Aside from being a damning indictment of the kind of arguments this author finds himself getting into, it makes an interesting position from which to play devil's advocate. And once you've seen it, you really can't stop thinking of Batman in those terms.

So. You have an obscenely privileged white man with functionally unlimited funds and a bad case of repressed homosexuality. Scion of a vastly influential family, known for their philanthropic efforts. His parents are killed, and he devotes his life to fighting crime. Does he pour millions into reforming Gotham's police? Invest in programs for redevelopment and social mobility to remove some of the biggest causes of crime? Does he pay to feed, shelter and clothe the homeless? Does he fuck. He straps on a (rather suspicious) suit designed and fabricated by his wholly-owned part of the military-industrial complex and goes forth to beat up some thugs robbing a petrol station to pay for food for their families.

Does he fix the problem? Of course he doesn't. Because Batman is more interested in indulging his hero fetish and seeking vengeance than really helping people. He sets up on his own, protected by a wall of power and wealth he did nothing to earn, completely unaccountable to the people he's decided to 'protect' on no-one's invitation. He has nothing but contempt for socialised law enforcement; the only reason the Gotham police department continues to exist is because Batman always gets bored of the petty crime sooner or later, and if he ever went Galt completely, the city would be screwed.

Of course, he never does. Batman only ever goes in the opposite direction. He deludes himself that he's the Sheriff of Gotham City, and in so doing draws all manner of supervillains onto the streets, because, hey, everyone wants a shot at the fastest gun in the West. In so doing, Batman's hubris and ego leads to hundreds, if not thousands of deaths, not to mention untold millions in property damage.

By day, of course, he lives the life of a bored playboy. You might characterise that as a cover. Personally, it strikes me that it's Batman's fundamental nature. For him, crime-fighting is part vengeance/class warfare and part hobby. He can't be satisfied with his own riches, so he has to find ways of indulging his own personal messiah complex by reshaping the world around him to comply with his will.

But he has a code, you might say. Yes, he does. But he stretches it often enough, and uses it as much as a cover for brutality as anything else. Batman never kills, apart from when he indirectly causes dozens of deaths at a time. But Batman tortures. He can beat information out of the Joker while a score of police officers watch, because dammit, he gets results! Except he doesn't, of course. Surely it's a pretty poor code to say you can do whatever you want so long as you don't murder anyone. And how is it supposed to be enforceable? If Batman's 'principles' ever slip, there's no check or balance on him. There's no right of appeal against the Batman, and with his power a self-appointed vigilante can run roughshod over the Constitution, because somehow it's the only thing people think is effective.

Except that Batman quickly ceases to be effective to the ordinary criminal. As Rich Puchalsky notes in the comments section of the (much-recommended) blog Acephalous here, ' There really isn't any way to have Batman around for years and not have everyone figure out that he's basically a guy in a cape. (...) Instead, you start to see a sort of criminal stoicism, in which the risk of running into Batman is sort of like the risk of getting hit in a car accident; distressing to think about and impossible to fully avoid, but you don't stop driving...'.

Even the universe in which Batman exists is predicated on conservative fantasy, as skewered by Rorschach's worldview in Watchmen; without Batman, Gotham is dominated by a criminal underclass. When a well-intentioned, upper-class liberal figure like Bruce Wayne's father tries to help, all he gets for his trouble is shot dead. The city's public servants are either too corrupt or too afraid to do anything, or failing that simply outclassed. The city cries out for a square-jawed American hero to punch the working classes back into their place.

Not to mention Bruce Wayne's day job. You don't get to own a company that has things like the Batman Begins type of Batmobile handy by being ethical. At best, he's a pre-Iron Man Tony Stark, manfacturing who knows what kind of weapons (and merrily diverting the extras into his own private-enterprise vigilantism). At worst, Wayne Enterprises are probably machine-gunning South American workers trying to unionise. And Batman's either too busy running around in spandex to care, or actively aware of this.

Batman must be stopped.


Full disclosure: I like Batman. No, I don't think this is a serious argument. Yes, I recognise that I'm talking about a fictional character. Yes, I should probably get out more. Yes, anyone would seem like a frothing conservative if they'd been written by Frank Miller. Please don't send me angry letters.

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