I’m still playing Batman: Arkham City on the PC. I’ve long since beaten the game, and now I’m chasing down side quests in pursuit of 100% completion. After countless hours, it hasn’t yet stopped being fun.
As I’ve said before, Arkham‘s main strength is that it really does make you feel like Batman as you play. And the mind of the Batman is a pretty cool place to hang out. It gets you thinking about who he is – and what he is.
After all, who’s tougher than Batman? Who’s darker, grittier? He’s seen it all: the very depths of human depravity. Hell, he lives in the underworld. And he owns it. Nobody, but nobody, messes with the Dark Knight.
Yet this fierce darkness, this supreme mastery of combat, this obsession with his personal quest, are only part of what defines him. He’s defined equally, if not more so, by another aspect of his character: compassion.
And not just compassion for the innocent people he’s saving, but compassion even for the bad guys, the thugs and the supervillains. Though he’s driven by the murder of his parents, he is not – like the Punisher – out for revenge. He’s violent but nonlethal, using the minimum necessary force, sending his enemies back to prison over and over when their death would be so much easier. He isn’t just fighting on the opposite side. He’s fighting a different kind of war.
I find this dual aspect of his nature, this idea of hardness and kindness at once, very striking. I think many people believe that kindness is a form of weakness, that to care about your enemies is to coddle them. Certainly, in this age of political theater and fearmongering, the kindness-as-weakness trope is often implied if not outright stated. I think it’s important to see this idea for exactly what it is: a lie.
Batman is fictional (blasphemy, I know!) but the philosophy isn’t. Hallowed names like Gandhi and Martin Luther King are revered for the same reason. We admire them not just for their absolute conviction and steel resolve (which both men followed all the way to death), but for their self-restraint, their insistence on hating no one, not even the ones they fought.
If you’re a Christian, this is part of your doctrine. If you’re an atheist, this is common sense. Hate begets hate.
What have you learned from watching heroes – super or otherwise?