‘The Batman’ As The Shadows And The Light

In the second year of Batman’s clandestine yet harsh vigilante work, he still seems to struggle between venting his anger and checking his bearings. Perhaps unsure of what he stands for, he is not even called the titular, saying ‘I am vengeance’ instead, as its very personification. The idea was to be darker than those in the dark, to be more fearsome that the fear-mongering. ‘They think I am hiding in the shadows, watching, waiting to strike, but I am the shadows.’ If Batman becomes a ‘monster’ who can emerge from the dark, he can be almost anywhere, as if omnipresent.

But we know what Nietzsche warned — ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster… [W]hen you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.’ What if Batman falls into and becomes the abyss of darkness itself, one so deep that he cannot climb or fly out of? He realises this danger in time when an online self-radicalised minion of the Riddler also identifies himself with the same proud proclamation — ‘I am vengeance.’ When two in the name of ‘justice’ seek to violently take out each other, who is the truly just one?

With deep irony, without his moral bearings displayed more clearly, it turned out that Batman accidentally ‘inspired’ the Riddler’s serial killing as a masked ‘vigilante’, with his own warped sense of justice, who in turn ‘inspired’ more similarly masked ones. Without a more prominent and noble cause for vigilantism, the Riddler stole the limelight to ‘inspire’ more to further his ‘mission’. Thus, the bat signal has to shine even more brightly, as a symbol — not just to intimidate those on the verge of becoming criminally guilty, but to remind all on what it means to be upright too.

Cloaked in much gritty and gloomy darkness at first, Batman lit a bright red flare in one of the final scenes to light the way, as he guided the Riddler’s terror victims to cross the black waters of a flooded hall. This is probably the brightest Batman ever featured, brighter than him shown in broad daylight — as a liberating torchbearer, who is no longer ‘the shadows’ of vengeance, but the light of hope. As rightly narrated, ‘Vengeance won’t change the past. Mine or anyone else’s. I have to become more. People need hope. To know someone’s out there for them.’

On stepping forth, Nietzsche wrote, ‘I was in darkness, but I took three steps and found myself in paradise. The first step was a good thought, the second, a good word, and the third, a good deed.‘ This does not mean Batman was downright wrong earlier. As Stonepeace said, ‘The only mistake is to not learn from mistakes.‘ As Batman reflected, ‘Our scars can destroy us, even after the physical wounds have healed. But if we survive them, they can transform us. They can give us the power to endure, and the strength to fight.’ Scar tissue strengthens injuries, forming ‘armour’ for the future. Is this not how to make the best of our worst experiences?

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