Monday, June 30, 2014

Week of 06/30/2014

The Because-Batman Script
I’ve discovered the ultimate move to win in every game of Rock-Paper-Scissors… even the expanded Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock version.
With your closed fist, extend the index and little finger to form the pointed ears.
Yes, it’s Batman.  You win… forever.
The rationality goes like this: Batman easily dodges a rock, puts his symbol on the paper and thus owns it, breaks scissors, negates the lizard poison with his bat-anti-lizard-serum, and can defeat and out-think Spock in his sleep.
And for those who say that this move isn’t allowed, you can always say “Of course it is, because it’s Batman!”
For a while now I’ve been a huge critic of scripts, those pre-programmed mantras that says “X is right” even when it’s not.  Where an elite self-appointed group gets to dictate what the rest of us say or think, and often it’s for their own interests.
Up until now I’ve been attacking political scripts.  The Big Brother messages that you hear over and over again on TV news and cable news and talk radio and the newspaper editorials.  But there are other scripts out there that are just as pervasive, and while not as destructive to society, they certainly annoy the hell out of this commentator.
The one that has recently got noticed is the script that says that Batman is the “greatest superhero of all time”; that he’s the “ultimate winner” that can defeat anyone and anything. 
No, seriously.  Anyone and anything.  Even against Chuck Norris!  Even if Chuck Norris had a chainsaw, spur boots, and was riding on his missile-launching motorcycle from “The Delta Force”, Batman would still somehow be able to defeat him.
Why? “Because he’s Batman!”
No other reason.  Just that.
And he’ll do it eating nachos.
Well, okay, bat-nachos.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Because-Batman script because of the news concerning the sequel to the 2013 blockbuster “Man of Steel” movie.  From very first day that the announcement came out that Zach Snyder was directing this, and that it would involve both Superman and Batman, there was all sorts of talk about it being a “versus” movie.  It didn’t help that Snyder himself stoked that speculation when he uttered a line from Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”.
For fans of Superman, like myself, the idea that the follow-up to “Man of Steel” would be a “versus” movie pitting Batman against Superman was a real kick in the testicles.  Superman was just re-introduced in the movie world in a way that a lot of people are still not happy about.  This wasn’t the comic-like Christopher Reeve version, or even the Brandon Routh version.  This was a serious, brooding drifter who was dragged into the limelight after a whole bunch of other Kryptonians showed up to try to conquer and terraform the planet.  He even killed General Zod… and not just throwing him into a foggy pit.  (No, really, that’s what Reeve’s Superman did in “Superman II”.)  There are several people to this very day that still hate MoS for that scene alone.
Then there is that line that Snyder used from DKR to lead into his announcement.  The one where Batman had defeated Superman and was gloating.
And then the announcement that the movie’s title would be “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.  Not “Superman v Batman” or “Superman: Dawn of Justice” or even “Dawn of Justice”.  No, the follow-up to “Man of Steel” gives Superman second billing.
Donkey kick after donkey kick to the testicles for Superman fans.
And then the script kicks in.  The script that says that putting Batman on the top of the billing is only right because he’s the “ultimate superhero” and the “greatest superhero of all times” and that he is the one that will beat Superman in a “versus” story.
Let’s not forget that the big mega-corporation that owns the rights to Batman is riding this “Because-Batman” script all the way to the bank, and to the detriment of all of the other characters.  Time-Warner is the big behemouth that owns DC Comics, which owns Batman.  They own Warner Brothers, which makes the DC movies.  They own DC Entertainment, which makes the animated movies and the video games.  They own Cartoon Network and the CW, which air DC animations.
Guess which character they have spent the most time on?  Yeah, it’s Batman.
