Batman and Our Psyche | Teen Ink

Batman and Our Psyche MAG

February 23, 2009
By Lucas Ropek BRONZE, Parkdale, Oregon
Lucas Ropek BRONZE, Parkdale, Oregon
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I’m not going to lie. I saw “The Dark Knight” five times over the course of four weeks, and still I was not entirely satisfied with my ­intake of Bat-o-rama. Something about the most recent incarnation of the series made my skin tingle as if I was witnessing something great – a long-awaited event, a momentous culmination. The film made $158 million its opening weekend, selling out in venues across the country and breaking many records, so I’m guessing one or two people agreed with me.

Batman’s long-running status as an American superhero has had its ups and downs, but at select moments (like this one) the true magnificence of this character shines. “The Dark Knight” was the culmination of years of Bat-lore; a long-traveling genre finally coming together in a perfect combination of gritty realism, good writing, and a flair for the substantial and ­stylish. Audiences loved it.

The initial concept of the Caped Crusader remains intact today. He still carries the burden of warding off the ghouls of the night, still embodies the modern-day Robin Hood, and continues to be a vigilante. His message remains solid: maintaining ethics in a chaotic world, standards in a lawless city. His ­image and his humanity, however, have drastically changed over time.

When Batman first came to life in the 1940s, his simplistic style and lack of character depth was due in part to the cartoon. Adam West’s Batman was a direct translation from the newspaper funnies, and this showed in the costumes and screenwriting. Simplistic, easy-to-follow, lacking developed characters – the films were essentially the cartoons ­rehashed, and thus worked on the same childlike level.

His conception as a new kind of ­superhero was attributed to his antihero format: a vigilante who sometimes crossed the law to deliver justice. This reflected the public’s need for an iconic character, a sort of Robin Hood for the 1940s. It was a daring personality for the day, and introduced a new complexity to the superhero genre. Still, this format was very dry, and the character itself just a template from which many later versions would be built.

In his reintroduction to TV in the 1990s, Batman’s character and image developed. As audiences became more attached to the idea of fleshing out Batman’s personal history, the realism of the series grew. The idea of blurring the line between fantasy and reality was introduced by the films of the ’90s when people suddenly wanted to see their favorite superheroes portrayed as real, emotionally complex ­humans, not just corny caricatures. In “Batman” of 1989, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, for the first time a Batman film offered distinguished, nontraditional characters and a cast of top actors. Despite some lagging screenwriting, the film was heralded as a critical success; audiences loved the idea of a superhero film that embraced the humanity of its protagonist.

The superhero films released after 2001 achingly wished to portray ­superheroes as real. The events of 9/11, and the frightened American ­culture that followed, increasingly ­reflected our desire to indulge in ­fantasy and nostalgia, making the ­classical Marvel superheroes a perfect cache for the executives at Universal and Warner Brothers. What has ­become most popular is the idea of ­superhero realism; characters and ­situations mimic life to a degree ­unheard of in past generations.

“The Dark Knight” is a perfect ­example. Heath Ledger’s Joker is sneering, unfathomable, chaotic, and all around undefeatable. The Joker is the apotheosis of contemporary American fears: a madman who cannot be caught, defined, or killed, he stands as isolated and impenetrable as a disguised terrorist in the New York populace.

Likewise, Batman has become increasingly human. He has abandoned the stage makeup and cheesy leotards and adorned himself in battle-gear and bulletproof vests. His code of ethics has grown only more stringent and bold, a necessary defense in a world that becomes more chaotic by the day. He reflects the degree to which the American public fear for their lives; he is that great protector who is necessary in times of peril.

His necessity, then, defines the ­degree to which we, as an audience, humanize him. He is a reflection of our own desire to be safe. Seeking ­patterns in the forms Batman takes, the public need look no further than their own fear.

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This article has 14 comments.

EnderWiggin said...
on Nov. 3 2011 at 3:10 pm
EnderWiggin, Pittsfield, Maine
0 articles 0 photos 21 comments
But the new iteration of Batman inspired people to make more superhero movies that followed this realism.

human6 GOLD said...
on Sep. 19 2011 at 8:47 pm
human6 GOLD, Fasd, New Jersey
12 articles 0 photos 132 comments

Favorite Quote:
If you cannot convince a fascist aquaint his head with the pavement-trotsky
The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.“ durry

joker explains conspiracy theories 


"no one ever freaks out as long as every thing gos according to plan, even if the plan is terrible."

on Jul. 13 2011 at 7:29 pm
JeremyHerbert PLATINUM, Fairview Park, Ohio
21 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Impressive work, and there's no doubt that Batman is all about humanity and the contrast therein, but I think The Dark Knight handled it too clumsily.

