I saw Interstellar a few weeks ago. I walked out of the theater stunned into silence. I said one word to my friends as we walked out to our cars. I lay awake in bed for hours. It was a visceral experience. It was the best use of the medium I’ve seen since last year’s Gravity. It certainly wasn’t the perfect movie but it did raise some interesting questions and explored some deep themes. Most of all, it was a call back to a different kind of film—an ode to science-fiction.
A few months ago, I wrote a post examining the mythology of Batman and his relationship to the villains he faces. Through the duality of Batman and his villains, we are able to clearly see the noble, heroic virtues of Batman twisted and taken to the extreme. I examined all of the villains portrayed in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in that post. This last month, writer Scott Snyder wrapped up his Batman/Joker story, “Death of the Family,” in the pages of the current Batman comic book (issues #13-17). This story was one of the best examinations of the relationship between the Joker and Batman ever and evolved their rivalry into unknown and exciting territory. With this redefinition, I’d like to focus directly on the Joker/Batman relationship and examine identity through the lens of that relationship. Obviously, if you haven’t read “Death of the Family,” spoiler alert.
This argument has raged on for years, “why is Batman the best hero?” The common answer to this question is because Batman doesn’t rely on any super powers what-so-ever. He uses his strength and intelligence, as well as his limitless bank accounts, to overcome the corruption in Gotham. I think these traits are incredibly valuable to the strength of Batman’s character. But, I think we have a hard time relating to Batman because most of us are not billionaire playboys who are also great detectives and trained in the martial arts.
I think we can relate to Batman because of the way his heroic character is highlighted by the villains he faces. The most famous rogues that Batman faces feature aspects of Batman’s character or themes that he represents that are twisted and taken to the extreme. We see what Batman could have become if he wasn’t so noble and heroic. I think, to some extent, we all wonder who we would be if a single aspect of our character was changed or different. Batman and the relationships he has with his rogues gallery allow us to see character traits taken to their extremes.