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Now, I've promised that as soon as I could locate a copy of the author's writings, I would be doing a quick commentary on the various more 'esoteric' meanings of the text, a bit of brief deconstruction. Nothing rigorous, just a quick look at the obvious subtext to demonstrate and enlighten. So, here is part one of my look at an unnamed, unauthorized short story about the Batman:
The proverbial 'cold, dark night' does three things. First, it sets the table for the post-apocalyptic pastiche of the short piece. Second, it establishes intertextuality with the tradition of hard-boiled fiction the actual Batman is extracted from. Third, it is a subtle pun that belies the psychological content of the piece - the events of the story obviously take place across many nights. Rather than being set during a cold, dark night, it is set in a cold, dark knight - that is to say, it is an exploration of Batman's, and perhaps the author's, own psyche.
The first action of the piece, the first movement, is a mask being taken off - is the author trying to peel away the mask of reality, or his own? Is the text an analysis of what the author perceives as external to himself, or of himself? Or is it a lyrical piece that blurs such boundaries?
Pizza, at once traditional American fare and a foreign introduction. A brief note on the alienated state of American culture - a culture built of foreign things, which closes itself to whatever it perceives as foreign.
The scatological imagery is quite present in its meaning here; Batman, a champion for consumer culture, gorges himself on low-grade, greasy pizza without thinking of the consequences. Dyarrhea as a metaphor for credit card debt, you could say. Again, is Batman a proxy for the decadence the author sees around himself, or a proxy for the decay he fears within himself?
Indeed, the story is quite boring - it is a morality play, in a sense, and also a commentary on the futility of fiction in a post-modern world; in a culture where only instant sensation is interesting. The conversational tone of the piece drives home this point: In a five-second attention span world, we are confined by how interactions with other human beings have become 'boring.'
Here, there is talk of moral decay, of societal dissolution - the role of the citizen vigilante is never analyzed but taken as a given; a commentary on the grim expectations for American society borne out of the economic crisis, perhaps. It considers a post-Westphalian world, where the atomized individuals that compose the masses can no longer be said to form a meaningful society, and, indeed, live in completely different realities which, being utterly at odds, can only share space through resentful accomodation or violence.
This section works up to the subject of the author's own parents - being confined to a suburban, empty life in a midwestern state, they might as well be dead. At the same time, it is a rejection of an earlier angst about their state, a post-modern acceptance of their place as culturally deceased victims of post-industrial society.
I hope you all enjoyed part one, and are anxious to read part two of my analysis, which should be upcoming shortly.
edited 9th Sep '10 1:15:42 AM by BonSequitur
I couldn't help thinking of this.
... I'm seeing too much of myself in that.
This analysis is brilliant and I feel smarter for reading it.
Thanks to you, Bon Sequitor.
Bon I find it odd that you overlook the line about Batman needing to be reigned it, by somebody just as broken as him. Prime subtext mine right there.
All in all, a very interesting read, anxiously awaiting for more.
True, true. Broadly, I'm overlooking Robin's whole role in this story, partly because I feel Batman is more central to the story as a vehicle for the author's self-expression and societal critique, but it definitely is a gap in the analysis. Of course, as I said, it's a pretty cursory look into the text.
But now, on to part two:
The significance of the condemned apartment cannot be overlooked - it speaks to the dissolution of the character's physicality; in a way, the story is about the ultimate failure of myth and wonder in a society dominated by manufactured mythologies. Batman leaves no physical remains behind, and his new identity as a myth is a false idol, a constructed thing; the apartment on Lemon Ave. is, in a sense, Batman's own Temple of Solomon.
Re-contextualising Batman from a billionaire to an upper-middle-class white-collar worker is, of course, yet another moment where the overarching theme of the US economy is brought up. Like the rest of us, Batman isn't as rich as he used to be; in a way, his violence is an expression of trying to cling to that upper middle-class lifestyle in a world sliding into crime and poverty; it is also a critique of the classism of those who are sliding down the class ladder - Batman's victims are, of course, mostly working-class; in a way, he fights his own fear of losing his comfortable white-collar lifestyle.
Like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, this Batman is barely in control of his secrets; surrounded as he is by self-absorbed, alienated individuals, his secret identity is protected by society's broader failure to communicate. Dialog in the contemporary world has become impossible; without dramatic or lyrical ones, we must make do with epic narratives, which Batman and comics in general tend to belong to. The story, being told as it is as an account and not by dialog, is once again in the epic form - in itself, it is a simultaneous commentary on the medium Batman originates in, and on broader society.