Batman get the top billing in the team-up movies.  He gets several 75th Anniversary specials to Superman’s one.  He gets several outfit variants in the DC Universe Online MMO.  If he’s not the dominant character in the DC animated shows and movies, he’s still one of.  When the CW re-made Green Arrow into the “Arrow” TV series, did they keep Oliver Queen as the “old leftie” that he is best known for?  No, he gets remade into a dark Batman-like archer.  Batman becomes the standard-bearer, not the character that made DC great in the first place… namely Superman.
Yeah, it seems that the Warner boys are just a little biased.
And to all of that I have to say… BS!
I can accept, albeit grudgingly, that the idea that any superhero is “the greatest of all times” is a purely subjective thing.  Your definition of “the greatest” is not my definition of “the greatest”, and it’s not the same as those of other people.
But let’s get brutally honest here… it is another thing entirely to have a script be generated that makes Batman into this “ultimate superhero” that can defeat anyone and anything simply because “he is”.
Yes, Batman is a thinker.  He’s a detective and tactician.  He’s a skilled and trained fighter with access to advanced technology.  He knows the ways of assassins and thieves.  He knows how criminals think, and he knows how to get them to be afraid of him.
But do you know what else he is?
Batman is also far from normal.  He is flawed.
By his own words, Batman is “a rich kid with issues; lots of them.”
Batman – Bruce Wayne – is a traumatized crime victim with an obsessive paranoia about crime.  He doesn’t want anyone else to lose someone they love because of a criminal.  He lives his personal life as a fraud so he can wage his self-appointed war on the evils that men do.  He’s an extremist with resources, and there is no room for anything else in his life.  His time with the Justice League is just a limited means to his own ends.  He has no room for love, aside from the occasional one-night stand with Catwoman or Talia.  His “family” is foisted upon him, and the people he brings into his life – with but a few exceptions – are just as messed up as he is.
And… that’s just Bruce Wayne.  But there have been others that have adopted the title of “Batman” as well.  Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Jean-Paul Valley, Terry McGinnis, and even Bane have all worn the cape and cowl and called themselves “Batman”.  There’s even a group of Batman-like vigilantes called “The Batmen of All Nations”.  At one point, Bruce Wayne went so far as to publicly franchise “Batman” as “Batman Incorporated”.
So how is it that he’s the “greatest hero of all time” when he says in “The Dark Knight Rises” that “Batman can be anyone”?
But, hey, like I said, that’s just my opinion.
What bothers me is that thanks to the Internet fanaticism, Batman has become a joke.  He’s the ultimate cheat-code to any obstacle.  Never mind Riddick with his reflecting eyes and his tea cup.  Forget about Indiana Jones and his whip and revolver!  Batman can supposedly whip any enemy even without his batarangs for no other reason than because it’s “Batman”.  It’s the triple-dog-dare-times-infinity with a pointy-eared cowl and a gravelly gruff voice.
And that goes a long way to cheapening the character itself, and I mean in far worse ways than Joel Schmacher did with his Bat-Suit nipples and his Bat-Credit-Card.
Listen, when it comes to “versus” stories, it was legendary comic creator Stan Lee that best summed it up.  He said “The person who wins in a fight… is the person that the scriptwriter wants to win!”  It’s whomever the writer favors!  That’s the only reason why Batman was able to win against Superman in Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”.  It’s not because Batman was better than Superman, but because it was Frank Miller’s story.  That’s it.  That is the only reason why Batman triumphed.  It was Frank Miller’s story.
And the same thing is going to happen in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.  It’s whomever that the team of Nolan, Goyer, and Snyder favor that will come out.  It’s not because of whom is better, but because of who is favored by the people that make the movie.
I’ll let you in on the dirty little secret behind Batman’s appeal.  Unlike Superman, who was created as a symbol of hope for people and a time that desperately needed it in the 1930’s, Batman appeals to our rage; to our need for a justice that cannot be corrupted or co-opted.  He exists because our system is flawed and failing the very people that count on it to survive.
What a pity, then, to know that there is a script that tells us that we have to support a fanatical crime victim that breaks the rules of society in order to move beyond their failings instead of working to remove the failings themselves.

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