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:

 

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Lessons From…The Killing Joke

I was listening to the Nerdist Comics Panel today, and it got me thinking about some of the great comics I have read in the past. Among the many I remember, and thankfully own, Alan Moore’s seminal Batman story, The Killing Joke. immediately came to mind. If you haven’t read this comic, go out and find it. It is just fucking amazing and easily one of the medium’s best works. Seriously, go to a comic book shop and buy it or, if a bit strapped for cash, see if your local library has a copy. Really, just visit your local library more often. They provide an invaluable service and both deserve and need your patronage. (Alright, rant over)

So, without giving away any spoilers, let’s discuss The Killing Joke.

The Joker's a special type of crazy and few do him better than Moore.

The Joker’s a special type of crazy and few do him better than Moore.

Amidst the violence and depravity of the graphic novel is one central question: what is the difference between the Joker and everyone else? Why is he such a deranged lunatic with an incredible aptitude for murder and mayhem?

As far as the Joker is concerned, he is simply the result of one bad day:

one bad day

 

This idea of “one bad day” fascinates me. Ultimately, the Joker is full of shit, but what if that is really all it took to push someone over the edge into madness? What if the difference between sanity and lunacy is just one bad day?

People discuss this notion of one single moment that changed their lives or how one simple decision had such a major impact and completely turned things around. While this idea has a romantic, stoic appeal, it really is not at all factual or real. The truth is that even though it seems like there was one integral, life changing moment that changed everything, in reality, there were a series of small decisions and choices that led to that moment and even more after that made the most of whatever choice was made during that moment.

Even if you are fortunate enough, after hard work and effort, to have a “one day” situation, it is only from the experience of the work and effort that came before it that you will be even remotely ready to deal with that circumstance. This brings us to today’s lesson.

There is no such thing as “one bad day.” We are more than single moments, memories, or decisions. We are amalgamations of every moment, every memory, every choice, and every reaction to each of life’s events. This is both liberating and daunting but knowing this means that it is never too late for anything nor should a mistake or misstep mean the end. As cliche and corny as it may sound, everything really is a step at a time.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

P.S. I’ll also leave this because it is just worth viewing:

Lessons From…Penny-Arcade

If you have never read Penny-Arcade, what the fuck have you been doing with the Internet? No, but seriously you should definitely check out their stuff because it is awesome in all its forms. I have previously written about my love of their creations in the past, and I will continue to do so until I no longer have the ability to speak its virtues.

Now, normally I would ponder on and discuss a piece of media mining it for possible deeper messages, meanings, and lessons. However, there are not really any deeper possibilities for the specific comics I want to discuss/will link to. They talk about one of the most common human experiences: sex, and all the various beliefs, ideologies, and perspectives that come along with it. Obviously, since this is a humorous comic, the strips tend to fall on the funny side, but they still demonstrate a complex grasp of human sexuality from various avenues.

For example:

I fear this same conversation with my future children.

I fear this same conversation with my future children.

Hear we see the dreaded “talk” between parent and child. One aspect of sex that we have mixed feelings about from both child and parent perspectives. This is what Penny Arcade does well: take real world situations and break them into manageable and entertaining bits we can relate to. There are more comics in this “talk” arc that are informative, funny, and worth checking out, but I think the most educational one is by Erika Moen:

Just a girth of information.

Just a girth of information.

Yeah, definitely informative. Anyhow, there are more to read and laugh at and learn from at Penny-Arcade. In fact, here are the links to the rest of the “talk” series:

The Talk by Mike Krahulik

The Talk by Abby Howard (a pretty amusing one as well)

The Talk by Scott Kurtz

The Talk by Bill Amend

The Talk by Tavis Maiden

The Talk by Erica Moen (as seen above)

The Talk by Amy T. Falcone (another hard truth one)

Hopefully, there will be more, but these are pretty damn good to begin with. I find it amazing and hilarious how something so essential to our existence and being can be seen in so many different by people to cause worry, concern, joy, excitement, dread, and virtually every other human emotion. So read the comics and see where you land on the spectrum of sex. It’s not the worst way to kill a few minutes online.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.