Every line was written expressly for some sort of character analysis, and it got exhausting.  What I think the Tim Burton films did better than the Nolan entries is leave the thinking to the audience rather than thinking for them.  Characters shouldn't be analyzing themselves, that's the job of the audience, to dig into the narrative for themselves.


Irene GOLD said...
on Apr. 14 2011 at 1:44 am
Irene GOLD, Dublin, California
10 articles 3 photos 9 comments
Because Teenink gives you a random bunch of pictures to choose from. I think it's just of pictures that have been posted on this site. You don't get to put your own picture on an article unless it happens to come up in the selection.

Aderes47 GOLD said...
on Mar. 23 2011 at 2:57 pm
Aderes47 GOLD, Cambridge, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 897 comments

Favorite Quote:
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
Henry Drummond

Why, as your picture, you have someone with a superman shirt?

Aderes47 GOLD said...
on Mar. 23 2011 at 2:56 pm
Aderes47 GOLD, Cambridge, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 897 comments

Favorite Quote:
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
Henry Drummond

I love the Dark knight too!

Blahblah said...
on Oct. 15 2010 at 2:22 pm
Batman is a DC comic, not Marvel.

on Jul. 2 2010 at 1:36 pm
toxic.monkey SILVER, Tashkent, Other
6 articles 0 photos 210 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Homo homini lupus"

this is a fantastic in depth analysis and background of the movie! i've written a review of the film for my school newspaper but i think yours is way superior to mine :) good job!! one thing i want to say is that you don't seem very conclusive in the end. if you just add a few more sentences, it'll be a full blown masterpiece. keep writing!!!

resilva said...
on Aug. 10 2009 at 9:22 pm
Your critique on the movie was great and inspired me to go on about it a little myself. I like how you discussed the history of Batman in cinema as well.

I saw The Dark Knight five times and I loved it, but what was it that made it so commercially successful while simultaneously being critically acclaimed? Was it the spectacular special effects that really made you feel like you were about to plummet into the mechanized depths of Hong-Kong? Was it the cinematography that had you holding your breath as the two-ton truck hung motionless in midair as it was being flipped over? Was it the veteran cast and their snappy but often thought-provoking dialogue? Was it...was it...was it...the list goes on and on.

I think what really did it was possibly the most intriguing villain in cinema since Hannibal Lecter: The Joker. Heath Ledger, whose acting ability I will never underestimate again, achieved what other actors only dream of in his portrayal of the character that will never again seem comical and cartoonish. Clearly Ledger and the screen-writers were familiar with the ideas of Sigmund Freud, because watching it I wondered what it would be like if the great psychologist were sitting next to me in the theater. He'd point to the screen when the Joker appeared and explain to me in rapid, excited German that his lip-licking indicated an oral fixation which in turn showed a sinister relationship with his mother. His references to an abusive childhood and self-mutilation would also be highly relevant, along with his suicidal tendencies. ("Come on, I want you do it, I want you to do it, come on, hit me! Hit me!") This movie has the frightening power to make a DC comic fan out of anyone.

Kazim Zaidi said...
on Jul. 31 2009 at 1:55 am
Kazim Zaidi, Freehold, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
A very lucidly and well written piece. The theme behind it is related through beautiful, accurate, and analytical language. I would love for you to share some information on your writing process with me.

on Jun. 23 2009 at 5:36 pm
MusicIsMagic BRONZE, Bilthoven, Other
4 articles 1 photo 5 comments
I don't really love batman but my brother has copies of the old comics, and I have to agree they really have changed him, if you compare the comics to the dark knight.

author1 said...
on May. 11 2009 at 7:45 am
I don't believe I ever state what comic book affiliation he's from. Though I do believe you're correct; any true fan would recognize that Batman is a DC comic, not Marvel. I am happy to say I know the difference, and recognize them as two wholly different creative entities.

Chrissy_L GOLD said...
on Apr. 30 2009 at 7:56 pm
Chrissy_L GOLD, Ramsey, New Jersey
13 articles 0 photos 66 comments

Favorite Quote:
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

I agree. The public doesn't always want the good guy who is necessarily "good." We all have that admiration for the bad and evil (granted it is in a book or movie) I believe that is why books such as Twilight are such a big success. We love the misunderstood, almost evil hero. A rogue so to speak.

on Apr. 28 2009 at 11:53 pm
raven77 PLATINUM, Clovis, California
33 articles 25 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Science fails to recognize the single most potent element of human existance, letting te reighns go to the unfolding is faith. - System of a down from the song "Science"

This is great, I love your take on bat man,and i LOVE batman awesome, except for you made a huge mistake that any true fan would catch, Batman is a DC comic not marvel sorry, but you have to keep your comic book companies straight if you want to make a point.