Batman’s mortality feeds infatuation

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April 22, 2008

3:40 AM

I’ve never really considered myself a spiritual person, but I do take a real shine to this Batman fellow. I can safely say that, along with Indiana Jones, he’s pretty much my idol. Bar none. Yeah, alright, he’s fictional. But he doesn’t take any shit, and he sticks to his guns at every cost. That’s what life’s about.
There’s more to it than that, though. Much more. Plenty of real and fictional characters can make similar claims about such gung-ho, badass convictions. My love for Batman can’t be that simple. So, why Batman?

Exhibit A: my roommate. The guy basically lives and breathes every inch of developing press on the upcoming Batman film, “The Dark Knight.” Not sure if you normal folks are aware, but a massive online marketing campaign has been underway for quite some time now, slowly and painfully leaking spoilers and images to desperate saps like himself.

Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. The campaign actually requires substantial input from its followers before any information is released. As a consequence, a whole sick subculture of people has developed around the campaign, whereby wacko Batman-fans fulfill outrageous requests made by such characters as the Joker.
Now, my roomie and I may be obsessed, but we’re not about to partake in a worldwide scavenger hunt just because some clown promised us a few goodies in return. We’re not gigantic losers or anything.

Or so we thought.

There may be a fine line between loser-dom and plain obsession, but when you’re racing to the theater for Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” — a terrible movie, as most anyone could have guessed — only to catch the official ‘Dark Knight’ trailer two days before its online release, it can get a little blurry.

Now if my math’s right, that’s $7.25 for about two minutes of trailer. Not to mention the terrible movie — please, Big Willie Style, retire from the shame. Plus I think I bought a hot dog and a soda, so that makes it about $107.25.

Oh holy shit. I still haven’t figured out why I’m so obsessed with this all-guts-no-glory, crime-fighting machine. All I’ve really done is offer some depressing insights into the world of a Batman obsession.

So let’s have another look at Exhibit A. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that the first actual conversation between my roommate and I had seriously been about — lo and behold — fucking Batman. I really wish I was kidding. To be fair, the discussion did follow a long night of boozing and two Chanello’s pizzas. But I just don’t know anymore. It’s all so fucking ridiculous.

I think it’s safe to gather a few things from this. For one, we’re just little boys at heart. No shame in that. Batman takes a heavy toll on those of us who refuse to grow up. That could explain the obsession.

Plus, we’re definitely not alone. Not by a long shot. This modern-day mythology has in some way tapped the very roots of popular culture. You might say it’s on a par with reality TV and fast food restaurants. But why exactly?

Exhibit B: Superman may be invincible, but Batman is better. Let’s think about this. Superman, while awesome and immensely popular in his own right, faces no Earthly threat what so ever. Bullets can’t stop him; tanks can’t stop him. Only Bizarro World aliens and kryptonite even stand a chance.

But not Batman. When he steps up to fight crime, he’s actually risking life and limb. No bullshit. Granted, there are still some pretty unbelievable plot-twists — like the part when a steroid-crazed maniac snaps Batman’s back in two, forcing him to seek the medical aid of a wizard — but that’s what makes the story so damn attractive. It’s the perfect blend of realism and the supernatural.

There’s moral ambiguity, too — I can’t get enough moral ambiguity. Batman not only faces the physical perils of crime-fighting, but also the fact that he’s essentially an outlaw himself, a vigilante performing outside the rule of law he so desperately defends. Now that’s the stuff of great fiction.
If that’s not enough to justify my obsession, nay, my religion, then whatever. I’m still going to see “The Dark Knight” 50 times over the summer. And I’m going to like it.

Kasi Kangarloo is the Variety editor. He secretly wishes his roommate would rename himself Robin.

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