Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adam West - Antihero

Now that I've finally figured out how to use this site, I feel compelled to address an idea that was brought up in Friday’s class, but was not realative enough to discuss further at the time. That is the idea that Batman as an “antihero.”

After a lifetime of reading Batman stories I see no actions of the character’s that would lead to this conclusion. Batman is not a loose cannon. He has the strictest of moral codes; a definitive line, which he never crosses, never even comes close, doesn’t even think about it. While it may be enticing to think of Bruce Wayne as on the edge of sanity, ready to snap and take criminals with him, that is simply not the case. Bruce Wayne is as sane as a Super Hero can get. He takes a horrible tragedy and, instead of spending the rest of his life using his fortune to basely cope with that tragedy, he becomes something incredible: a Super Hero, the only one amongst hundreds who beneath the surface is only a man. Making Batman an antihero would have been too easy. It is his discipline and his solidified conscience that make him so amazing.

Throughout many incarnations of the Justice League, boasting heroes such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, etc. Batman has been the watchdog; the strict parent who everyone, whether admittedly or not, tries not to disappoint. He is the Bob Dylan of Super Heroes, the one all others look up to for wisdom, guts and inspiration. No hero can be inspired by an antihero, they may be able to accept them, but they would not look up to them.

Look at it this way, an antihero would have shot The Joker in the face a loooong time ago. An antihero like, say, The Punisher: someone who is willing, and happy, to kill anyone who gets in the way of his fight against “crime.”

Batman stands as Superman’s most esteemed peer and friend, a title that would never be bestowed upon an antihero. Sure they are opposite sides of a coin, but that coin is not heads for hero and tails for antihero. It is a one hundred percent gold plated superhero coin depicting The World’s Finest on either side.

What is it that makes people see Batman as a “dark and gritty” antihero? The fact that he works at night; that he instills fear in criminals, that his adversaries are often demented and insane, movie trailers? OK. But what has he actually done to get an “anti” thrown in front of his indisputable title of Hero when all that should precede that title is the word Super?

Yes, he scurries around in the dark. That’s his shtick. That’s what makes him cool and makes it ok for “grown people” to like him. But it doesn’t create any moral ambiguity.

Yes, he scares and sometimes injures criminals. So does Superman, and no one would call him an antihero. Superman, the hero who came before all others, was introduced to the world as a bully, throwing criminals through brick walls and out windows. As much as I would hate to be a criminal who turns around to see Batman standing in my wake, I would equally dread to find Superman at my door. Instilling fear does not make one an antihero. If anything, when it comes to facing off against villains, it makes them a damn good hero.

So let’s all repeat: “Superhero. Not Anti.” Let us shed the allure of claiming that Batman tows the line between good and evil perpetuated by the general public’s faint character analysis based on a few blockbusters and one or two breakthrough stand-alone Frank Miller stories. I wouldn’t even say the Nolan films portray Batman as any kind of antihero, they just play up his badass side and throw some extra shadows around to lure the rabble away from Call of Duty for a couple of hours. And don’t get me wrong, Batman IS a badass, but he’s a good guy badass, tried and true.

Yikes, that went on longer than I intended. There’s plenty more to say but I doubt anyone cared to read that much. To end on a more “relative to the class” note, I’d raise the question of Batman as an Urban Fantasy. Yes, Gotham is thinly based on NYC, but it exists in the DC Universe, a Universe different from our own, where Gotham, Metropolis, Coast City (all fictional), are mixed with actual New York, Kansas, Afghanistan, etc. It’s a lot harder to define in Urban Fantasy standards than, say, Spider-Man or other Marvel characters who are based in real U.S. locations within our reality.


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