🔍 BEHIND THE MASK🔎: Batman Edition

Welcome to this week’s discussion of BEHIND THE MASK, in which we welcome our resident armchair psychologists to ponder and muse, our literary detectives to theorize and question.

We invite you all to pull back and discover what’s a-brewing behind the mask of the dark, Dark Knight.

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With the pending 80th anniversary of another DC great, we’re putting under the metaphorical microscope our mysteriously-brooding friend, The Bat.

Let’s discuss the “who’s”, the “why’s”, the “what was he thinking’s”?
Let’s pull up a chair and dig a little deeper.

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This week, we’re taking a look Behind The Mask of Batman, through the lens of “Death as Fate”:

:mag_right:Why does death seem to follow Batman?

:mag_right:Can the Caped Crusader truly be content with merely apprehending his opponents?

:mag_right:What does justice look like for The Bat?

:mag_right:Will The Dark Knight ever be happy?

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Share all your thoughts, theories, and additional questions below! :point_down:

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Death is a very tragic thing for Batman, as a young boy he witness his parents murder, this pretty much effected his whole life, everyday he play that horrible memory over and over again, could’ve he prevented his parents murder had he known about it? How could he? He was just a young little boy at that time. For Bruce Wayne he wants to prevent something like that to never happens again. So he leave Gotham and travel the world to learn all kinds of stuff. Batman Begins is a great example in the first hour of the movie.
As for Justice, Batman knows he’s not above the law, sometimes he may have to go a little over it to stop crimes, there’s limits and he knows it by not using guns, and not murdering a criminal, no matter what.
Do I think he’ll ever be happy? I want to say yes, but I have to say no cause he’s a tragic figure, so grim and sad. All the things he’s going through in his life, willing to fight crime to save life, maybe that makes him a bit happy without showing it.

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Donna said it best, to Dick Grayson, Titans Episode 8:

‘when Diana took me in, she showed me how to fill that hole the fire left in my life with love, and with family … that’s just what the Amazons do, they have a tradition of empowerment and self-discovery … Bruce filled that hole in your life the only way he knew how, with rage and violence … Wonder Woman was born to protect the innocent, Batman was created to punish the guilty’

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I think Batman is quite happy with his life usually. I think he is never satisfied. I don’t think he will ever be satisfied because crime never ends

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:mag:I’d argue that death doesn’t follow Batman; he follows Death. He didn’t have to dedicate his entire life to the moment his parents were killed. But with that choice, he made murder his greatest enemy, and seeks it out everywhere. And when you antagonize murderers, well… there’s a good chance people you follow you will get murdered.

:mag: I think Batman is satisfied when he apprehends a criminal. But content? That’s a continuous state of mind. The moment Batman is content is the moment he stops fighting.

:mag: Justice is a corrective measure to Batman. Something that there would be no need for if everyone just practiced human decency towards one another. But human nature is such that justice will always be necessary. Batman knows he’s fighting an unwinnable fight, but it’s better than not fighting at all.

:mag: Tom King’s current Batman run is all based around this question. I’d say maybe someday, in Batman’s own timeline. But in ours, where Batman is locked perpetually in the present, he can no more attain happiness than Bart Simpson can graduate to 5th grade.

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I agree with HCQ’s assessment. I also applaud the Simpsons reference.

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:mag_right:Why does death seem to follow Batman?
He’s chosen a “career” with high stakes and deathly consequences. The ones closest to him are also involved, so it makes sense that he sees more casualties than the average fellow. Though he does try to fight it. You might ask, does death follow Batman or does Batman follow death?

:mag_right:Can the Caped Crusader truly be content with merely apprehending his opponents?
I think he views himself as part of the larger picture. He has given himself a position with boundaries; he apprehends the foes and allows the justice system to deal with them fairly.
I believe he would be more disappointed in himself if he ever did decide to kill someone, to become the monster that stole his parents from him, the very thing he is trying to fight. This idea is referenced numerous times in print and video, notably in BTAS as he paraphrases Nietzsche, “Stare long enough into the abyss and the abyss stares back at you.” To add context, Nietzsche prefaces that line with, “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.”

:mag_right:What does justice look like for The Bat?
“Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You’ve eaten Gotham’s wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on…none of you are safe.” Perhaps justice is preventing the criminals of Gotham to feel free to terrorize the city.

