By NICK BRAMANTE
Batman: sneaking around and putting an end to crime since 1939. He is the night, he is vengeance, and the greater good; right? Many of us like to believe that characters such as everybody’s favorite black-clad bat are as simple as black and white. As simple, as defining characteristics such as evil and good. What most people don’t realize, is that in reality the Dark Knight’s morals and character have much more to teach us than just the idea of good and bad. The Dark Knight himself is a walking puzzle, one full of psychology and idealism. His enemies are just the same, and once these puzzles can be solved they hold many secrets that teach as much as they show.
Take the Dark Knight himself, for example. Everyone knows the story of how Bruce became a masked vigilante, with the death of his parents in a tragic robbery-gone-wrong in Gotham City’s very own Crime Alley. After that night Bruce trained and eventually became the reason criminals no longer walk the streets at night. But looking beyond the mask we find not a hero, but a man who is battered (Batman puns) and beat; but not yet broken. Ultimately both Batman and his sociopathic nemeses face the same situation. In the words of the Joker, they had “one bad day” and were driven to insanity after their dangerous meltdowns. The only real difference between The Dark Knight and his enemies, is that while the lot of them decided they would make the rest of the world feel their pain, Bruce decides he is going to stop anyone else from ever having to face what he did.
If nothing else, Bruce teaches us the true meaning and value of selflessness. In a city where everyone has taken the easy way out and preys on each other, Bruce puts everything he has on the line every night, in the hope that some good may come out of it. If you can not see how selflessness plays in, you can at least see the bravery and courage Bruce shows indefinitely. Bruce does what no one else dares to do, he goes against the grain and truly stands up in what he believes in.It seems many people in today’s world, could take a lesson or two from The Dark Knight.
Even the so-called “villains” that run amuck in Gotham can teach us all something about the world and ourselves. Lets take the most well-known example and examine him; The Joker. The Joker himself is the exact opposite of Bruce. Where Bruce is logical, the Joker is random and unpredictable. Where Bruce has morals, the Joker’s only morals involve using insanity as a sort of mercy-door out of reality. So what can a truly psychotic man teach us? In DC’s The Killing Joke, we learn just that. As a reader, we learn how vulnerable we can become, no matter how strong we may think we are. We also learn how the world can be a dangerous place, and that if we are not prepared to deal with what it throws at us, we may just end up hurting others as well as ourselves.
While grim, the lessons themselves are important to learn as they are really some of the simplest fundamental values available, even if many people today are missing them. Another famous character from Batman’s world that we can learn from is the infamous Two-Face. After half of Gotham’s District Attorney's face is horribly mutilated, Harvey Dent goes from respected hero, to insane villain; particularly one with a split-personality disorder. Such a disorder itself is very apparent in today’s world, and while it is not an evil thing to have, we can see just how much it can affect someone by watching Dent’s (now Two-Face) actions. The most important lesson Two-Face can teach however is what is more important: what is fair, or what is right. Fair and right are two different things of course, “fair” follows the idea that all should be treated equal, while “right” is doing the morally better thing despite the odds. Which is better is a philosophical question itself, but Two-Face certainly brings our attention and consciousness to the idea, and lets us decide for ourselves.
A lesser-known but still just as important character found in Batman’s life, is that of Harleen Quinzel. Quinzel was a psychiatrist charged with the evaluation of the Joker, who had been captured for the first time. Through manipulation and charisma, the Joker was able to transform Quinzel into his own partner-in-crime; the twisted Harley Quinn. The following years for Quinn were filled with abuse and emotional agony, and even if she did partake in hurtful schemes, one might say that Quinn is really just the victim of the Joker’s manipulation. We can learn from Quinn’s mistake, and see the danger of letting one person control you and abuse you to the point where you are no longer yourself, but a shell of your former self.
While it may take quite a bit of digging and thinking, there is a lot more we can learn from The Dark Knight than we ever thought we could. Both Bruce and his fellow comic book members may seem trivial at first, but with enough thought anyone can learn much more about life from these fictional people than most people ever thought possible.