Behind the Eyes Of the Bat

A first impression of Batman: Arkham City (preferably to be read in the voice of Corey Burton)

The danger of single-event childhood trauma is not that it can drive a subject to psychosis. This can be a factor, of course, but seldom the sole origin of mental disorder. More likely, a critical traumatic event will serve to distract from other elements that drive a patient to dysfunctional behavior. There is no question in the case of subject Bruce Wayne that the traumatic experience of witnessing his parents’ violent death figures largely into his gestalt. It provides focus, but cannot entirely justify the persistence of his obsession with violent crime, nor his singular approach to the calling he has derived from this solitary tragedy.

Wayne’s public persona, the Batman, is well known. It has been the subject of countless news articles and digests, many of which are even sympathetic to the Batman personality. I need not explain it here except in brief: Utilizing advanced technology developed from Wayne Industries military contracts, the subject glides over the city in search of victims, specifically targeting civilians who he feels are breaking the law, or at least intend to break the law. Upon finding a suitable target, Wayne then closes and attacks, physically assaulting the victim (or victims — often they are plural). The Batman engages the target using full contact martial arts until the target is subdued.

Wayne also dabbles in detective work, often resorting to trespassing or crossing police crime-scene lines in search of clues. In many cases Wayne has suggested culprits from what he has found. Wayne’s leads are not always wrong, but the logic by which he determines them is often too complicated to be used in a prosecution, or dependent on information attained outside the color of law, thus, in violation of constitutional protections. This has sometimes driven Wayne to take justice into his own hands when the Gotham City District Attorney has chosen to exercise prosecutorial discretion. (It is believed that the subject interpreted such a decision as a grave betrayal when Gotham City DA Harvey Dent, a close associate of Wayne’s, decided such a case was not worth pursuing. This incident likely informs Wayne’s interpretation of Dent as Two-Face)

Wayne’s voluntary participation in his own treatment has been informed by his excessive brutality, as witnessed by members of the Gotham Police Department, and Wayne’s own admitted frustration with his ineffectiveness in significantly affecting the rate of violent crime in Gotham. As the subject Bruce Wayne has only had three sessions and one analysis with me so far, this examination of how he views the world around him, the city and people of Gotham and ultimately how Wayne views himself, is to inform a preliminary assessment for further treatment.

Arkham As Confinement

Subject Bruce Wayne has expressed a sense that the ambiance of Elizabeth Arkham Asylum has extended beyond the walls of the facility into the surrounding districts of Gotham. As Wayne recounts, Gotham looks more like Arkham every day. To be fair, the Arkham buildings were constructed in the same gothic revivalist style as the surrounding districts to create the illusion of age, that the facility might have been erected alongside earlier generation buildings of Gotham. It is possible that with prolonged experience in the Arkham clinic wing Wayne has only become more aware of similar architecture in the city around him. It would follow that these might trigger an association with our institution and remind the subject of his experiences here.

And yet, some of his other revelations suggest he is seeing something much more pervasive, as if the Arkham setting bleeds out into the surrounding districts like ivy or an infectious disease. Perhaps this is an expression of Wayne’s sense of imprisonment here at the facility. Wayne is still an outpatient and is free to leave, but he interacts with other patients here whose movements are more restricted. Either he may empathize with their confinement, or may recognize that he could be committed, himself, if he continues to be too much of a danger to himself and others.

Certainly it does not help that Wayne’s own manorhouse was built in the same gothic revivalist style.

Taunting Hoodlums

Wayne’s Batman persona is well known. He has a distinct and recognizable silhouette, and a longstanding reputation as a skilled and brutal combatant that no reasonable person short of a champion cage fighter or a skilled martial artist would engage or provoke. And yet when Wayne describes his encounters with people on the streets they are almost always adolescent-to-middle-aged males, dressed in biker leathers, prison jumpers or gang colors. And according to the subject, these civilians recognize Batman and taunt him, encouraging him to attack.

What’s the matter, Bats? Chicken?
Go on, batty! Run. Run to your mama!
Too scared to come fight me, Batman?

The subject’s observation of these Gotham citizens frequently leads to an aggressive response. According to Wayne, his targets would not seek to flee or surrender, but would engage him enthusiastically and prove resilient to his blows. Only with extreme force would Wayne be able to successfully subdue a combatant.

The subject’s interpretation of the people of Gotham as his adversaries suggests some possibilities for why the Batman is known for brutality in combat on the streets of Gotham.

Self Assessment

During the subject’s second session, I tasked him with providing a list and brief description of his colleagues and notable adversaries for my file, which he partially completed by his third session. Of greatest interest to me was Wayne’s inclusion of both of his identities, firstly as the Batman and secondly as Bruce Wayne. For the occupation of the Batman, Wayne wrote world’s greatest detective. In the brief of the Batman, Wayne claimed, He trained extensively to achieve mental and physical perfection. While such grand ambitions might be expected given his heritage and affluence, the question is raised (which I have not yet asked) whether he feels he has attained this perfection he seeks.

The implications of narcissism, or at least of extreme arrogance, is laid plain. Is it enough on its own to drive the subject to obsess on fighting crime, resorting to personally attacking perpetrators? I would guess it is possible but unlikely. In my opinion it takes more than a tragic mugging, an isolated upbringing and an overdeveloped self esteem to compel the rage and delusion behind the Batman’s violence.

Bruce Wayne should continue private therapy and start group therapy in order to shed further light on his psychosis.

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