Another instance where I am about to show that I can have a civil discussion with someone whose work I have a very massive disagreement with. I am friends with Shaun on Twitter, and we have had some good discussions about games and various elements in games for some time. However, I haven’t always agreed with him, and there are times when I have enjoyed some civil disagreement. I am about to do that here. See, I think that Tech Raptor’s writer, Shaun Joy, has become blinded by his love of the character of Batman to see the truth about this character, and why I find him fascinating. In a recent article, there was a case made that Batman is truly separate from the Joker because of his refusal to kill. I am not going to respond to this article point by point, as I have with others. Instead, I shall give you a link to the article, and talk about it as a whole.
I make no secret of my disappointment in Arkham Knight. Not only do I consider it a poor ending to the franchise, but I also think that it took a LOT of steps backwards in the way they were portraying this character up til now. So, instead of looking at this game, let’s rewind to the last one – Arkham City. I don’t count Arkham Origins, because initially, Rocksteady said that they didn’t count it as part of their saga. I guess WB got some pressure on them. A dick move, but what can ya do? But yeah, that game aside, let’s look at the last entry in the franchise.
See, I don’t see Batman as a hero. I see him as something of an anti-hero.. There’s a reason for this. Shaun makes the point that killing is utterly against Batman’s code, but the way I see it, that doesn’t make him a hero. Arkham Asylum was an excellent game, but it was very standard hero fare. You have a villain, the hero swoops in and saves the day. Yay! But Arkham City went a little deeper. They actually examined the very violent side of Batman that has always fascinated me. The thing is – killing people is the ONLY thing that Batman won’t do. That’s how he justifies the awful things he does. It’s an easy out that he has to not feel like a murderer. He will bust bones, destroy bodies and threaten everything up to death. If you ask me, the reason that he doesn’t kill is because of the other thing that I believe is so powerful with him.
While I am remiss to agree with Ben Kuchera on anything, I will give that I believe that Batman and the Joker are a lot closer than one would think. I think the Joker was on to something when he brings up in the church tower that there may come a point where one of them is staring down at the dead body of the other and wondering what to do next. I think that Batman needed him. I think that the Joker represented a reason for his actions. See, Batman does terrible things. He abuses his power with absolute abandon. He views violence as the first and only solution to any situation. He will beat anyone. There was a great point made in an article where the fact that Harley’s pregnancy tests come back negative is a result of Batman throwing her against a wall. If it was any other studio, I would think that it was just a false positive (it happens more than you think, with take-home pregnancy tests), but this is Rocksteady. They know what they’re doing. Violence is the first, last, and ONLY thing he uses to solve his problems. There never comes a point where he doesn’t see it as a means to an end. Never does he moralize that he might be on the wrong side of the law. In his mind, his crazed violent abandon is for the greater good.
But what is this greater good? That’s easy – the Joker. That unrestrained psychopath is the reason that his violence is given necessity. All the more poignant, considering that Batman made him. The Arkham games follow the Red Hood origin for the character. He made this monster. His need for violence made him. A need that he vaguely was able to justify by using the death of his parents. That was his ability to give himself an excuse. But then comes the Joker. A monster who views killing as the solution, even when there is no problem. His chaos says to kill people. Why? Reasons. Reasons that nobody understands.
There is even a moment in Arkham City where Batman actually starts to hash this out. He is staring at the cure, knowing for a fact that giving it to the clown will only cause more violence and death. Everything tells him that the greater good would be served by letting him die. But he can’t stop himself. That makes it so telling how, in the Joker’s final moments, the two actually do share a genuinely human moment together. He tells the clown a joke, and they get to have some emotional connection. This monster, that he should absolutely hate, is the closest thing that he has to an emotional connection. Look at the other person he connects with – Talia al Ghul. She’s a daughter of a criminal mastermind. Bruce Wayne is only able to truly connect with the monsters in his double-life.
If you ask me, Arkham City was a critique of this character, and to be honest, it was rather scathing. It made a character who is supposed to be a great hero out to be a violent thug, who has a need for violence. He is willing to let all the criminals in Arkham City die in order to save the only other person he shares a connection with. That’s what makes the final scene in the game so powerful. Was he carrying Talia out of the theater? No. He was carrying the Joker. The only person that he genuinely had a connection with. I love that game because it didn’t shy away from the darkness of its premise, and took it to the next level. It’s the thing that bothered me so much about Arkham Knight. It’s like Warner Brothers took Rocksteady aside and said, “yeah, we can’t have you going too dark. Make sure you tell the audience repeatedly about how Batman doesn’t kill, and how he is such a great guy. Make sure that we know how wonderful the guy is, and take away all that moral uncertainty. Gamers just want a hero fantasy.” And we got it. We got to “Be the Bat.” Because hard moral questions about uncomfortable characters are too difficult for us, apparently.
Maybe I carried on my pretentious rant a bit long. But it was an interesting article of Shaun’s, and I hope that he can take this with the same grain of salt that I took his work. I look forward to any potential discussion.
Until next time, a quote,
“Confusing, isn’t it? I know I’d want to know just what the hell is going on if I were you. Let’s just say, at times like these, it’s best to keep up appearances. But first, if you would be so kind – hand over my cure!” -The Joker, Batman: Arkham City