WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE BATMAN IN 3 HOURS ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE
Please excuse any typos as I am writing while balancing a laptop and popcorn.
The Batman’s Gotham City does not appear to have a 100% Initiative to ensure all residents access to vital services. No wonder vigilantes, supervillains and sociopaths run wild, while orphans suffer. There are some powerful lessons to explore in this $710.5 million dollar (and counting) cultural event.
So many questions
Gotham City is a fictional place that teaches us what happens when a city is corrupt, reliant on a billionaire vigilante to save its residents from crime lords, misguided philanthropists and an apparent lack of flooding control security. I rarely sit in a movie theater but I do try to make it a point to keep up with popular culture in New Mexico and across the nation. Given my work, focused on ensuring ten vital services for surviving and thriving for all children and families, I couldn’t help but create a list of questions as The Batman rolled on.
Question One: Why not commit to radical reforms, Bruce?
Why doesn’t billionaire Bruce Wayne fund a citywide program that advocates for ensuring the health and safety of every child? In the film we hear of the horrifying abuse and neglect of children in the Orphanage. With a 100% Gotham initiative, committed to ensuring trauma-free childhoods, that would never be a reality. And by ending the institutional abuse of children, there most likely would not have been one maltreated orphan growing up with untreated trauma to become the sociopathic murderer called the Riddler.
Question Two: Why not get therapy, then focus on real (measurable and meaningful) change?
Why is Bruce not shown working hard with a therapist to address his trauma so that he can be using his vast wealth, intelligence and altruism, with a focus on working with social justice advocates, to shine a light on the corrupt local leaders? Instead of the Bat Signal being used by a police detective to call Batman and supposedly scare criminals, why not shine a bright light on city hall until corrupt officials are removed.
Question Three: Where are the women?
The Gotham we see appears to be mostly male. While The Batman does give one female character about ten lines to show that she is a caring mayoral candidate (and eventual mayor), why is so little screen time given to altruistic women seeking to change the corrupt systems?
In Gotham, it appears that the only woman worth giving significant screen time to is a vigilante-burglar called Catwoman. She believes that Gotham can not be saved from corruption (including her evil father, crime lord and all around puppet master Falcone). She is inclined to murder dad for many injustices (including the murder of her mother and friend.) She, like Batman/Bruce, works outside the system because they don’t wish to do the really hard and long-term work of building up the community through alrustic activism. They don’t appear to have any interest in generating political power for honest and caring elected officials (including a trustworthy Gotham Police Department and Attorney General’s office) who commit to a Gotham where 100% can thrive. Using whips and bat belt toys is easy, political reform involving mobilizing and meetings is what’s truly heroic.
Question Four: When will Bruce start his 501(c)3?
I would ask that the makers of The Batman, Part 2, 3, 4 and 5, work harder at developing the character and other characters that reveal diversity of thought and experiences. (Yes, Detective Gordon portrayed for the first time by an African-American actor was a start. And speaking of powerful women who care about others, mayor Bella Reál needs to be given more screen time). I do like the idea of a billionaire using his vast resources to make a safe and honest city through infrastructure building and data-driven reforms, not as a violent vigilante on subways or in nightclubs acting as judge and jury.
Can’t Bruce evolve into an altruist who runs a think tank/advocacy organization with the resources to identify every problem Gothan faces. And by real problems, I mean ensuring every child has access to the services for surviving and thriving, whether in Gotham Child Protective Services (monitoring every orphan) or living in the low income parts without access to vital services called in previous films The Narrows and Crime Alley where Bruce’s parents were gunned down. (Note to self: find out what gun control laws exist in Gotham.)
Question Five: Can we get oversight on philanthropy, Mr. Wayne?
In The Batman, it’s suggested that Bruce’s parents were altruistic and wanted to do the right thing, but daddy got into politics and was in debt to a crime lord, resulting in his philanthropic money being used by the underworld (and a murder or two). Bruce’s Gotham 100% initiative could become a shining light to end corruption and create the type of society that unites in guaranteeing justice for all (along with affordable housing, medical and mental health care, food security programs and job training. With his billions and convenings of coalitions focused on the health and education of children, Bruce could even radically reform Gotham’s Child Welfare so orphanages were replaced by a seamless system of foster parents with all the resources to ensure the safety of every child. The film could have scenes that show foundation leaders (think a Melinda Gates and Oprah character played by Lady Gaga or Beyonce) actually doing measurable and meaningful work in Gotham–systems change work that ensures the survival and sanity of residents.
Rating a Fantasy (that could, with a few tweaks, be inspiring)
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film for what it was–a three hour release from thinking about the real world where crises collide each day. I get that corporate movie making is not an act of altruism. Self-caring and progressive systems change is not a theme one views in superhero blockbuster movies. I’m asking why isn’t it? The next Batman can certainly, with Bruce running a detective agency, capture the next super villain plotting to escape from Arkham Asylum. Why not have the chase take place within the context of Mayor Bella and progressive colleagues working diligently and creatively in the 100% Gotham initiative to create a world where justice for all children prevails through hard work. Bruce could be a sane, altruistic version of Elon Musk, using billions to leverage inspiring innovation that serve the public. (If he really wants to dress up with a cape at night, just don’t scare kids on the subway.)
For art direction and acting, I give The Batman 5 out of 5 stars. For creating art that inspires us all to work diligently and realistically toward social justice, it gets one star. (Misguided though he might be, at least Bruce is aware of the local government corruption that exists and taking action.) Here’s hoping the franchise can evolve into an escapist film that educates, inspires and dazzles–a multi-million dollar media message about social justice that our society desperately needs.
Visualize! Mobilize! Thrive!
These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. Visit Culture of Caring here.