Photo: Willrow Hood, Shutterstock

Batman or the Two Orphans

Several weeks ago, the world received the latest live-action adaptation of Bruce Wayne/Batman. After it was announced that Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield” and two parts of “Planet of the Apes”) would be the director, many people wondered if the world needed an eighth adaptation of the masked avenger. After watching the film in an IMAX cinema, the author of these lines can answer the question with a resounding yes.

Photo: Willrow Hood, Shutterstock

The film is set in the second year of Batman’s crime-fighting career. Unlike its predecessors, this version is not yet a myth who finishes things off in God-like fashion. This one is unsure whether the fear in the hearts of criminals before him has an overall positive consequence for his broken city. For there, crime – after his appearance – is experiencing an upswing.

Against this backdrop, a mysterious serial killer calling himself the Riddler emerges from the ether and murders Gotham Mayor Don Mitchel. His next victim is Gotham City Police Commissioner Pete Savage. At the crime scene, a letter is found addressed to Batman with a riddle: “What does the liar do after he dies?” To which the masked vigilante replies, “He continues to lie.” Based on these riddles, he and the Gotham police conclude that the Riddler’s crusade is to expose all the lies of this city.

This city was given a character that echoed the unreal city in T.S. Eliot’s Wastelands. In both, an investigation behind the surface leads to the realisation that the city is sustained by lies. The difference between the two is that Eliot’s unreal city is beautiful on the outside and terrible on the inside, while Gotham is terrible both inside and out.

City officials have been able to maintain this unsavoury façade by pretending that the underfunded city is up against a far superior criminal class. A recent major drug bust, they say, is a testament to the dedication the men of the security services have despite their challenges. But the Riddle exposes that, contrary to propaganda, these high-ranking city officials would work for the mafia.

The sins of the father

As the film progresses, the villain pushes the Gotham police to the story of how it could have come to this in the first place. Twenty years ago, Thomas Wayne (Batman’s father) was running for mayor. During his campaign, he promised a rebuilding fund for Gotham worth billions of dollars. He was to invest in the decaying infrastructure. These funds were voraciously gobbled up by city officials and never used for their intended purpose.

During Thomas Wayne’s past mayoral campaign, a journalist found compromising information about Wayne’s wife that would destroy his campaign. When the journalist would not accept hush money, the candidate, in a moment of weakness, went to the mob boss Falcone. He asked him to intimidate the journalist. Falcone went too far and killed him.

This explains why years later the Riddler kills Mayor Don Mitchel at the beginning. He wants to “kill” Thomas Wayne’s heir by revealing. But then he does something stranger. At Mitchel’s funeral, he wants to kill his son, but he is saved by Bruce Wayne. This prompts the villain to attempt murder on him. Riddler sends the millionaire a parcel bomb, which is opened by his servant Alfred.

The villain illustrates an important point about the “sins of the father.” Ex-mayor Don Mitchel benefited from the decaying state of the city and his son from the father’s actions. Bruce Wayne, too, lay in his palace unimpressed by Gotham’s terrible conditions. And this comfort made them apathetic and basically part of the system. In a sense, they inherited the sins of their fathers.

In Bruce Wayne’s case, this point is confirmed by a conversation with Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Her boyfriend died because she made the wrong choices, Wayne said. To which she replies, “(…) whoever you are, you obviously grew up rich.” If the cards one was dealt were prostitution or poverty, was there really a choice? Ignorance and lack of compassion came from a decadent, cocoon upbringing. This is the sin that Bruce Wayne inherited.

However, there are very important differences between Mayor Don Mitchel and Bruce Wayne. Mitchel committed crimes and used his power to cover them up. Thomas Wayne, for his part, found out about the journalist’s death and was repulsed. Then he said he would go to the police to confess the whole thing. But shortly afterwards he was killed.

The two orphans

An orphan is a person who lost their parents at a young age. This can take the form of death or abandonment. The archetype of the orphan is one of the most common in our myths and legends that shaped our cultures. Horus’ father was killed by his uncle in order to usurp the throne. The same thing happened to King Arthur. Marcus Aurelius and Cyrus the Great were also orphans. The same was true of the man who shaped China for millennia, Confucius, as well as his European counterpart Aristotle.

