May 7, 2008

Relatability is Overrated

I was watching, earlier today, a special feature on the New Frontier DVD about the Justice League, and they talked about the core members one by one.

Upon getting to Batman, one of the people said, "I could always relate to Batman more than Superman because he was just a real guy with no powers."

Ex-CUSE me?

How does one "relate" to Batman?

When tragedy befalls you, does it consume your life to the point of training for every single martial art and known tactics of criminology and hard science?

No powers? How the hell do you think he's able to master EVERY form of martial arts by the time he's 30? You're lucky if you know ONE.

By that logic, you find Green Arrow more relatable than Spider-Man.

I know that I relate more to the nerdy kid who can't get a date in high school much more than I relate to some rich guy who got stranded on a desert island and hung out with a teenage boy.

Are powers all that matter?

Does RELATABILITY matter as much as it's made out to?

SHOULD we be proud that we relate more to the guy who's driven by tragedy, rather than the guy who does good just because it's the right thing to do?

Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, is completely fearless and completely honest. He's incapable of so much as a white lie. Why would you want him any other way?

Especially in a genre such as superheroes, where they're supposed to be role models, isn't it just as important, if not moreso, to be able to look up to them more than to relate to them?

Are we all actually admitting that we're not really going to do good unless something pushes us into it, and unless guilt KEEPS pushing us into it?

Well, that just makes me sad.

Especially when you say you relate to Batman.

Here's a guy who can't function past his 8-year-old self, who is so obsessed with that one night, that he can't move on with his life.

Compare it with someone like Jack Knight (Starman), who was driven by the death of his brother, but is still able, in his exploits as Starman, to work with a smile on his face. While his brother's death was what drove him into the life, it's not what keeps him there.

Just my $.02.


C7 said...

Hmm after reading a few of your blogs I find it rather interesting in that your stances on things seem to differ a lot from my own.
In this instance I will attempt to explain the position you apparently find absurd, Batman IS easier to relate to in that he has flaws and yea he has no super powers, the amount of martial arts training and knowledge and his tactical prowess are on the a overly high level, but it depends on what you are basing it on he doesn't know "every' martial art form, none of the comics/movies/animated series come to mind as citing him as a master of all forms of marital combat.
Yes he is stuck in a depressive state and he was psychologically destroyed by his parents death, but think about it who would become a "super hero" realistically who could stand to fight crime and injustice day in day out like that, police aren't subject to the kinds of challenges faced by a masked vigilante such as Batman the only thing that could keep a human going in that situation in my assessment would be a burning desire for revenge & guilt that could keep a person going like that without burning out within a couple years.
Perhaps you fail to see the way people are its our nature to gravitate to the people who are driven by real emotion and or tragedy because its not usually in us to identify with the person who does good because its right none of us can honestly say we are like that.
Super Heroes like Superman as a role model you can relate to is something that only really resonates when you are a kid, its difficult for someone who isn't totally sheltered from the horrors of this world as it is to see Superman and go yes this is what I have to be, its more depressing attempting to relate to and identify identify with a standard that is beyond anything any human can accomplish, and in all honesty is incapable of even attempting.
I cannot speak on Starman as I haven't read any of those comics so I will cede that argument to you as I have no basis to debate on that point.
However although its a point I'm almost ashamed to make but, the Dark Knight movie shows him to be a very virtuous hero at the end when he assumes responsibility for all of Two Face's mayhem to save Gotham's image of Harvey Dent and its ability to believe in something greater, it was surprising to me how selfless he was in that act.

Duy said...

Thanks for the reply. I just want to clarify:

1) The point I was trying to make is that Batman is NOT relatable (though I admit it didn't come off that way, as most of my posts are rants rather than well-formulated ideas); it's that it's ridiculous to say he's relatable SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE he has no powers. That, to me, ignores the hundreds of superheroes with no powers at all,and also ignores the fact that some superheroes who do have superpowers who is more relatable. I know that I relate more to Spider-Man, who also suffered a tragedy in his life, because of the way he uses humor as a defense mechanism and his bad luck with girls when he was in high school (I am referring to early, quintessential Spider-Man and not Peter "I'm married to a supermodel" Parker) rather than withdrawn Bruce Wayne with the obsession. I really do think there is very little to relate to when it comes to a rich boy who dresses up in a bat suit - to say he's relatable because he has no powers is ridiculous. He's relatable because of his ability to overcome (or dwell on, depending on how you look at it) tragedy.

2) I know that Batman is relatable to those of us with childhood traumas, and I know some very good people who relate to this aspect of Batman. I also know some very good people who lack said childhood traumas and were simply raised very well by their parents and live every day doing good because it's the right thing to do. These are the people who relate to Superman. Thus, I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that Superman is not relatable, because I know several people who relate to him, and I would say that these people aren't sheltered at all.

3) I must agree that Superman is a very good role model, but it makes me sad that people don't see that. I honestly am of the old school and believe that superhero comics should, on the whole, provide a map of ideals for children, aged two to ninety-two. You can have heavier themes, but the fact is I got into comics as a kid and got a lot of my values from it. This is why I am an idealist.

4)Striking a perfect balance between both kinds of heroes is Nightwing, whose parents were also killed at a very young age. Nightwing is probably the superhero I relate the most to, because, not only did he suffer the same kind of trauma, but he was around someone who dealt with that trauma, and he thought to himself, "I do not want to be like that."

5) Starman is great superhero comics, and probably the best mainstream superhero title in the 1990s. It's good reading.

Thanks for reading.

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