ABED wrote:Wait, what!? When was Bruce abused as a child?
Everything, and I mean everything
about the "Robin" concept, when applied fully to the real world, would by almost ANYONE'S sane definition constitute as child abuse of if not the highest
possible order then damn
close to it.
Again, don't misunderstand me: I like Batman as a general fictional character (certainly in a great many of his comics and a few other pieces of media) just fine for exactly what he is (a gothic/urban fantasy figure) but if you really, and I mean TRULY applied full throttle real world logic to the character, Bruce Wayne is an utter monster of a human being. He's not within the context/confines of his own stories, because his stories are set in a high concept fantasy world (that only resembles
our own) of monolithic "dark-deco" gargoyle statues and government facilities that resemble medieval dungeons more than anything else, all ramped up like 40s pulp noir on steroids.
But if you ripped Bruce Wayne out of the comic pages and thrust him into "our" really real world, he's a SUPER rich guy who suffered a considerable
traumatic experience as a kid and spent his entire life since then silently obsessing and obsessing and obsessing about it until he finally cracked and decided to "cope" with it in the most over elaborately psychopathic way imaginable: dressing up in a giant bat costume, using his vast fortune to buy himself a ton of high grade weaponry, teach himself ninjitsu, and use those skills and arsenal to stalk the streets and back alleys of the worst ghettos at night and beat the dogshit out of junkies and muggers (the same kinds who traumatized him as a child) going above and around the law (with the help of one renegade cop who would SURELY be thrown in jail for being an accomplice to this psycho), rather than oh I dunno... simply pouring his vast fortune into helping to cleanse law enforcement and politics of corruption like any sane, rational thinking person would, and being a genuine philanthropist and force for change at both a ground and high level.
Oh and along the way, roping in not one, not two, and no longer three, but now FOUR pre-pubescent little boys into immediate danger by accompanying him on these late-night excursions into dangerous, gun-filled, gangland areas.
Again, within the confines of these stories, this is all PERFECTLY sane and rational, because this is also a world that includes a poisonous plant lady, a guy stuck in a high tech freezing suit, a birdman in a tux, a woman who is a "cat burglar" in the most absurdly LITERAL sense of the phrase imaginable, a 500 year old man kept alive as a relatively youthful dude by ancient mystical chemicals buried hundreds of feet beneath the earth (and who leads a secret ninja army to boot), a criminal mastermind who dresses like a Lucha Libre and is addicted to super steroids that make him inhumanly strong, a guy dressed as an actual scarecrow and is armed with "fear gas", a guy who dresses in a suit made of goddamn question marks and leaves riddles everywhere, a guy who mesmerizes people with a top hat and thinks he's a fairy tale character from a Lewis Carroll book, an alligator man living in the sewers, a literal mutant Man-Bat, and of course a guy dressed as a fucking circus clown - and his gal Friday - who are both responsible for more unspeakably brutal homicides than anyone on the planet and yet who are STILL able to constantly walk around a free man & woman, rather than stuck in a maximum security cell until their dying breaths or they stick the needle in their arms.
CLEARLY this is a fucking comic book/super noir fantasy world, so you roll with all this ludicrousness just fine and dandy. It all works on its own fictionalized terms, in a very Robin Hood by way of 40s Pulp Noir (with a whole lotta potent hallucinogens thrown in) sort of way. But again, pretend for a moment (if you can) that Batman WAS NEVER so deeply ingrained into your psyche as a pop cultural icon since your earliest toddler years. You didn't grow up with this guy as your standard-bearer of masculine vitality and selfless heroism or whatever else have you as depicted in countless movies, cartoons, comics, etc.
Pretend that this is just
a REALLY rich dude in real life who used all his money to dress in a great big bat costume and who went around at night taking the law into his own hands by beating up hoods and crackheads in back alleys with his fists and an arsenal of tasers, throwing knives, and ropes. While on top of all that dragging a SMALL CHILD into the fray with him night after night.
Particularly slimy and grotesque being the MEANS in which he's roped in this kid to this nightly act of lunacy: adopting him, and while acting as a parental-like figure consoling him at what is easily the single most vulnerable point in his entire short existence (reeling from the violent death of his family: thinking specifically of either Dick Grayson or Jason Todd here), and using THAT as a means to "mold" this emotionally devastated little boy into becoming his criminal accomplice (because Batman in real life WOULD BE a fucking criminal, and a particularly insane/unstable one at that: The End, no room for discussion), thus putting him in direct harm's way on a regular basis.
If your first immediate visceral response somehow ISN'T "this guy belongs in a padded cell on a ton of meds for the rest of his goddamned life for endangering and ruining god only knows how many people's lives", you probably belong in the next cell over right beside him. Lets not even go into the race/class angles of this, because then our "hero" Bruce REALLY doesn't look so good anymore.
Again, NONE OF this shit stands up to the slightest ounce
of scrutiny in real life. And that's not at all a BAD thing in and of itself and is more than perfectly okay for ANY piece of fiction. But just don't for a second see it as anything other than what it is: pure pulp fantasy on steroids. Batman has no more a basis in reality than does any other fantasy fictional creation from Harry Potter to Pikachu to Freddy Krueger.
ABED wrote:Regarding comics and real world issues, even fantasies can tackle real world issues even if they don't have an answer.
rereboy wrote:Er... Sorry, but I'm going to completely disagree.
Pretty much all Superheroes tackle real issues at one point or another, usually under the form of moral issues. Those clearly relate to our reality, even if the context for them is different, and are, therefore, meaningful.
