Four reasons Batman is actually a terrible hero.
First of all, I like Batman. Before any of you out there try to reach through your computers to beat me, I like Batman. I like his movies, I love the Arkham video games. I even like the current crop of comic books. He’s a big scary guy who beats up criminals and plays with sweet toys all day. What’s not to like?
He runs a massive global business and makes billions. He has a best friend and target…uh, sidekick. And he hangs out and swings across skyscrapers with masked women all night.
And did you know he has a butler? A BUTLER!?! Who has that? None of you, that’s for sure. Only the richest, and therefore best, people have butlers.
Everyone adores and admires Batman. Children play in the streets and reenact his adventures, men want to be him, and women want to…well, they want to be Batwoman, because sex change operations are expensive, and, quite frankly, that conversation would be awkward with grandma. So Batwoman. Or maybe Batgirl.
I know, I haven’t really made a great argument for why Batman sucks. I’m getting there, trust me. I just wanted to set up how awesome Batman can seem and why I totally empathize with you, even though you are totally, stupidly, wrong.
1. Batman Fixes Nothing
Quick, Batman fan – when was the last time the Dark Knight saved the day? And don’t say when he shot that bullet at Darkseid in Final Crisis, because a) he didn’t technically kill Darkseid and b) Final Crisis was stupid. Seriously, if I had to spend time refuting all the crazy that comes out of Grant Morrison’s peyote pipe, I’d probably somehow talk myself out of existence.
Anyway, when did Batman last save the day? Thursday? That was when the Joker blew up that convent and then terrorized that kid’s birthday party, right? How did that end? Oh yeah – Batman punched him a lot and then drove him to Arkham Asylum. That’s some old-school justice right…wait. What’s that, old-timey radio announcer? The Joker just escaped Arkham? And he’s riding a donkey to the orphanage? Oh no!
You see, Batman doesn’t ever fix any problems. He fights some lunatic, beats them to a pulp, and delivers them to a prison system that is woefully unprepared to deal with the likes of women who can grow trees, crocodile people, and whatever this guy is supposed to be.
And then the bad guys escape to rob, murder, and pillage Gotham all over again. So Batman stops them and takes them back to prison. Over and over again. For over 70 years. He’s placed himself onto a cycle of never-ending violence that puts the people of Gotham, and the world, at constant risk. What happens when Batman has to retire? Who will continue the Dark Knight’s tireless, pointless, crusade?
Say what you will about morals and ethics, but at least The Punisher has an end goal in sight.
2. He has the ability to stop crime, but doesn’t.
Gotham sure seems like a crappy place to live. High crime rates, high poverty, a revolving-door prison system, and a tragically understaffed police department don’t really create an image of a safe or smart place to raise a family. And I live in Cleveland, so that statement says a lot. Zing!
But seriously: Bruce Wayne is one of the richest men in the (fictional) world. He has corporations on every continent. He has defense contracts. He could use dollar bills as toilet paper, clog up his solid gold toilet, and then hire a third world country’s worth of plumbers to fix it. Or not. I don’t know what rich people do.
The point is, Bruce Wayne is ridiculously wealthy, and how does he spend his money? He buys himself a Morgan Freeman to build all kinds of bat-themed weapons and vehicles so he can wage a one-man war on pursesnatchers and burglars. He jets around the world, learning martial arts, criminology, and scary voicing from the world’s masters, all the while giving a big middle finger to the stockholders footing the bill. But really, who can blame him? He’s training to fight criminals. Surely this is the most effective means to do so?
Uh, no. No it isn’t. Remember that understaffed police force we talked about earlier? How about throwing some money their way? A few million would buy the police force body armor, new vehicles, renovations for the various stations, and the funding to hire more than enough well-trained officers to keep the city safe. Bruce Wayne could even volunteer his services, like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, to help crack some of the GCPD’s more difficult cases. Everybody wins!
What about the prisons? Some of that Wayne money would go a long way towards building better, stronger prisons equipped to hold some of the world’s most dangerous criminals. Or maybe he could throw a couple of bucks at Arkham Asylum so they can fill in all the escape tunnels in the building. That would surely help things, right?
Or Bruce Wayne could continue to dress up as a bat and scare criminals into prison, where they get therapy for their bat-related nightmares so they can get back to the streets and get back to murdering. Yeah, that seems better.
3. He’s actually the LEAST realistic superhero.
“Come now, Nate,” I hear you scoff. “The LEAST realistic superhero? Surely you jest. How can he possibly be less realistic than one such as Plastic Man?” Well, tone down the haughtiness and I might just tell you.
You see, a lot of heroes are given powers through industrial accidents, alien intervention, or mutant ability. Outlandish circumstances, to be sure, but in my opinion, slightly more believable than a man who spends less than ten years of his life mastering, in no particular order: Criminology, psychology, forensics, biology, geology, geography, linguistics and languages (including Mandarin and Cyrrilic, often considered to be two of the hardest major languages to master), acrobatics, escape artistry, martial arts (too many to list here), stunt driving, piloting, electrical engineering, chemistry, computer programming and engineering, and getting a master’s in badassery.
Tell me – how much did you learn in four years of college? Would you consider yourself to be an unparallelled master in your field? Well Batman is considered to be a world authority on all of the things listed above. You went to medical school? Way to disappoint your parents, slacker.
Me, I’ll just wait until I get a magic ring from a dying alien. That would be easier and just about as believable.
4. He’s really REALLY hard to be friends with.
All right, so you’ve gotten past all the other problems you have with Batman. You sent him a friend request and he accepted. You drop him a line and say you should hang out sometime. “Lol k! Sounds grate!” he responds, because for the purposes of this exercise Batman is a 13 year old girl. And stupid, apparently.
So you’re hanging out in the Batcave. You and Batman are braiding each other’s hair. Suddenly Two-Face bursts through the door, firing his two pistols and filling you with twice as many bullet holes as you’d like to have in your torso. Congratulations, you’re officially Batman’s buddy.
“But Nate,” you probably aren’t saying right now, “Being Batman’s friend can’t be that bad, can it? Surely there must be some perks that go along with it.” You’re absolutely right. Sometimes you don’t get killed. Sometimes you just get crippled. Still don’t think it’s that bad? Ask Commissioner Gordon. Or Batgirl. Or Jason Todd, the second Robin. Or Commissioner Gordon’s wife, Sarah.
Your best chance for survival with Batman is actually to be one of his many costumed enemies. And if you’re thinking “No, me and Batman are bffs and that could never happen to me,” consider how he treats Superman, one of the few people he genuinely respects.
I’m not saying Batman is the worst hero ever. I’m just thinking the entire world might be better off if he tried a little less superheroing and a little more “not being a dangerous asshole”ing.
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