This book went right on to my wish list, not because I’m a huge Batman fan, but because I want to read Cory Doctorow’s essay.
“Occupy Gotham, [is] about the terror of letting a billionaire vigilante decide who is and isn’t a criminal …”
My first memories of Batman are of the campy 1960s television series. Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, Otto Preminger as Mr. Freeze, Cesar Romero as The Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, etc. I remember them fondly.
I didn’t know about comic books then, and I was not yet 10 so just went along for the fun of it. I’ve seen several, not all, of the movies and am currently watching Gotham in my copious amounts of spare time.
I even had this by James Hance in my cubicle for a while. Starry Night is one of my favorite pieces of art, and I thought the idea of a mashup was cool.
That’s where my critical thinking started and stopped. Until a co-worker mentioned he didn’t like Batman because he was a vigilante.
“Huh,” I thought. It stuck with me.
And now that I’m watching Gotham, fascinated by the origin stories and watching the evolution of young master Bruce Wayne, I think about it a lot. Who is Bruce Wayne to be making these decisions? Do we make allowances because Gotham City is so crime-ridden even most of the police are criminals themselves? Do we make allowances because Bruce is obviously working out his parent issues and using his money to do some good for the city?
Yes, it’s fictional and yes, it’s an interesting story. But isn’t this one of the times critical thinking can be used to question the appropriateness of vigilantism in society?
We all want to be rescued from the horrors of our lives, and we want to know that we’re safe because people are generally well-behaved and law enforcement does its job. Batman as guardian is a nice fantasy.
But let’s face it, he’s only Batman because he’s wealthy. He can afford the toys and the time for training and wandering the streets chasing down whoever he deems is a criminal. (As a side note, are his feelings for Selina “Cat” Kyle going to get in the way of treating her as a criminal?) The class system allows Bruce to behave in this manner.
People in a lower socioeconomic class, like Jim Gordon, don’t have the luxury of money. Gordon is a paid civil servant, he can’t compete in Wayne’s class system. The city government is so overwhelmed there’s no money to be used for salaries, equipment, etc.
Gotham City is society’s law-enforcement issues extrapolated to the nth degree. Plus villains one can usually only find in comic books. With bad guys like Penguin and the Falcone family, Gotham’s problems are unique and require unique solutions.
I’m just not sure vigilante is the way to go. And I have no other answers. Maybe Doctorow’s piece will help me figure some of this out.