Alrighty, with DC Universe changing into Infinite soon, I thought I’d make one of my last posts on these forums a big one. One that’ll surely get me a lot of push back, but I’ve held my tongue on for too long now. So here it goes… Bruce Wayne as Batman is not a hero.
Now listen, before I go any further, if you are a fan of Batman, I mean no disrespect to you. You are more than welcome to disagree with me and love him. I understand as I used to be a huge fan of him myself, but in recent years I’ve really struggled with it. I think he has some MAJOR flaws that have been left unaddressed for far too long; and keep him from reaching the status of a hero.
So, to start, let’s define what a hero is. The best definition I’ve found online that I agree with is, “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for [their] brave deeds and noble qualities.” Now, it’s easy to say that Bruce Wayne is going out there and protecting the city from evil villains who want to hurt people, therefore he fits the definition. But I think that’s a very surface-level analysis of the character that doesn’t take the material seriously enough. So, let’s break down the character of Bruce Wayne and why his choice to be Batman is not heroic, but selfish and morally wrong.
Let’s start by analyzing why Bruce chose to become Batman. His parents were murdered in front of him at a young age and so as he grew older he decided to seek vengeance for them. I know this is incredibly well-worn territory, but it is extremely important! Bruce is not seeking to “protect” or “save” Gotham at first. Instead, he’s explicitly looking for vengeance for his parents. This is not nobility (a key aspect to being defined as a hero). It’s a rich kid playing dress-up as a form of self-therapy. Now, it could be argued that he grew out of this. And I would concede that just because something doesn’t start out as noble doesn’t mean it can’t become so. But I don’t think Bruce ever achieves nobility. Why? Because his choice to continue to be Batman reflects the fact that he doesn’t have Gotham’s best interest at heart.
We have to ask ourselves, is Batman actually solving any problems? And, if so, is this the best way to go about it? There are a lot of studies done on trying to understand why people commit crime. The results are nuanced and complex, but the general consensus revolve around things like, “poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, [and even] alcohol and drug abuse.” People who commit crimes are mostly not evil. They’re desperate individuals with almost no other options. When faced with the choice between letting your family starve or stealing a loaf of bread; 99% of people are always going to pick the latter. Which begs the question of if Batman’s use of highly aggressive force against most criminals is morally right. This is a man who will break limbs and physically fight most of his adversaries. Which I think is wrong. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying the criminals are in the moral right, but since Batman is the one being painted as a hero, I will always hold him to a moral high ground. He’s not doing anything to prevent the crimes from happening, he’s just beating up the people who commit them. Once again, these aren’t evil people, they’re desperate people. So, Bruce’s claim that he’s preventing crime through fear is absurd because these people are often choosing crime when there are no other options. Many of them will die if they don’t commit these crimes. Fear means nothing. Bruce’s choice to put on the cowl is REACTIONARY to crime, not proactive.
This is extremely relevant because Bruce Wayne is a BILLIONAIRE! With a “b.” It’s hard to comprehend how much money that is, but it’s a lot. Let’s put it in perspective. A million seconds is 11.5 days, while a BILLION seconds is 31.5 YEARS. That’s a LOT of money, and he didn’t have to work for a cent of it. All of it being handed to him. Bruce could solve all of Gotham’s problems if he wanted to. He COULD be proactive. Funding things like education, housing, infrastructure, etc. would all help reduce crime. In fact, these are often the most effective ways of doing so because it would get rid of many of the issues that force people to choose a life of crime. Allowing them to have other opportunities that are normally blocked off. But, instead, Bruce chooses to live in a huge mansion by himself and build an underground lair with high tech military gadgets and super computers. That is NOT noble. It is NOT heroic. It’s selfish. It focuses more on Bruce’s need to FEEL like a hero than to actually be one. Remember, he wants to avenge his parents, not save Gotham.
“Well, Omni, don’t you think you’re being too simplistic with criminals? Not all of them are good people. What about the Joker? He wants to blow up the city!!! Who’s gonna stop villians like him, huh?” I assume that’s going to be a response to my claims about crime. So, let’s talk about it. Most of Batman’s rogues gallery are often shown to be victims of mental health issues. The Riddler has schizophrenia, Two-Face has DID, Harley Quinn has Stockholm syndrome, etc. These are major motivations for their extreme crimes. But, it’s important to point out that mental illness in people does not outright make them dangerous. The key to preventing that is treatment. Having ways for people who suffer from mental illness to be treated and accommodated for. Once again, we must return to the point that Batman is a reaction to crime, not a prevention of it. If Bruce Wayne were to fund mental illness treatment, a lot of these crimes could be prevented. And I mean ACTUAL treatment, not the awful stuff happening at Arkham. It’s also worth noting that individuals like the Joker often cite Batman as the reason they commit the crimes they do. But, instead, Bruce chooses to violently beat up on them rather than actually help them and solve the problems that city faces.
A hero is, “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for [their] brave deeds and noble qualities.” What Bruce does as Batman is not noble nor brave. It’s reactionary, dangerous, and wrong. It doesn’t solve the problems it reacts to and perpetuates them. Which is a shame considering the insane amount of economic and political power Bruce holds in Gotham that could actually do good.
To those of you who think I’m overreacting and taking a fun comic book too seriously, that’s fine. You can totally view the character that way, but I firmly disagree. Batman is one of the most iconic characters in pop culture. He is a staple of the DC Trinity of heroes. He is a role model for many people (including children). Which is why I think framing him as a hero is wrong. Because he isn’t one. People shouldn’t aspire to be like him for the reasons I’ve listed above. I wish he was a hero, but he isn’t.
With all that said, I welcome those who disagree with me. Challenge my viewpoints and claims. Why do you disagree? I love having respectful, mature discussions with those of different perspectives with me. If you agree, feel free to voice your thoughts along with me! When did you come to that realization? Why do you feel that way? Participate too! So long as everyone is respectful, kind, and mature, I think that this could be a very productive and important conversation!