Introduction to Batman:
For our purposes in this introduction, we will be discussing Batman in reference to the two latest movies to hit the box office: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Our psychoanalysis, however, will be primarily focusing on the second movie.
Batman, otherwise known as Bruce Wayne, is a man seeking justice for the wrongs that have been done to him during his life. In this first movie, the audience sees young Bruce witness the murder of his parents. Although left with a sizable fortune, Bruce strives to fill the void left behind from the missing role models in his life. According to Freud, Wayne has experienced a form of traumatic anxiety. His ego was overwhelmed by the death of his parents, leaving him feeling helpless and alone. It is this helplessness that can be attributed to Wayne's creation of his alter ego Batman. Batman, unlike Wayne, has no fears. Batman's only creator is Bruce Wayne, thus he does not have to fear being separated from his creator like Wayne was (for if one dies, so does the other). Wayne also shows signs of "death guilt" which would be defined as guilt that results from living through a traumatic event. People with this issue wonder why others died and they survived (Brody 3). This guilt is a major factor in determining Wayne's character. We can even see remnants of this in The Dark Knight. He feels terrible when people died impersonating him at the hands of the Joker even though Alfred, his butler and confidant, tells him that he must "endure" these deaths. Luckily, Dent lied and turned himself in as "the Batman" before Wayne could step forward. How bad would Wayne have felt if he had given in to the Joker's evil plan and then witnessed more deaths when the Joker didn't follow through on his promise to quite killing?
Bruce embraces some of the very things that frightened him. When the audience sees Bruce Wayne’s childhood flashback of him falling into a bat cave (in Batman Begins), it is apparent that he is frightened by bats. Instead of him becoming a chiroptophobe (a person who is afraid of bats), he decided that he wants to use the very symbol that frightens him in order to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals on the streets of Gotham. Conquering this fear is similar and directly related to his "conquering" of the fear of being an orphan. In order for Wayne to overcome being an orphan, he lashes out against what made him this way: criminals. In contrast, in order for Wayne to conquer the bat, he has to become one. It is this mastery over the very things that frighten him that makes Wayne an interesting case.
Analysis of The Dark Knight:
To begin our analysis of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight, we want to prepare our audience with the knowledge that we will try to move in a linear fashion through the movie as much as possible, however, sometimes this is impossible based on the themes. In the beginning of the movie, the question is raised whether or not Batman needs psychological help and he states “I don’t need help,” however, the psychiatrist from Batman Begins, Dr. Jonathan Crane (the Scarecrow), said, “Not my diagnosis.” It is this very statement that piqued our interest. What if we were to psychoanalyze and deconstruct Batman? What would we find rules "the bat"?
One of the main psychological issues that we found with Batman is exactly where does Batman stop and Bruce Wayne begin? Bruce Wayne says to Alfred after displaying his injured arm that “Batman has no limits” to which Alfred replies “But you do sir.” Bruce has become so enveloped in his own quest for “justice” that he seems to have lost who Bruce Wayne is. On the surface Bruce Wayne seems to be a playboy that invites Russian ballerinas to go cruising on his yacht, but is that really him? Our answer is no. Bruce Wayne loves Rachel Dawes, however, he realizes that Batman would get in the way of him being a good companion. The simple answer to Wayne's problem is that he needs to choose between being Bruce Wayne and Batman. Easy right? No. This leads us into our next psychological issue.
Bruce Wayne is unable to force himself to retire and live a normal life. Bruce Wayne wants to be with Rachel, yet he has developed the character of Batman more than of his own identity as Bruce Wayne. The difference between Batman and Bruce Wayne is that Bruce Wayne is a mere mortal with flaws and insecurities. Batman, although exhibiting no superpowers, is more than a person, he is a symbol. He symbolizes justice (which we will go into later). Thus, Wayne has constructed a superhero not only to save the people from criminals, but to save him from himself. The less time Wayne spends as Bruce Wayne, the more he gets to be this figure of justice, this self-created god. It is quite apparent by his actions that Bruce Wayne has a Christ Complex. He is everyone's savior. In the very end of the movie this comes up when Batman takes the punishment for the crimes that Harvey Dent committed in order to uphold the peace and allow Dent to continue to stand for true justice. Batman takes the punishment for the sins of Dent in order to allow the people to continue to look up to Dent instead of having their faith wrecked. It is this instance that proves that Batman is not a self-serving hero like some others may be. Batman stands for what is right, even if by doing so he must be wrong.
In the beginning of The Dark Knight, one of the Batman wannabees asks Batman what gives him the right to take justice into his own hands. But what is “justice?” According to Dictonary.com justice is defined as “rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.” Based on the definition, justice means to follow the laws laid forth by the state and federal levels, however, what happens when laws conflict? Let’s take the Joker, for example, and compare him to Batman. The Joker kills people just for the sport of it, almost as a hunter shots a deer. By killing these people, the Joker is depriving them of life which is a right given to you by the Constitution (the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) and upheld by laws against homicide. When the Joker is put into jail he escapes which allows him to kill more people. Since the Joker continually breaks laws by killing more and more people, is it “just” to kill him? Batman seems to think not because, according to him, if he killed the Joker, he would be just as bad as him. To kill the Joker, however, means to entitle the people around him to life for they no longer have to live in fear that they will be his next victims. Is it just to kill the Joker then? Does Batman oppose the very justice he is supposed to represent by allowing him to live? Furthermore, how are people supposed to conduct themselves if the laws that they live by subvert each other?
Now back to Batman. In some cases, Batman is the law. When Richard Dent and Patrick Harvey are killed by the Joker, then the law is suspended for Batman because he is allowed to take away evidence from the scene of the crime. This is partially because it is known that there are traitors within Gordon's police unit and so Batman is the only one he can trust. When it all comes down to it, the law is ideal and people are not so how can the law be enforced when people themselves are not perfect and not completely law bidding?
In summation, Batman and Bruce Wayne appear to be one in the same. Bruce Wayne is merely a front, not an actual person. Batman is who he really is and chooses to be in order to escape his own past. We determined this because Bruce Wayne is not the playboy that he pretends to be nor is he even into his company, Wayne Enterprises, (he falls asleep during board meetings). Batman, however, is the control that Bruce Wayne strives for in his life. Batman, for him, represents stability. Batman is indestructible/has a Christ complex. Because Batman is Bruce’s best friend, only friend, and identity it is impossible for him to retire to live a normal life. Batman is also "justice" because he is not ideal. Where the law fails, he picks up the slack. When the people need him to be the bad guy, he becomes the bad guy. He is always there, always incorruptible. Batman is the "watchful protector" that Gotham needs. Watch the end on Youtube.
Batman Begins. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005.
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The Dark Knight. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2008.
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