Yes, of course, OBVIOUSLY superheroes tackle TONS of real world issues, and often do so in that time-honored fantasy method: high-concept metaphor. Marvel in particular: DC's history with "real life issues" dealt with in their work is... a lot more spotty overall in comparison (Vertigo notwithstanding).
Spider-Man deals with all KINDS of youth-oriented (and later on even very much adult) issues about growing up and the now standard "power/responsibility" dynamic. Hulk, at its best, has been an absolutely stellar
outlet for stories of dealing with personality disorders and childhood trauma/abuse. Daredevil has some of the best stories and character pieces dealing with Catholic guilt, among other things, that I've come across in the comics medium. The Punisher, at his best anyway, has at varying times been a fantastic means of discussing the grief and discomfort with fitting back into mainstream society that military vets face.
And as I mentioned briefly before, X-Men's core conceit (a subcultural activist movement, that just happens to have costumes and superpowers, who's primary goal ISN'T crime fighting and acting above the law, but rather helping a discriminated upon minority group deal with their personal problems AND fight for their equality against societal bigotry) is so steeply marinated to its fundamental core in real-world issues of VAST importance, that its one of those rarer than rare few superhero stories that, more often than not at least, DOES manage to successfully raise itself "above" the core-most problem with the genre that I'm about to hammer upon.
My point wasn't that the superhero genre DOESN'T EVER tackle real world issues, particularly in a meaningful way. Anyone who's read almost ANY superhero comic of note the last 30+ years knows that they clearly do. My point was more to, again, the core-most central concept
of the superhero, the seed/germ of an idea through which ALL ELSE springs forth.
"Guy/Gal puts on a costume/transforms into another guise, adopts an alter-ego, and goes above and beyond the law to help others and beat up 'bad guys', circumventing law & order solely because they're 'special' in some way".
However well and however meaningfully relevant to real-world issues this conceit has been done (and it clearly HAS been done spectacularly
well and VERY much meaningfully to real life issues many, many, times over) only a particular select group of examples have truly
and successfully tackled the elephant-in-the-room basic-most problem with the genre: that its core conceit that it all stems from is fundamentally broken
from a "real life" sense of morality.
Unless you're either a true, genuine, died in the wool anarchist who believes in NO sort of societal system of any kind whatsoever, or a harder than hardline authoritarian fascist (a political extremist basically on either end of the spectrum: in which case ONLY THEN would you have a leg of consistency to stand on to argue in favor of the superhero genre's core sense of "morality" being in any possible way applicable to real life), then its impossible
to get away from the fact that the fundamental concept of the superhero (adopts alter ego, elevates themselves as above the law due to "being better and more special than the common folk") is steeped in an authoritarian-like mentality of "I'm above and beyond the law because I'm more moral than thou and I have physical power over you and everyone else".
I'm hardly saying anything the LEAST bit new or revelatory here: this has been the subject of god only knows how many COUNTLESS scholarly essays, books, and studies and so forth over the last 30, 40, 50-ish years. This is so over-treaded an intellectual territory here its basically become an exhausted cliche in and of itself. Much of the whole genre, post-Watchmen, spent the better part of a decade or two wrestling with that very issue, to one degree or another.
I probably shouldn't have said that Watchmen is the ONLY work that tackles this central issue: its certainly among the very, very BEST, arguably THE best period, to do it, but yeah its definitely not at all alone and there's plenty of others that have done so as well: Brat Pack, which I think I offhandedly mentioned earlier, being another great example. Daredevil has also taken many a fine stab at it as well from time to time, if only by the very nature of Matt Murdock's ingenious duality of being a "lawyer by day, vigilante by night".
The superhero concept has indeed proven an excellent and durable outlet of metaphor for a number of excellently told stories that tackle all kinds of relevant real world issues: but after the 80s and 90s, we've increasingly moved away from examining too closely the damaged sense of immorality and ugliness lurking at the heart of the basic-most idea, with the 2000s in general being seen as a "reconstruction" of the classic ideal of the superhero (while still trying to balance making them function as commentaries on real life issues).
All that basically means is that people have since began to more and more argue in favor of "Don't think TOO hard about it, just enjoy the bright costumes and flashy laser blasts, and wallow unashamedly in the Power Fantasy aspect of it, without being overly cognizant of the uncomfortable moral ickiness that's kinda unavoidably at the center behind it all".
Martial arts fiction as a whole DOES have its share of core themes as well, themes which it does also act as metaphor/commentary on. The issue being that the core root of the genre, wuxia in particular, is so heavily
steeped in ancient, antiquated medieval ideals (Asian medieval at that) that there's MUCH more of a disconnect to the modern day: a similar issue that plagues Western medieval fantasy (I tend to equate them often for a reason).
They're fascinating to examine and think about all the same, provided you're interested in such things: but there's definitely much less of an "immediacy" to connect with, unless you're into martial arts/other forms of sports & physical competitiveness yourself at least (and tons of later, more "modern" examples of martial arts fiction/wuxia do indeed try to make more modernized parallels, to varying degrees).
Dragon Ball is further compounded by the fact that it was made by the same guy who largely made lightweight fluff like Dr. Slump and Cowa! Not only is it mythical martial arts fantasy, but its from a dude who's pretty wonky & silly himself at heart. But the genre's fundamental themes (of competitiveness, antiquated "honor" etc.) ARE still baked in there, to a surprisingly fair degree, if only by unavoidable happenstance.