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Batman: Questioning The One Rule
Batman and Me
To say that Batman was an integral part of my childhood would be a gross understatement at best. I spent many hours with the caped crusader. We fought crime together, solved elaborate riddles and even went as far as to deal with a shark in Gotham City. As a child I can recall the original Batman movie. "Golly gee willickers Batman, a shark". I distinctively remember waking up Saturday mornings and tuning into Fox for Batman The Animated Series. I was a Batfan for sure. Comics, cards, action figures, and pretty much any other item you can name I probably had it.
As age took it's tole on me I drifted away from Saturday morning cartoonsand into live action films. Comics gave way to graphic novels and the blue and grey shifted to pure black. Despite the apparent change to Batman and his demeanor one trait remained the same. Batman's one rule always remained a constant part of who he was. As age continued to apply it's will to my life I started to view Batman differently. I had grown up with the character and as a kid I never questioned any aspect of it, especially not the one rule. Oh, I bet you would like to know what that one rule is. Batman will never kill. Regardless of the atrocity committed Batman never acts as executioner to his foes.
On an emotional and philosophic level I began to view this one rule with a different perspective. Maybe even more mature in site than I could have when I was a youth wearing my Robin jammies and watching Frank Gershin portray the Riddler with all the flash of a big screen star. It is that rule I would like to discuss here now in this text. I ask that you hold on tightly because there is going to be some points where this text where we will get as deep as the Dali Lama in a room full of prophets, at other times it may be as trivial as a Saturday morning cartoon that had the misfortune of being on before or after Batman.
A sad Batman is sad.
The One Rule
Murder. It is considered a grave sin by the masses. It is a travesty of human existence. In fact murder may be the vilest act one human can ever commit. Batman represents a symbol of justice and law. He is to be a beacon of light that shines in a dark and troubled world. This social standing does not allow for Batman to make to many mistakes. To act on his nature, which is at it's best human, and murder a murderer would put him on the same level as those he pursues.
Some may question this aspect of The Batmen. I know I have. The Hulk would no doubt love to destroy The Leader, Wolverine has slain many criminals in the attempt end the terror they began, and Superman has even tried to kill various baddies over the years to protect those he serves. Heroes have been killing bad guys for decades in the pages of comic books. Batman refuses to accept that has proper behavior for a defender of justice. He denies the need for eye for an eye and maintains that murder, no matter how much it seems needed, is never the case.
In many ways it is this one rule that drives criminals to abuse Batman. Knowing they will not be killed but placed in an asylum where escape seems the common occurrence, they continue their lives ofheavy crime. Granted one could argue that some criminals have found some solace in Arkum's cold damp walls. Villains like Lock-up and Riddler have reformed from their lives of crime. On the same accord it can be argued that Arkham has made individuals such as Killer Croc, Bane and of course the Joker that much more deadly.
Why Batman's Rule May Not Be Working
Why Batman Why
Batman's loyalty to his one rule has been a constant reminder of his dignity and devotion to true justice. It showcases his pursuit of a purer, more safe Gotham City. I recall him stopping the boy wonder Robin from ending the life of Two-Face, despite the fact that Two-Face killed Robin's family. This may have been the right thing to do, at least in Batman's eyes but did he not impede on Robin by inflicting his one rule on him?
Batman has failed to kill The Joker time after time when Joker's antics no doubt merit that type of action. In some ways Batman's actions negate punishment and in some ways make crime appear to be justified by redemption as opposed to reconciliation. His one rule continues to be his strongest character trait all the while also being viewed as his biggest and most exploited flaw.
Maybe in hindsight Batman is an optimist. He sees some good in every person regardless of the actions and image they provide him with. He sees and accepts the evil they do but insist that some good, no matter how minuscule, exist within every body. This belief may be why he continues to give criminals a second, third, and in many cases a fourth chance at redemption in the dark halls of Arkham asylum.
As I mentioned briefly before some of Batman's foes have found a new lease on life as a result of Arkham's teachings. The Riddler is now not only a law abiding citizen but also a detective who aids Batman in solving crimes. We can assume it was repentance brought about by Batman's redemption dungeon, but we are left wondering if maybe something else triggered the reaction and change.
If Batman does feel good exist in everyone than how many changes is he willing to give a particular criminal before he can no longer resist the urge to apply his own punishment? Take the Joker for instance. How many times has Batman had the opportunity to end the Joker's life and bring an end to one of the most dangerous human beings ever encountered? In ending the Joker's life Batman may have saved countless other lives and property as well.
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What if Batman could not bring himself to kill simply because of emotional scars that exist within him? Most of us are aware that Bruce Wayne, the true identity of the dark knight, suffered a very tragic loss at an early age. Both of his parents where gunned down right before his eyes. That loss is the primary fuel for the crime fighter's desire to end evil doings. It may also however be that fateful childhood trauma that fuels Batman's one rule.
He may choose not to kill as a result of knowing the pain and hurt of loss. Years of emotional distress and instability ion his own life may have caused him to view people a different way than you and I would do so. Perhaps in the Joker he does not see a demented, twisted soul, who is hellbent on destruction and devastation. Maybe, just maybe in Batman's eyes he views The Joker as someone's father, son, or brother. Maybe when faced with Poison Ivy he can not view her simply as a criminal, but someone's mother, daughter, or even sister.
