Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: The Bat-Garage
Re: Characterization of the Knight - Nolan and Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman - Part 2
For those who want to continue discussing the characterisation of Bruce Wayne in this:
I've been thinking a lot about how Bruce's vendetta against the criminal underworld is such a big part of his life, to the point where his work is his life, and the film certainly addresses this issue. And to an extent I suppose I understand the idea that when you have some kind of work or an agenda in your life you commit 100% of yourself to that, at the expense of any other life or indulgence you might give to yourself. Jonathan Kent even shares this characteristic (in an ideal portrayal, he never does anything for himself, there's a reason why I'm mentioning him here).
What we see here is essentially a man who sacrifices himself for the benefit of others, a utilitarian cause; it's where self-sacrifice is the ultimate heroic trait. And that's fine. But then again, if we look closer this means that in the big excuse for individualism, it means that a person can no longer have any life outside of his work because his job defines him (it's not who you are underneath but what you do that defines you). From a Western, existential, individualistic, and downright capitalist sense of the idea, it makes sense. From my own personal viewpoint, an overruling capitalist society dehumanises the individual and alienates him from his kin; the man, like so much of the heroes emerging from early-20th century Modernist literature (Kafka's Gregor Samsa, Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, Miller's Willy Loman, etc.) of which Bruce Wayne is a part, is isolated.
Now, my question is this: when we see Bruce forbidding himself a personal life in the expense of being Batman, are we really looking at a capitalist mentality, a bourgeois value so to speak, that insists its workers to work and forget their human side? It certainly goes back to Jonathan Kent being self-less, and extends all the way to a very Greek (who were good with trade) concept of a hero: Odysseus, the individual being the center of the world. Or am I reading this wrong and what this essentially shows is not a bourgeois philosophy where production is emphasised, but rather reflective of the working-man's struggle and his continued struggle to survive in any world? Thereby making Bruce more akin to a proletariat (bear with me!) struggling for revolution?
Batman's imposing his own sense of order in Gotham, the focus is clearly individualistic. But does that mean that the concept of the individual is limited to bourgeois ideals alone? I'm thinking that, let's say the situation arises where Bruce has over-burdened himself with work, where there's literally too many cases to be solved and he can't solve them altogether at once and is undergoing an overload. Of course he'd never admit it and he'd plough through at the expense of his own health/sanity, whatever (Knightfall); but is that right? He's denying his individuality for the sake of his duty. Throughout this trilogy he keeps saying that he "can't make it personal" otherwise he's "just another vigilante" who can be locked up, destroyed, blah blah, who's "lost in the scramble for his own self-gratification."
Now, a bourgeois philosophy emphasising on the self and on the individual would encourage a vigilante who gets his revenge and is satisfied, whereas a proletariat hero would insist on doing it for "the greater good."
But at the same time if we're talking about Utilitarianism or Pragmatism, the idea becomes a bourgeois value because it means "the greatest good for the greatest number of people." In other words, an ideal democracy. I know Batman is anything but democratic but the principle of an individual bringing about change in a society is a democratic idea. Moreover, if the "greatest good" is "pleasure" it becomes a bourgeois or capitalist ideology bent on profit.
I know that Batman exists outside both political spheres and is not one or the either and not even meant to be reflective of either (perhaps a combination of both if that's such a hard concept to embrace), but I'm wondering what Bruce's dehumanisation says about him in the broader sense?
When overwhelmed with "the mission," does Batman stop and take a weekend so that he can do the job better when he's not "compromised," or does he "compensate" for his inactivity, insists that "this is for a greater cause" than his own health, and goes overboard and ultimately breaks himself? These issues are directly addressed in TDKR. But if he takes that day off, does it make his crusade a bourgeois sentiment where he pats himself on the back and says "oh well I tried my best." Or does saying "I can do the best work when I'm in best shape myself" make him a promoter of bourgeois ideals?
If not, if he really is doing this for the sake of Gotham, what's really wrong about "hiring" a bunch of capable crime-fighters "and take the rest of the weekend off" ?
THE JUSTICE BULLETIN published some of my thematic analysis on the symbolism in Nolan's superhero saga.
I call it Heroic Archetypes
. You can read the parts on Batman Begins
in the following links:
; pt 2
; pt 3
; pt 4
; pt 5
; pt 6
; pt 7