We Love Batman Because He's 'The 1%' With a Conscience
Seeking, but not finding, heroes in Washington, America has once again embraced the mythical ones produced by Hollywood.
Batman made his first appearance in "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" in May of 1939, a year after the first publication of Superman. Soon thereafter, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Wonder Woman would make their debuts as well. In a time of double digit unemployment, young people would take their heroes wherever they could find them, and if that meant only between the pages of a comic book, so be it. As written in the Atlantic, while the makers of Superman, "played with the bright and impossible, [the creators of Batman] expanded that meme by adding the coin's other side, the dark and improbably possible."
Bruce Wayne got his name from two historical men. "Bruce" came from Robert the Bruce, the Scottish patriot. "Wayne" was chosen to reflect American gentry, the Revolutionary War general Anthony Wayne. As the story goes, Bruce Wayne's parents, wealthy and charitable Gotham City socialites, are murdered when Wayne is a boy. The trauma of this event leads Wayne to swear an oath to fight the evil plaguing his city. Given Wayne's age when Batman was introduced in 1939, we can surmise that he was a child in the 1920s, came of age during the Great Depression, and was now ready to be a savior.
As The Dark Knight Rises is set to smash box office records this weekend, we see why Batman's appeal resonated then as it does today. In a period of stagnant economic growth and sclerotic government, a member of the societal elite dons a mask to save the less fortunate and give hope to a city. Bruce Wayne is "the 1%" with a conscience.
At the box office, we've been living through an age of superheroes for quite some time, with 2012 seemingly the peak, with The Avengers, The Hunger Games, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises – after this month the top four grossing films of the year – all producing dystopian heroes. This is what we'd expect in a "Fourth Turning," a term popularized by Neil Howe and William Strauss to define the crisis period in the generational cycle when the demand for societal order is high but the supply remains low.
At the movies, and in generations, past is prologue, with generational traits revealed by the films popularized by youth. Generation X found its cynicism and individuality reflected in John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and later in Reality Bites. Millennials, optimistic and purposeful, have done the same with The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Batman films. We may not have our savior on the ballot in November, but at least for a few hours, we can watch one on the silver screen.
The Dark Knight Rises is produced by Warner Brothers, a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX).
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.
Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.