This visualization would make it rather hard for Bats to end a life knowing the years of suffering he endured after his loved one's were taken away from him by crime. If this is the case, and Batman associates every criminal with his loss than in many ways his rule does not serve to protect the people as much as to protect himself. He is shielding his own mind from memories of what happened to him as a young boy. That relationship between family and foe becomes a very blurred line of responsibility that draws Batman away from a darker truth that some times ending one life to save many is justified and plants him firmly in a belief state that dictates that Batman must never take a loved one away.
Questioning Batman's one rule has both positive and negative connotations to it. On one hand it is honorable to refrain from ending another human life. That fact we can not deny. What needs to be addressed is the other hand. What are the actual repercussions and consequences of Batman's actions? How does his high moral standing and choice to abide by his rule affect the people he serves? Let's explore a scenario.
A quick poll
Should Batman kill the Joker?
Joker on the prowl
Joker has just escaped the stone cold wallsof Arkham yet again. He was arrested this time for 3 murders and a bank robbery. He has been out only a few days and already 8 lives have forfeited their treasures to his gun and a bank has fallen to the ground as a result of an explosive he planted there. Had Batman ended the Joker’s life instead of putting him in a jail he could have saved the 8 lives that ended after his escape and stopped the bank from being destroyed.
By falling to kill the Joker, Batman has inadvertently allowed more people to die and more crime to run rampant in the streets. It is this moral dilemma that fuels many debates about Batman’s one rule and whether or not it dictates justice or a lack thereof. It is a good choice for Batman as he does not feel the burden of guilt that comes with the act of murder. he never has to assume he took a loved one away from anyone. At the same time his lack of guilt breeds more opportunity for criminals in Gotham to strike fear, and commit acts of injustice without any fear that retribution may be the bitter end at the hands of the Batman.
In our everyday real society we view a judge or police officer who fails to inflict proper punishment on a criminal, which results in repeated offenses unfit to wear the robe or badge that defines who they are. Is it not wrong that we as readers do not point that same finger of blame at Batman, deeming him unfit to be the dark knight? We point that ever so sharp finger of blame at those who deny the justice system it’s catch, or fail to put the murderer away for ever but we look to Batman as a beacon. How many lives would have been saved simply by taking the lives of such foes as Killer Croc, Bane, and ultimately The Joker? While in killing these individuals Batman would suffer from some level of guilt, and maybe even regret. But, one would think, at least to some degree that in killing these misguided people Batman would see the goal of protecting his city come closer to grasp. It would end future dilemma that these criminals could cause and bring some hope or chance of peace.
Questioning the bat
Where do you stand?
Should Batman kill the villains that have no chance of changing their ways?
Can we justify breaking "the rule"
Let me throw this at you if I may. If one life could be sacrificed with the goal to end cancer for good is it not worth it? If one life could be ended to save many than is not that sacrifice a worthy and true one? It seems a logical and easy choice doesn't it? Now on the other hand that one life means something to somebody. Not just the person who lives it, but their friends and family. Those people love and cherish this one life that can be sacrificed for a greater good. This calls for the debate that really brings the rule into a much brighter yet somewhat still dim light.
How do we decide as readers if Batman’s rule is just? Can we look at it as goodness or evil disguised as goodness? Even though these foes and villains from Batman’s grim pages present the world with hazards that may be to much for many to take or even think of taking it may be cruel to expect the Batman to kill them. It may even be asking to much for his consideration in committing such a task. Maybe one life, such as The Jokers ends by Batman’s hands and as a result countless lives are saved, but every night as Batman sleeps that image of what he has done will haunt him. One murder becomes a gateway and before long maybe Batman is killing jay walkers in the streets. Where does justification in taking a human life end, or in reality begin for that matter, if such a justification even exist? So how do we, the reader, the fan, and the viewer into the world that is Batman decide if the rule is right or wrong?
In simplest terms we don’t! We may have an opinion on the matter and may even express that opinion openly in our circles of friends. We may post on social media pages about the various aspects of the rule and we may, as I have done here, write a commentary on it’s use in the Batman universe. The matter is open for that sort of thing. The fact remains we do not have the ability to persuade Batman one way or the other. Either way. We cannot sit down and give him the pros and cons of his actions, first because he is a fictitious character who does not exist as you and I do. Second, because the writers of the stories have the final say. They dictate Batman as a being. We simply are there for the ride but we have no control of the destination that ride takes us to.
In choosing not to kill even though that decision may have dire consequences for those he is sworn to protect Batman creates an air of confusion. Is choosing the path to never kill, even when that choice may lead to more suffering, chaos and even death a truly acceptable means? If so than Batman by all accounts is the hero Gotham needs. He is the embodiment of ethics and justice. But if the choice is not one of honor but one of fear than maybe in some ways Batsie is as much a criminal as the ones he hunts down night after night. If not risking one to save many is not a noble action, but instead and act that merits blame and responsibility than we must view batman in a darker form than the caped crusader. He now takes on the guise of a mix between good and evil.
We look at Batman in terms of comic book fantasy. Simply a character who comes to life on the pages of a DC comic book, or on the big screen as a Hollywood blockbuster but if we care to look deeper we start to see that in many ways Batman is a metaphor for the world we live in. He brings out this desire in us all to see some form of good in our everyday lives. Perhaps his actions can not be viewed as either good or bad, because they are neither. Perhaps he is simply doing what he feels to be best for him, as an individual and a symbol of hope.
I will leave you to decide where you stand on this issue. I am leaving a comment section here and I hope to hear some of my readers opinions on this.