to defend the natural world from it. Thus the two were fated enemies, and their battle can never end in their universe of story; they are bound to each other like the 'good brother and the bad brother' of ancient myth. Batman exists in a world of fear; he is driven by fear and projects that fear into others in order to keep them on their knees before the tyranny of the system rather than rebelling and running amok downtown.

Now, I've always hated the word 'anarchy' because anarchy is a form of freedom, so the word can easily be used as a tool to attack personal liberty. I've seen it used in political debates to justify the taking of personal rights and freedoms. Those people would point the finger at me and call me an anarchist for opposing them. And maybe they'd be right. Let's see how dictionary.com defines the word anarchist:

Quote :
1. a person who advocates or believes in anarchy or anarchism.
2. a person who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order in the place of that destroyed.
3. a person who promotes disorder or excites revolt against any established rule, law, or custom.

The very first definition is 'someone who advocates or believes' in anarchy. Not who performs, but supports. That's interesting, because if a person felt someone who was killed deserved to die no one calls him a murderer, any more than someone who is pleased to hear that one of the major banks got robbed is called a bank robber. I've heard many writers of Batman use the word 'anarchy' a great deal, and in the comics there is even a villain named Anarchy. The director/producer of the new Batman films, Christopher Nolan, has revealed in a recent interview with IGN that he is personally afraid of anarchy. This is a feeling which many minds working in and behind the Batman universe seem to share, and they love the character Batman because he is the fear-driven defensive mechanism which fights to stop anarchy. But if you really study Human psychosis you will find that through freedom of expression it can be defeated, but through fear and restraint it can only worsen. Metaphorically speaking, Batman and the Joker created each other, and fight to support each other's causes. Batman thinks he is doing what must be done, but he is merely a tool of fear which allows the problem to continue -- or if anything, get worse. There was a good piece of writing at the end of "Batman Begins" when James Gordon asks Batman, "What about escalation?" Batman asks, "Escalation?" He hadn't considered that. Gordon explains, "We get semi-automatic weapons, they get automatics. We get Kevlar body armor, they get armor-piercing rounds. And you're wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops." One side of the extreme mirrors the other; that's why the Joker laughs in Batman's face and why Batman hates the Joker so; they are a mirror to each other.

The rebel is not free for he is whining and fighting with authority rather than walking away and simply living his own life (like a true maverick does.) The Joker is a rebel against the system, but Batman is a rebel against the psychosis; and I'm sorry, you don't defeat darkness by wrestling it to the ground. As long as Bruce wears the mask of Batman he is never truly facing the Joker, or vice-versa, and thusly all they can do is fight. The answer to this scenario was revealed by George Lucas in "The Return of the Jedi." Luke Skywalker had donned the mask of fear, and then the mask of darkness -- ego -- and bettered his father in battle. But when confronted by the Emperor -- the psychosis -- Luke did not turn, but instead pulled away the mask to embrace it. If you saw the film you knew it hurt like hell, but he was saved when his father in turn unmasked himself and overthrew the psychosis. This exposed the real answer to dealing with the ego-centred figure; not to rebel in a childish, powerless state, and not to walk away and do nothing, but to unmask yourself and face your fellow man -- face to face. Hence, the truth cures the psychosis. The psychosis is a lie, after all -- the ego is not the True Self, it merely pretends to be. But Batman is too caught up in his role, too confused by fear to see the truth. He has made himself rather powerless in this way, and will continue to battle the psychosis on its own terms until it eventually consumes him (which it finally did in "The Dark Knight Returns" comic series, which inspired the 1989 Batman film and thus the recent ones.)

The fear of anarchy is the fear of giving into the psychosis; of facing it. Instead one must put up a wall, raise a shield or don a mask -- however you wish to symbolize it. But the real truth of it is, truth defeats darkness, but truth cannot be realized when it is hidden behind a defensive mechanism of fear. Thus Batman is, in simple terms, a moron. Whether this is down to a weak mind or simply because he has become utterly conquered by fear, it is remains that he is lost in a weakened, powerless state of fear, of persistent rivalling with the reality of the psychosis. He thinks the problem is in the streets -- but the CIA manage drug trafficking, but secret government-funded facilities design and unleash bio-warfare upon the populace, but the same system which he struggles to protect is -- as Ra's al Ghul points out in "Batman Begins" -- corrupted on nearly every level of its infrastructure. The system is not above the psychosis, it is managed by those under its control who seek to control it by controlling others infected by it. Batman is no less a clown than the Joker, and he is as the Joker often points out the tragic while the Joker is the comedic spin on the Human condition. Batman is the mask of fear-driven idealism to deny the psychosis, while the Joker is the psychosis itself. Two-Face himself represents this duality:



I have been a little bit Batman myself, and maybe a little bit Two-Face if pushed enough (not psychotic, but over-the-edge (partially ensnared by the psychosis.) But am learning to be more like Luke, and follow the True Self’s intuitive knowledge – symbolized in Star Wars by Yoda, who would say, “You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi (True Self) will you be. And confront him you will.”

And so this is why I am fascinated with the symbols, how well the Batman story reflects the day-to-day struggles of social and political life. But at the same time, this is why I do not find the metaphors inspiring as a storyteller; I’d rather deal with facing the Truth Self and thus solutions.
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