The Batman (2022) Political Ties


Katie Watrobsky, Writer


As everyone knows, most stories are not created for pure entertainment. While some of course are, most are conceived as a way to comment on current events and issues. They provide lessons and critiques. They can teach ethics or dissect world issues. In the most previous reincarnation of The Batman, more than a few reflections of our current society were laid bare.

As a recap, The Batman came out in March earlier this year as the highest grossing film since Covid-19. It featured a Batman stuck in grief, and an isolated, psychopathic murderer from Bruce Wayne’s childhood. It offered a new side to Batman, more self-aware and melancholic. From the beginning of the film, Batman identifies himself as “vengeance.” The Riddler mirrors Batman, and believes the same about himself. Today, public figures are more accessible than ever and are able to influence dramatic amounts of people. The Batman set an example for watching eyes, and championed vengeance and violence over protection and aid. This inspired the Riddler’s motivations. He, too, believed that he was “vengeance,” and he wished to join forces with Batman, as later revealed. Then, like many extremists today, the Riddler then gained the same online popularity by performing extreme acts of terrorism and documenting it on live streams and other forms of media. He ignited the deep-buried issues Gotham city held with its government. Suddenly the whole city exploded with violence, aiming at revenge. This slow descent familiarly mirrors what happens often in America today. Disatisfied individuals will go online and voice violent opinions or even threaten terrorism. Some of them, no doubt also influenced by others, carry out these acts. In 2020, 23 people were killed in domestic extremist-related murders, and in 2021, there were 29. While these numbers are much lower than the rates from the previous five years– by almost half– it still displays the danger of these online groups. Most of these murders are related to white supremacy or the Proud Boys. According to the Anti Defamation League website, 90% of domestic extremist murders in 2019 were associated with internet conspiracy theories, alt right extremism, or forums like 4chan, 8chan, or the DailyStormer, a now banned neo-nazi site. Even if no one was killed, online extremists still pose significant danger. The most well-known case in recent history is the storming of the Capitol. Without the mass communication of the internet, this would not have been organized so quickly or easily. Because of it, they were able to storm into the Congress building full of government officials while carrying guns, knives, and other weapons. Suddenly, the mass terror portrayed in fiction seems less fabricated and unrealistic than before.

With the expansion of social media, more radical forums, online extremism is more rampant than ever, and many aim to insight extreme violence, so that they will go down in infamy. If they cannot be well-known and well-liked, they might as well be well-known, but disliked. In extreme cases, they organize real terroristic events and, as we saw, government coups. The Riddler’s followers embody the dangerous generation of young, white, disaffected and isolated Americans who seek revenge on our society. This, coupled with the influence Batman’s “I am vengeance” line had on the public, could indicate that the writers were commenting on the responsibility of public figures, and the gullibility of the public to believe in whatever their idols say. Too often influential people forget the power their words have, and an offhand or joking comment about politics or violence can be taken too seriously. This movie simply exemplifies it.

Nonetheless, there is still hope. In the end of the film, Batman decides that, instead of pursuing the Riddler and his followers, he should stay with the trapped people who need his help. He turns his back on violence, and focuses instead on healing. It can be interpreted that the writers advise us, in the light of turbulent and dangerous times like terrorist attacks or shootings, to not create more violence, but to heal those who were hurt– while still, of course, addressing the persecutors without causing more damage. The Batman provides a cathartic but cautionary reflection of America that urges us, in our dangerous and polarized times, to be careful of who we listen to, and to promote peace over vengeance.