Monday, August 14, 2006

Your batarang, your gobbledygoo

If you were ever in doubt, Gentle Reader, that New Orleans has become A Different World Post-Katrina (tm), I am here to tell you, that doubt is misplaced. Mr. Reads and I just spent 30 minutes in the 20 items or less line at the local grocery store, at which every single line was open, and every single line had 20+ people in it. I have a post brewing, a very odd "when comics meet real life" post regarding Batman's No Man's Land and New Orleans Post-Katrina, but I believe that topic is better discussed in retrospect. I am, as they say, too close to the situation now to be objective.

So instead, I bend your ear about a conversation Mr. Reads and I had in said line, waiting for said checkout of water, Barq's Red Creme Soda, Hubig's pies, lettuce, and microwave pizza.

Why do we swoon over Batman?

This topic came up after Mr. Reads slyly posted the following poem in an earlier entry of my blog, with thanks (or apologies) to Ms. Plath.

I have always been scared of you
With your utility belt, your gobbledygoo.
And your batarang
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Fledermaus, Fledermaus, O You--

Not God but a bat-signal
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like Bruce.

Yes, Friends, Mr. Reads is a Bonafide Degree-Carting Poet (tm), which is why I feel it is safe to say that the above rewriting of "Daddy" is not at all snarky but rather brilliant.

Why *do* we love Batman?

I don't think I'm speaking to the incarnation of the batusi Batman, but rather to the morose, Byronic, meta-ist, possible father to an illegitimate Ghul child Batman. I'm talking Dark Bruce Wayne, the one who Selina Kyle swoons over, who Talia al Ghul would kill for, who women always, always want to love. And always women, I've noticed, unless anyone can point to a same sex crush on Batman/Bruce Wayne that has escaped my attention?

I believe it is very much a feminine malady in the comic book world, this love of the Byronic Hero. He's broken, Ladies, completely and utterly. He's a little boy still crying out into the night over the death of his parents. He's paranoid, he's racist against metahumans, he's been terrible and rotten to women (look at his treatment of Sasha, for example, in the Bruce Wayne, Fugitive run), and he desperately attempts to build a family, only to destroy it from the inside, over and over again.

And we, Those Who Love Batman, gush over him for it.

Oh, don't worry, Gentle Reader. I am, of course, including myself in that number.

We have many, many smart female characters in comic books today, on both sides of the DC/Marvel divide. Speaking specifically of women who have been involved in one way or another with Bruce Wayne/Batman over the years, we can start, of course, with Catwoman. Selina Kyle is a woman who knows what she wants and goes after it, and that has been, many a time, Bruce Wayne/Batman.
And Lois Lane? She loves Bruce, but hates Batman (in the same way that some would argue she loves Superman but merely tolerates Clark Kent). Sasha Bordeaux, the current Black Queen of Checkmate, wouldn't break in prison and refused to implicate Bruce Wayne in Vesper's murder in any way. Even this author's favorite superheroine of all time, Wonder Woman, was romantically linked to Batman in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.

But *why*, Dear Reader? Why, why, why? Why do we kowtow to this complicated, quite-destructive man? Is it because he is so very broken? Do we Batman adorers, and these multitudes of strong female characters, imagine that we can fix a man like this?

The Batman/Bruce Wayne Byronic Hero archetype has a long history in literature, of course, which dates back to this author's beloved Victorians and beyond. Rochester, Heathcliff, Lord Byron himself, are men who are "broken" somehow, and must be fixed. A strong female character--a Jane Eyre, a Catherine Earnshaw, a Selina Kyle--falls back on some primitive and archaic notion of a "maternal instinct" and insists, *insists*, Dear Reader, that she can "Fix Him," when she darn well knows that you can't fix anyone who won't fix himself.

Most recently, however, the brilliant genius Mark Waid (whose story brings hope and sunshine to rabid fans everywhere!) has declared that yes, the comic writers can fix Batman. They can take this broken man and make him whole again. This author, for one, sat up and shouted Huzzah! at such a notion. Finally, the responsibility is taken *off* a woman and put onto the figure of Batman himself. What inspiration! What foresight! What...
But wait.
*I* wanted to fix him.

Perhaps Sylvia Plath was right: some women adore a brute brute heart, and try to get back, back, back to that brute heart, over and over again. But more so, I believe that we women who are Batman aficionados see the little boy inside, and crave to protect him from the horrors that he will, inevitably, grow up to face. The batarang becomes a security blanket, the utility belt a teddy bear. The darkness is ever-present, and we strive to keep it at bay, the batsignal trying, desperately, to illuminate.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, Gentle Reader, we find the pain sexy, the brokenness attractive. At heart, we desire those qualities in a man so that when we get him, we can pretend we are The One Who Brought The Light To His Life.

I've only seen one female character romantically attached to Batman that I believe Can Save Him, and that is Selina Kyle. Why? Because she herself had been in pain, had been broken, and she *fixed herself*. He becomes a better man when he is with her, and I think that is A Very Good Thing.

DC? Please take note. This Humble Author waits with baited breath to find out the identity of Helena's father. And This Humble Author begs you to let it be Bruce Wayne. Because why else would you tempt us with such a delicious image of Batman bringing Helena a college fund *and* a large teddy bear?
Indeed, Selina. If only the criminals of Gotham could see him now.
So I ask, very politely, for you to keep this author's faith.

Pretty please?

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