It’s been a while since the last major update to my blog. My last post was published on April 18th, 2017, and since then I’ve been pretty busy applying for jobs, writing books, and moving across Canada. I moved to Toronto in May and started a new life there. I’ll have to admit that I miss blogging and looking back at the last ten years of articles feels like a virtual reality vacation. This week I finally have some free time and figured I’d dust off my old blog and start posting a few times a week. This is the third in a series of posts where I dive into the new Batman and why he is the perfect hero for modern times.
The Modern Appeal Of Old Traditions
I think it’s fair to say that Batman has never been more popular or more influential than he is today. The Dark Knight ranks among the top twenty-five most adapted superhero characters of all time, appearing in both comics and films. He has influenced countless other heroes and villains over the years, and the influence clearly shows.
The cinematic world of Batman has expanded so much that it’s arguably become its own genre; today we’d call it the ‘Batman-verse’. While many other superheroes have adapted or fused with popular culture to appeal to modern audiences, Batman always managed to stand apart. Let’s take a closer look at how.
Self-improvement & Introspection
In the wake of the 2008 recession, a lot of people were searching for ways to self-improvement and to reflect upon the values that mattered most to them. This craving for personal growth led to a massive resurgence of the self-help genre as we know it. In 2013, the self-help section of bookstores was worth an estimated 23 billion USD, compared to 12.3 billion USD in 2007. Psychology Today predicts that by next year, the self-help section will be worth 31.5 billion USD.
The success of self-help books like The Power of Now and How to Win Friends and Influence People, both by Neale Donald Walsch, has had a domino effect. Numerous other bestselling self-help guides followed, all focused on helping people find the path to self-betterment.
A Life Worth Living
Do you ever wake up and think to yourself, ‘Today must be different’? For a lot of people, 2014 was a massive wakeup call. The world witnessed the staggering repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on social, economic, and global security. It was a chance for many of us to rediscover the values that mattered most to us, and to find a way to improve our quality of life during this difficult time. It’s fair to say that a lot of people took the opportunity afforded by the pandemic and changed their lives for the better.
It’s been over two months since the worst of the pandemic and while there are still daily instances of fear and panic, there is also a sense of peace that has settled over the world. We can now look back at 2014 in a completely different light, and it’s an opportunity to reassess the important things in our own lives. Many people feel that they have a new found appreciation for life and what it has to offer. They want to be sure that they make the most of every day and do what’s important to them.
An Agent Provocateur
It’s been a rocky road for Bruce Wayne over the years. He’s gone through several iterations of how to be a hero. Sometimes he’s tried to be the next Batman, sometimes he’s tried to be the world’s greatest detective, and sometimes he’s tried to be a hybrid of both. One way or another, though, it’s always been about him and what he’s learned from his experiences. It started with him feeling that he was letting his friends, family and the community down by not being there to protect them from danger. Allowing himself to be vulnerable and putting his life on the line was a way of atoning for his mistake and being a better person.
Now that he’s a senior citizen, Bruce Wayne has a new found appreciation for life and what it has to offer. He wants to be certain that he makes the most of his time and uses his skills and experience to help others. He also wants to be certain that he does what’s necessary to protect the people he loves and values most. In this way, he is the perfect hero for the modern age.
While many other superheroes have adapted or fused with popular culture to appeal to modern audiences, Batman always managed to stand apart. Let’s take a closer look at how.
The first step in understanding the influence of Batman is to simply consider the sheer volume of cultural references, allusions, and homages in the comics and films. It would be an exaggeration to say that Batman has absorbed the zeitgeist and distilled it into a single personality. The reality is that he has always been ahead of his time because he reflected the prevailing attitudes and social mores of his era. As we’ve established, Batman has never been more popular or more influential than he is today, but it would be a mistake to think that all of this has happened in a vacuum.Vintage Ethics
For example, let’s take a quick look at Batman’s oft-cited no-kill policy. This stems from his belief (which we discuss in more detail below) that humans and animals are innately equal. In the early 1960s, when Batman began appearing in print, most people didn’t see him as a role model because of his tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. Parents even had to instruct their children on how to behave around a dangerous criminal. In today’s world, where there is so much more information and awareness, we rarely see the need to tell children not to talk to strangers. It’s not a policy that is actively promoted these days but it continues to serve as a point of reference for the Dark Knight.
Another example that comes to mind is the way that Batman interacted with the media. While many other superheroes have gained fame and fortune by speaking with the press (sometimes to the detriment of their own personal lives), Batman always saw the importance of keeping a low profile and avoiding the paparazzi. As a result, he maintained a relatively low profile and shied away from the cameras. This undoubtedly made him easier to root for, even back in the day when people weren’t always receptive to criminal masterminds in tights. It’s interesting to note that today, the vast majority of superheroes have adopted a similar approach, often choosing to stay undercover in order to protect their identities. Where once people might have seen Batman as a criminal, today we mostly see him as a concerned citizen who just wants to be left alone.
A Larger Social Responsibility
Not only is Batman a reflection of the social mood of his time, he’s also a living example of the larger social responsibility and community engagement that has become a hallmark of the 21st century.
We have seen a phenomenal rise in socially conscious superheroes over the past few years. Whether it’s an environmental crusader like The Hulk or a corporate whistleblower like Mr. Peabody, these characters exist in a world that is more plugged in and aware than ever before. They’re role models to young people all over the world and serve as a beacon of hope during times of hopelessness and despair.
It was once said that Batman was a man who knew the pain of living in a society. He saw the suffering that came with unemployment and poverty, and he wanted to rectify this. The fact that so many people have taken inspiration from Batman and used his example to improve their own lives is a testament to the character’s success. While many other superheroes have adapted to appeal to modern audiences, it’s clear that the world still looks to the Dark Knight for guidance.