OK, so we all know that certain elements of the Batman mythos are pretty hard to swallow. Imagining that one human being can spend his entire life training for the fulfillment of one, sole purpose is hard enough, but doable. Yet Batman also has to balance spending each and every night patrolling the streets of Gotham City as a caped crusader, while spending his days managing a business, training, research, and maintaining a personal life to keep up the appearance of a dimwitted billionaire playboy. Not to mention that Batman must be the luckiest human in the world considering all the stray bullets that conveniently miss his face. This stuff requires some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.
However, yesterday the Escapist Magazine published an article entitled "Batmanalyzed," which pointed out some other oddities and inconsistencies of Batman's lifestyle that people don't seem to talk about too much. The ideas raised in the article are interesting (although I don't agree with all of them) and actually have a fair bit of economics to them. They are also very funny. I do want to highlight my views on some of the author's particular points.
1) Projecting the appearance of the "society airhead" actually may require a bit more work than we imagine:
At these parties, Bruce makes empty-headed gossip until he's convinced everyone he's an idiot. How does he come up with this chatter? Obviously, he has to study it. Though we're never shown this, he must have a clipping service prepare dossiers of pop-culture events, which he skims in the limo as Alfred drives him to the party. The Darknight Detective, as part of his holy war against Gotham's underworld, reads all about society debs and Jay Leno and American Idol. His bat-computer tracks Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Batman, sitting in the Batcave, diligently memorizing this month's Playboy Party Jokes - you don't want to picture that, do you?
This is a great example of opportunity costs. If Batman is going to spend a few hours every night working on his social life, then indeed he does have to be kept abreast of the latest in pop culture news. Not only that, but Bruce does not always hang around fashion models and movie stars. He is a billionaire playboy, sure, but he is also something of a "sophisticate." He sometimes spends his nights with prominent political figures and businessmen. This would suggest that he would also need to read up on the latest political and economic news (at least to a superficial extent--enough to make conversation).
As Varney points out, all of this is more difficult than it seems. Staying on top of this requires at least some time spent each day (maybe as little as half an hour to one hour a day) listening to or reading entertainment news. And this is just the minimum. As we know from our lessons in opportunity cost, this is valuable time that Batman could be spending doing other things, be it actually catching street-level criminals or researching a pending case. This time adds up to many foregone criminals put in jail.
Nevertheless, we know that it's important for Batman to keep up appearances. We just never really think of what it costs.
2) Batman's ability to consistently resist satisfying his sexual urges stretches our ability to suspend our disbelief:
Bruce Wayne's social life is a continual exercise in seduction, arousal and dismissal. He charms a sexy woman into going home with him, hugs and caresses her publicly. She's agog, about to spend the night with a handsome billionaire ... then bam! Out on the sidewalk, see you later. This is Bruce's most common interaction with women. Creepy.This seems to me like a strange argument to make. First, it makes the assumption that Bruce Wayne is an ordinary heterosexual man who has ordinary, heterosexual desires. However, we know that Bruce is very far from ordinary. In fact, there are people who describe themselves as being completely nonsexual or having never in their adult lives been sexually attracted to anyone. One study revealed that this happens in about 1% of adults.
What's creepy is a healthy, athletic heterosexual man who persuades entire job-lots of Gotham City's most desirable women to fall on their back, then walks away, repeatedly, unconsummated. It explains how he sustains the rage to keep beating up muggers.
Now, I don't actually think this is the case with Batman. We know that Batman has some sexual attractions. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that he is or has been physically attracted to both Catwoman and Talia al Ghul among others. Hell, he has a son with one of them. What seems to be the case is that Bruce, given what we know about his personality and history, is probably just completely unattracted to the shallow personality types that he hangs with while assuming his invented personality. To me, this is a totally reasonable assumption.
But let's say that Bruce is physically attracted to these socialites he sees every night. Is it really so odd to assume that he would be able to resist them? In fact, Bruce spent the majority of his life training to resist these very urges and to focus his mind on his mission. This is something that priests do all the time. One might of course argue priests are not presented with as much temptation as Bruce is, but then you could also argue that Bruce's training far exceeds that of an ordinary priest.
To doubt that Bruce would be able to resist these urges is then to doubt either the legitimacy of his training or his will and determination, which means his entire mythology falls apart. I think if you're going to suspend your disbelief about some aspects of Bruce's life, then you should easily be able to with this one.
3) Batman's criminal focus may be a bit misguided.
The unthinkable thought, though - the damning observation - is his choice of targets. When he's not foiling some super-villain's plot to turn everyone in Gotham bright blue, Batman fights muggers, hit men, drug gangs - minor-league hoods all - and the occasional crimelord. This is small-scale retail crimefighting, penny-ante stuff. Why no Wall Street derivatives traders? Directors of tobacco companies? Corrupt Treasury officials? Fraudulent researchers for Big Pharma or the chemicals industry? These individuals create misery on a scale the Joker has never imagined.
Two things here. One is that I'm not entirely sure this claim is true. Batman has fought corrupt business types before. Although it may not always be as Batman. For example, the Tim Burton film, Batman Returns, shows Bruce Wayne desperately trying to prevent the tycoon, Max Shreck, from building an additional power plant that Bruce, correctly, suspects would actually drain the city's power and make a huge profit for the Shreck business. In Batman Beyond, an elderly Bruce Wayne fights tooth and nail to stop corrupt businessman Derek Powers from using his company to manufacture and sell weapons. In Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, Batman goes after the organized crime families for sure, but he also makes attempts to deter the corrupt businessmen, police and law officials that take kickbacks and (directly or indirectly) support these families.
Of course, we know that Batman doesn't go after these guys all the time. The Escapist is correct in making the observation that when not fighting violent supervillains, Batman spends a majority of his time taking out street thugs and ordinary criminals. Why does he do this instead of spending more time going after all the aforementioned business-type crooks?
The most obvious reason is that catching crooks on the street requires much smaller operating costs and has a considerably higher probability of success. We all know how easy it is for Batman to catch these guys. He swoops in, neutralizes them, bags them, and drops them for Commissioner Gordon to process and try. Crime stopped, lives saved, case closed. To go after major organizations and complicated operations would require much more preparation, more work, and may not even succeed. Batman first has to discover that there's even been a crime committed, which is much harder to do with a Big Pharma company than it is by simply observing a mugger on the street.
The other reason is that Batman is not exactly a utilitarian. The author argues that these business-type crimes cause much more damage to Gotham City than a low-class hood. True. But I don't think that Batman cares about the magnitude of damage as much as the immediacy of it. He sees crime, he knows it's wrong, and he vows to stop it. This goes back to opportunity costs. If Batman spends time researching these corporate crimes, that means that a bunch of people get mugged or killed on the street while he is conducting that research. Batman's moral code just cannot allow for that to happen. Yes, if Batman got wind of the fact that the Joker was about to blow up the entire city, he would attempt to stop it over stopping a mugger. Yes, if Two-Face just got released from Arkham, he would spend a little time eyeballing him. Similarly, if Batman had reason to suspect that some illicit Wall Street act was about to cause the death of many people, you can bet he'd be on it like annoying on Mxyzptlk. But if Batman were a true utilitarian seeking only the maximal rewards for his city, he would have killed the Joker a long time ago thereby saving the city the cost of thousands of lives.
Batman is a complicated man. And no one understands him but his