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Lighting the bat signal for capitalism
For those readers who don’t care about Batman, I implore you to give the iconic American hero a chance, because understanding that the story evolution of one of the most profitable movie characters of all time also mirrors our cultural attitude toward wealth and success.
Superheroes on television and in movies are important, they teach children simple cultural norms and can serve as a hopeful escapism for people wanting to live in a more just society. Every superhero is a misfit who discovers their differences are actually strengths.
Even as we grow older, we still seek out heroes in entertainment. The Marvel and DC franchise movies are majorly profitable, the Law and Order series plays into our want for justice and understanding, as does the enduring popularity of detective shows and, to an extent, true crime documentaries explore how justice is served.
Batman is a troubled guy, and every director and author adapts the Dark Knight’s tragic rich boy, orphan story in a new way. The latest Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, was truly iconic. The eyeblack Pattinson wore was appropriately emo and writers even managed to somehow involve three classic villains without overwhelming the audience. The movie was two hours and 56 minutes and at the end I only wished it was longer.
Batman as a character has to be wildly wealthy to finance his gadgets, because he is a human existing in a world of extraterrestrial heroes and villains. Batarangs don’t come cheap. Other heroes' storylines like Superman and the Flash don’t have to grapple with their relation to wealth because their position in the tax-bracket doesn’t impact their heroic abilities. But in every Batman plot, viewers struggle alongside their hero with how he should relate to his wealth and the moral decay he sees in the upper class.
In previous storylines, the capitalist success of Wayne Industries was necessary to maintain a good society with stable jobs and industry, and the Batman was necessary to combat the evil of the crime underworld. Bruce Wayne understood that people want safety as well as the ability to thrive and produce through work so he fought to secure both.
The sharp character deviation in the latest two Batman movie franchises has not only harmed the integrity of Bruce Wayne, but also shows how anti-capitalist sentiments are warping the heroic, superhero fairy tales we use to communicate important, American values.
Pattinson is a very effective brooder. He sulks about, barely kisses Catwoman once and has to be taken care of by his butler turned babysitter, Alfred. The 2022 Bruce Wayne hates his life, he doesn’t participate in his company, Wayne Industries, whatsoever and is completely apathetic to the business that finances his lifestyle.
In the 2005 film Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, returns from his ninja training to lead his family’s company in order to gain access to its high tech crime fighting tools. This Bruce Wayne engages in intense capitalism to finance his activities as the Caped Crusader, understanding that participating in Wayne Industries is necessary.
Seeing the corrupting power of money, which The Joker points out in The Dark Knight (2008), Bruce decided to direct his resources into clean energy which ends up bankrupting investors. This is characterized as a noble pursuit, conveying that Batman’s existence as a sinful billionaire was forgiven through his moral, but doomed, investments.
Today, wealthy people and companies are doing everything in their power to communicate they are “the good guys.” Flying gay and trans pride flags in every store front, giving lip service to the importance of hiring women and non-white employees and donating millions to Black Lives Matter. “Capitalism” has basically become a dirty word that companies attempt to cloak with progressive marketing.
We’ve lost sight of the community good that capitalist, free market success produces. Bruce Wayne, CEO of Wayne Industries, once understood that good jobs and stockholder success allow people to live respectable lives, and that’s nothing that any company or businessman should apologize for or be ashamed of.
Patricia Patnode is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com
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