Lessons From…Batman: The Animated Series

A few years ago, my friends gifted me seasons 1 & 2 of Batman: The Animated Series for my birthday. They know me very well because this television show is, in my honest opinion, quite frankly one of the best programs ever to have been put on television.

Yeah, it was the 90’s, so maybe the animation isn’t up to your modern standards, but trust me when I emphasize the amazing awesomeness of this show. It was a great Batman iteration with legitimately well crafted, fully realized characters and interesting, complex narratives. You must see this program before you die, and after re-watching a few episodes this weekend felt like writing on it. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Almost wish I could do this to myself to rewatch the incredible Batman: Animated Series again with no info.

Almost wish I could do this to myself to rewatch the incredible Batman: Animated Series again with no info.

So modern pop culture has been inundated of late with various variations of Batman, most notable the blockbuster Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. But most of the interpretations tend to be hyperbolic and utterly without nuance focusing on the violence, toys, or seeming insanity of the character. For some reason, the animated series have always done a better job of truly exploring the Batman and his world than the films or live action franchises.

Not a lot of nuance in Christian *gravely voice "Swear to Me"* Bale.

Not a lot of nuance in Christian *gravely voice “Swear to Me”* Bale.

The best part of any superhero is the rogue’s gallery, aka the villains that are truly considered the greatest enemies that the hero faces. For Superman his rogue’s gallery consists of Darkseid, Lex Luthor, etc. For Wonder Woman, Morgana, Ares, etc. would make up her arch nemeses. For Batman, the obvious choices are the Joker, Bane, Two-Face, Catwoman, etc. However, what really makes worthy villains and enemies is when they go beyond simple caricatures and inform the audience and public about the true nature of the hero. This is never more apparent than when examining the villains and rogues of the Batman: Animated Series universe.

They look dorky, but they are really bad ass.

They look dorky, but they are really bad ass.

Batman is not supposed to be a near invincible brute who can pummel any foe into submission or acquire a new toy for when the occasion calls for it; he is supposed to be a force of hope and salvation for the down trodden and weak, a victim of unfortunate circumstances who wants nothing more than to ensure his tragedy is no one else’s. His charity and goodwill does not stop at the people of Gotham as he extends himself unto his enemies as well. Pretty much every episode involves one of Batman’s nemesis at the forefront with the narrative revolving around them. However, it is not some foolish story about money or simple vengeance. Instead, we, through Batman, are encouraged to empathize with and understand the villain’s motivations and true nature. There are never excuses for their actions, but there are reasons for them. In essence, villains and enemies, basically anyone, are fully realized individuals worthy of empathy, understanding, and dignity. Honestly, look at virtually any episode and you will see this; from Mr. Freeze to Catwoman to Penguin to Harley Quinn to even Joker, they all have intrigue and humanity.

Seriously, watch Heart of Ice and try to not shed a tear. It's only possible if you're a monster!

Seriously, watch Heart of Ice and try to not shed a tear. It’s only possible if you’re a monster!

Beyond the villains, Batman himself is treated like an actual person and not some poor excuse for a plot device. He legitimately struggles with the notion of living a dual life and trying to genuinely find a balance between the two. As well, he actually uses his money for charitable and scientific endeavors that would in theory benefit the people of Gotham instead of, you know, blowing up the major railway system and never fixing it *cough* Fuck you, Batman Begins *cough*. Early in the series, there is an episode where Bruce Wayne, under the influence of fear gas by Scarecrow, worries over the legacy of the Wayne name and whether his family would approve of the trajectory of his life. It is a great episode because we see more than just the mask but the man beneath it who at times suffers at the cost of wearing it. Superheroes are both the hero and the human underneath the costume; ignore one and you lose half a character along with intrigue and possibility. Most of us are more than one thing and we risk our happiness and sanity; ironically, much like Batman.

Truthfully, I could go on and on about this amazing show, but frankly you should explore its awesomeness on your own because it really is the best presentation of Batman, his enemies, and the true core psychology and heart of the Batman mythos and universe I have ever seen.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

P.S. For one last taste:

 

On Memory & Forgetting

I swear this was not the post I was intending to write today. In fact, I had two completely different ideas and themes I wanted to analyze and discuss, but I forgot what they were. Yeah that tends to happen…a lot. In all probability, I will most likely remember both those original thoughts half an hour after I post this blog. Or maybe if I close my eyes and relax, it will come back to me…

DAMMIT! Was really hoping that would actually work. Anyhow, I forget things quite often. I’ll have a random notion pop into my head and unless I talk about it with someone or write it down, it will just as easily evaporate from my mind. It genuinely sucks. I cannot imagine how many story ideas, characters, plot points, etc. I have lost this way. You would think I would have learned my lesson and actually write some of them down, right?

Perhaps there is a reason I didn’t make those random thoughts permanent. Maybe my recollection of them and their potential is far better than what they actually were. Yes those story ideas could have been pretty good, but they also could just as easily been utter garbage. Memory is funny that way.

I wonder how many experiences and possibilities I look fondly on from my past that were really horrendous and vice versa. How has my brain and ego shaped my past to fit a model and path that I unconsciously chose? It seems baffling and weird to think about memory and experience in that way, but it is the most honest analysis of how recollection functions. All of my past is slightly skewed to fit a preconceived model because it is filtered and limited through my perspective.

Which is probably why we forget things in the first place; we need to. In order to grow and evolve as individuals and a society, the ability to forget our pasts is crucial. I cannot imagine who I would be if I was still influenced by the ideas and events I experienced in elementary school. I mean, to be fair, a few (both good and bad) still linger in my head, but those were the highlights and not the full play by play. However, my current opinions, emotions, and thought process are informed by what I learned and felt during college and the few years following, and not by my memories of high school.

Forgetting is good. It frees up space for new experiences and emotions. And it works as a cleanse giving us the opportunity to become different from what we were; maybe better, maybe worse, but still different. When I was younger, the concept of complete voluntary recall seemed like such an awesome idea. Now, it’s nothing more than terrifying. I want to forget about that girl I had a crush on in middle school in order to focus on and make memories with someone new. And while I will still remember that class I failed a few years back, the feelings of despair and anxiety are thankfully in the past.

I most likely won’t remember everything I want to or forget every experience I rather not recall, but that’s how my brain works and so far I am satisfied with the highlights.

So anything you wish you could forget? Or remember? Or maybe you actually want total voluntary recall. Tell me in the comments.