The Dark Knight will hurt you, but he won’t kill you.
So I had a pretty contested conversation with a co-worker regarding all things Batman, with an emphasis on the Nolan trilogy.
She was making the claim that Bruce is a hero and I was offering the counter-claim that Bruce is not a hero, certainly at times heroic with a supererogatory knack for overcoming fear. But Batman is a psychopath (soul-sick) with control issues and fascist tendencies. He is also, unfortunately, and by his design, surrounded by people who enable his psychopathology.
Contrary to non-geek popular belief, Batman does have powers – two of them in fact – and they are really good powers.
- Batman is the world’s greatest detective. While Sherlock Holmes knows everything about crime and criminals and Mycroft Holmes knows everything about everything else. Bruce knows everything, A to Z everything or at least he will figure it out.
- Batman is prepared for everything. The utility belt, the Bat-Cave, the Kyptonite ring, etc, etc. Batman is contingently prepared for everything, all the time. The master positional player.
With these two powers, in the hands of even disinterested or more straight forward writers, Batman is unbeatable and unstoppable. So what has kept his story interesting since 1939? With those powers wouldn’t fighting and reducing crime to tolerable levels be possible, if not inevitable?
This question slowly leads us to a terrifying realization – everything that happens in Gotham is ultimately by Batman’s design. And we have stumbled onto another facet of Bruce’s psychology: Bruce’s needs to be Batman more than he needs to save Gotham. Gotham is hell on earth because Bruce needs to be Batman.
This is why I didn’t get upset over some of the “apparent” themes behind The Dark Knight Rises, because Batman is not a hero, he is not a “good guy”. He is a broken and sad guy. He is a rich kid that watched his parent’s execution. Bruce died in that alley along with them. In a way Batman is Bruce’s revenge on the city that murdered his parents. Everything that happened in The Dark Knight Rises was by design to hurt Gotham, but not to kill it. And if Bruce survived the ending (I have my doubts. If he has any goodness in him, and think he does, he would design a scenario where he would save the city from a “threat” that allows him to simultaneously save the city from himself), then you can be sure that he will obsessively return to “clean up the mess” that Gotham has become again – and by his design.