:mag_right:Will The Dark Knight ever be happy?
He experiences moments of happiness like anyone else, but I don’t think he’ll allow himself to ever be content. To be content is to stagnate and stagnation allows the opponent to get ahead. He constantly pushes himself, he stays a step ahead at all times. He trains others to take his place should he parish. He mentors Terry when he is no longer physically fit to don the cowl himself. He will always fight this battle, it is who he is.
“I didn’t count on being happy.” -Mask of the Phantasm

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Hah, I just realized HCQ and I have similar views on the subject

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@Reaganfan78
It’s interesting that you say, “maybe that makes him a bit happy without showing it”.
That highlights the subjective nature of “happiness”.

Perhaps, he is deriving a certain sense or measure of happiness being exactly the way he is.

While I do personally believe that deriving happiness from things that most would deem “miserable, frustrating, upsetting, etc.” is a learned behaviour or due to a notable amount of mental/emotional stress (i.e. Bruce’s parents being killed in front of him).

Learned or not though… It is interesting to think that maybe he is fine just the way he is.

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That is very interesting indeed, LW.
So many feel the need to fix or help The Bat, but maybe we should just let the Bat be The Bat!

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I also like the quote you brought up, @manifest, regarding purpose.
The Bat was created chiefly to punish the guilty.

And I guess it is more relevant to say “Bruce Wayne” created The Bat to punish the guilty.
He decidedly took the mantle upon himself, and surely he knew a life of vengeance and crime-stopping wasn’t exactly the happiest choice he could’ve made

Crime deals with the nastiest bits of humanity.

I would imagine it must take much mental and emotional strength to deal with crime whilst maintaining a healthy, strong mental perspective of life.

To maintain hope.

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  1. Death is essential to his character. His whole life, he has had very little control of what happens around him, despite his vast intellect and resources: his parents die, his future vocation is hand-picked for him, and Gotham is still the most dangerous city despite his work and effort to make it safe. That’s why he is the greatest strategist on the planet: he wants to plan and control the world around him. Death is just a reminder that life rarely goes according to plan. I actually met with Kevin Conroy (BTAS and Arkham Batman voice actor) at a comic con and he told me that his favorite quote is that “Life happens when you are making plans.” Cool, huh?
  2. Batman will always be content with locking up his opponents. His goal is to make the world a safer place, and in his mind, if the bad people are in jail then the world is safer.
  3. Justice looks like a criminal getting punished for what he deserves. However, death is not an option for punishment in the eyes of Batman. Jail time only.
  4. He will never be happy. Look at Batman Beyond. He’s still grumpy even after years of no cape and cowl. Also, read Tom King’s Batman. The entire series is centered around this question.
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I would like to bring up the fact that batman seems to be suppressing a dark passenger like dexter i believe his line in under the red hood sums it up best the one about how killing the joker would be “too damn easy” how his trouble would be with stopping there i think that suggests underneath it all batman might as well be jeffery dahmer or ted bundy

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@daboy1995
That’s really interesting that you bring that up! I’ve often wondered if maybe the Bat enjoyed what he does a little more than he probably should…

That also brings to mind that one scene Kitty pointed out in The Batman that we watched yesterday morning where Batman makes a comment expressing concern against a “permanently smiling Gotham”.

I mean, granted it was in reference to the plans The Joker had for the city, it’s still kinda funny that those were the words he chose to use to express his adverse sentiments…

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1: Does death follow Batman, or does Batman follow death? It’s a dangerous line of work, and he makes a habit of fighting killers. Half the important people who’ve died around him have been killed by the Joker specifically. More importantly, it’s a disservice to other characters to suggest that their deaths are all about Batman. Jason Todd, for example: Can’t his own death just be about him?

2: I think Batman may be motivated by similar concerns to Superman when he refuses to kill. Is it really his place to play judge, jury, and executioner? Is that really justice when no one can hold him accountable? The Titans finale was right about one thing: A murderous Batman would be a very scary thing. But it felt wrong. It just wasn’t Batman. And that’s because I think deep down, Batman is someone who’s afraid to see people die. That’s also why he’d be a rather poor Green Lantern: he doesn’t overcome his fears, he uses them. This brings me to my next point.

3: When Batman is well-written, justice is about keeping people safe. If it were more about punishing the evildoers, maybe he would kill them, or at least wouldn’t be so bothered by other hero-types killing people. Now, a lot of times, it feels like he’s just out to knock heads together and holding back from killing is just how he keeps himself sane. The big problem with that is it makes him a rather unsympathetic protagonist. Edgy Batman works fine in Justice League stories where he has other characters to play off of, but it doesn’t hold up in his own stories.