In fiction, there are many characters such as Heidi, Quasimodo and Tarzan, Frodo, Oliver Twist, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Beowolf who are orphans. Almost all of Disney’s protagonists share the same fate. In comics, this is true of Superman, Wonderwoman and Daredevil. In Matt Rieve’s The Batman we are shown the story of a parentless child, Bruce Wayne, who embodies the archetype. This film is not only masterfully shot but also has a message for Muslims.

It is well known that Bruce Wayne had to watch the murder of his parents at a young age. The trauma fuelled his rage and subsequently leads to a life of punishing criminals who had taken over the city. In Reeves adaptation, Batman is in his second year of fighting crime. He has struck fear into the hearts of everyone – criminals and innocents alike – throughout the city. Yet he questions the impact of his actions as the number of crimes has risen since he began his mission.

In a deleted scene, Batman seeks out the Joker in prison. He questions him about the mindset of the serial killer. After a brief reading of the police files, he concludes that the crimes against these personalities lasted a long time. Therefore, he says, they were personal to the perpetrator, as if they had wronged him. He then states that the killer is “a nobody who wants to be a somebody.” Furthermore, the Joker sees that Batman and the Riddler “have so much in common: masked avengers.”

The last point is important and was underlined when the Riddle is finally apprehended. The now unmasked Edward Nashton tells Batman about his life. He was an orphan boy growing up in a horribly underfunded institution where rats gnawed on the children’s fingers. The poor state of Gotham City, amplified in the miserably run orphanage, was caused by the city’s corrupt politicians. They took for themselves the money that was meant for rebuilding. For these reasons, the Riddler killed the mayor, the police chief and the district attorney, as well as their string-puller, Falcone.

Then Edward speaks of a deeper driving force: he tells Batman that he was angry when Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered. Everyone forgot about him and focused on the billionaire orphan boy who, surrounded by his billions, witnessed dead orphans every winter. Therefore, Edward sent a bomb to take Bruce Wayne’s life. Because of this deep wound, he planned to kill as many citizens of Gotham as possible – because they neglected him and did not give him the love and care he needed.

After the Riddler’s revelation, we find a base and petty addiction to attention behind the surface of a self-righteous pose. This explains why the mass murderer allowed himself to be arrested by the police instead of being forgotten. So that the townspeople would take note of him. Author Zaid Ismail notes that we are “(…) attention addicts by default. This ethic that makes us crave attention makes us either whorish or noble.” All of this is driven by the desire for retribution that Batman is equally driven by.

This encounter with the Riddler radically changed Batman’s perspective. In treading the path of vengeance as well as the nightly punishment of criminals, he would not bring about change. Rather, he would become like his enemy. “I am now beginning to understand and have made an impact. But not the one I intended. Revenge will not change the past. Mine… or anyone else’s. I need to become more. People need hope. To know that there’s someone there for them. This city is scarred. So am I. Our scars can destroy us. Even when the physical wounds have healed. But if we can survive them. Can they give us the strength – to survive and fight.”

Ian Dallas once said there was a different breed of people he called “the new Europeans.” These, he said, were the Turks who came to Germany after the dissolution of the Ottoman Devlet; the North African Berbers who immigrated after the collapse of the French colonial empire; and the Indians who migrated as a result of the violent dismemberment of the subcontinent in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. These new Europeans are orphans. They were removed from their homeland for one reason or another. In recent years, more than a few fled the bombings in the “global war on terror.”

Now some of them, orphaned in their home countries, have immigrated to Europe. There are two options for them: The first option is that of the Riddler. This is the path of terrorism, which under the guise of righteousness is nothing more than a whorish addiction to attention.

The second option is Batman’s. This is the way of the Normans who changed the trajectory of Europe. Now the new Europeans have set out to enlighten an atheist continent with the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Orphans of Uganda
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