4: In most continuities, the answer seems to be no. I think that’s a waste of potential character development. I admit that I have an unusually optimistic interpretation of the character, but I think ultimately, Batman is (or is trying to be) a good person, who deserves to be happy. But here’s the thing: he’s got a huge family of skilled, heroic people (also, Jason and Damian are there too) who care about him, believe in what he’s built, and will be carrying on long after he’s gone. Also, he’s filthy rich. What more could you ask for in life? If he’s not happy now, then maybe he really won’t ever be happy.

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As another note, I thought my “Does death follow Batman, or does Batman follow death?” quote was very clever until I scrolled up and saw that I’d been beaten to the punch. Curses!

I also saw that more people than I’d expected have analyzed the questions pretty similarly to how I did, so that’s cool.

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I think one of the times Batman would’ve been happy is if he did in fact beat Joker’s skull into pieces and let his brain slip into the rain soaked street as he thought of doing in Batman# 614.

Not “Ah, I’m so happy and chipper!” happy mind you. Rather, Batman’s brand of stoicistic happiness knowing that beating Joker into oblivion would save many lives down the road.

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@BatJamags If you remember the animated batman movie mask of the phantasm bruce is struggling to be in a relationship with Andrea Beaumont and also be batman he realizes if he is to truly be batman he could never have love,not real love atleast that’s the difference between Batman and the rest of the other DC characters he doesn’t really have any love interest because you won’t really catch Batman going out for coffee

@HubCityQuestion
:mag_right:I love your take on death following Batman.

That seems fairly valid. But all of the superheroes pretty much deal with criminals (many of whom are not above murder).
Or are you saying the “type” of criminals Batman goes after have more of a penchant for murder than others?
Either way, I do think your claim is quite valid that he lost his parents due to murder, which directly informed his choice to “[make] murder his greatest enemy”.
Surely this somehow factors into which criminals he chooses to go after - even if it’s a decision of a more subconscious nature.

:mag_right:I agree.

With loss, grief, anger, etc. being the nature of emotions that initially propelled and continue to propel the Bat to do what he does (as a superhero), it really doesn’t make any sense to think that the idea of contentment or happiness would be anywhere in the same conversation.
Perhaps Bruce Wayne could be happy, but I certainly wouldn’t put any money on the Bat ever being happy.
He wouldn’t be the Bat if he was fueled by anything else.
I am curious, though.
Would you say that th ere lives something very real within Batman that wants to kill the criminals he encounters?
I mean, we all know that the desire to do so has risen up on several occasions with many of our superhero friends, but I mean, what of a very “particular” desire to kill?

:mag_right:Let me ask you this.
How would you answer the following questions:

What does justice look like “to” the Bat?
What does justice look like “for” the Bat?

In my head, these two questions have different answers.
I am curious to hear your answer on the other question.

:mag_right:Haha I love this response.

All of these robins coming and going, surely the Bat’s getting old under that mask too, right??

“Why does death seem to follow Batman?”

Well, death follows everyone. Death of those we care about is just a fact of life. But having such important figures in his life die at such a young age has made Bruce fixated on death, it’s become like an enemy of his that he has sworn to fight every night. Ironically, putting up this fight has made him closer to death, frequently risking his own and feeling that same loss frequently with the loss of people in the crime fighting family he’s cultivated, like Jason Todd.

In a way, it’s more the other way around, Batman follows death.

“Can the Caped Crusader truly be content with merely apprehending his opponents?”

I think characters like The Joker make it tempting to cross the line, but I think in the end, any discontent he has in the system is offset by some deep-seated darkness in his heart he’s afraid would come out if he were ever to cross that line.

“What does justice look like for The Bat?”

Some might assume that it’s crooks beaten within an inch of their lives, but in the end, when he’s most at peace, justice is much like what we have now, but more focused on rehabilitation. Some of the best takes of Batman frequently show him wanting to see even his most dangerous of rogues reform, let alone the common criminals he faces. That’s part of why he does the work he does in his civilian guise in philanthropy, and often hires those affected by crime to his works, as well as makes many donations to Arkham Asylum.

“Will the Dark Knight ever be happy?”

Happiness is measured differently by everyone, isn’t it? One kind of lifestyle might be hellish for someone but content for someone else. I think the tragedy and trauma so early on his life has made Batman a difficult man to be happy. It’s made it hard for him to keep close relations out of fear of losing them, and the work he does pushes him to the brink hard and often. But the friends and family he’s gathered around him, the cases he’s solved, the good he’s done, large and small, it gives him a certain bit of happiness.

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