A 'nice, young co-ed,' the only woman in the text, appears here purely as an object; she has no agency and, indeed, once she has served her purpose as either rape victim or damsel in distress, she is discarded by the text and is completely gone. The duality of the situation is spelled out - either the woman is raped, or she is saved - and it underscores the Madonna/whore complex undercurrent of American sexual morality.
'Make like a Japanese porno' expresses, like the pizza, the simultaneous xenophobia and xenophilia of US culture. Here, Japanese pornography is used as a byword for rape; and yet, it is also subtly placed as a source of titillation, when put in the context of the (Quite sexualised) night-time capers that the characters engage in.
The police cars ignoring a rape attempt are another interesting motif here: Are they a commentary on the failure of the State which necessitates the existence of vigilantes to fight society's threats? Or are those threats imagined? Is Joe Chill simply a phantasm, a windmill for this Quixotic Dark Knight to tilt at? And if so, what does that make Robin - just another side to the Batman persona, and not an independent character at all? Indeed, as I mentioned above, the idea of atomized realities which the story deals with is not coherent with a story that has more than one character - everything is an aspect of the Batman, or an object as viewed through Batman's warped lens.
There's more, but I'll wait for your opinions before posting!
edited 6th Sep '10 7:42:59 PM by BonSequitur
You know this is the first liveblog that the work's creator will probably actually read.
Actually, one of the creators of the white chamber read Haven's liveblog of same.
Not going to say anything until its finished.
Well, could I possibly keep you waiting?
I guess I don't have to say much about the obvious remark about the sexual motives underlying much of of people's motivations. Chill serves as another threat here - this time, as the cybernetic one. He has become unable to interact with humans, but this has made him no more adept at interfacing with the machines which increasingly compose his world. This refrain is repeated in the intertextual remark about Sierra adventure games - Chill's world, and perhaps the author's world, has become a mediated, digitized shadow of a perceived 'real' world; this has rendered him unable to act in truly human ways.
Here we see Robin outgrow the juvenile fantasy which Batman has come to represent - The boy has outgrown his Batman costume. He does not miss his past, in part because he realises that the worldview he abandoned was shutting people out. However, his entrance into a new role as parent carries a sense of dread in this ultimately pessimistic piece: by abandoning his role as crime-fighter, Robin is not only leaving the juvenile fantasy represented by Batman behind, but also leaving behind his impotent but very real attempt to fight the establishment. He then enters the same suburban mediocrity that Bruce's parents - that is, his parents - were confined to; he is 'alive and living well in Minnesota,' like they were. And this leaves a question of who is truly dead and alone - him, or Batman? Here the author speaks about his own experience of growing up and leaving the adolescent fantasy of Batman behind. But the grim social context in which this warped bildungsroman is set puts the traditional coming-of-age tale in a different, light; growing up is about becoming the very forces that drove your earlier suffering.
Again, the offhand dismissal of comics as an infantile medium highlights the negative transformation that the character has undergone in leaving adolescence. There is nostalgia here, not for the content of a more immature time, but for immaturity itself.
Again, this reinforces the idea that Batman is simply another side of the larger Robin-Bruce-Chill authorial persona being explored here. Batman couldn't have done it alone because it is absurd that a fragment of a fractured psyche could take on a life of its own.
Interesting that this is highlighted. To me, it seems like a small barb at the idea of representation itself - even though the story itself uses 'dead' parents as a metaphor, it rails against metaphor.
Still, that is it: The real, true, uncensored reason why I hate Batman.
There are many possible readings of this ending. Is the author talking about the ultimate victory of vigilantism and violence? About political and social movements that overtake their own leadership? About the commercialised takeover of popular mythologies, and the way creators are sidetracked by a media industry concerned either with profits or the maintenance of the cultural status quo?
Ultimately, again, I argue that it is about nostalgia - it's about the author's own status as someone once locked in a world of fantasy, who longs to return to that world. Perhaps the 'reality' he now lives in is thought to be just a different fantasy, but one that is just as self-destructive; Batman was always about where you draw the line between the insane villain and the 'sane' hero - this parody piece discards the possibility of such a line altogether.
I'll probably have more to say later, but two things.
First, the final part of your analysis rather... hit uncomfortably close to home.
Secondly, I'm curious about your opening line:
Did you actually promise someone this, or was that just a flavorful beginning?
He's made his intention to analyse your work clear for some time now.
It might be because me and Bon rarely frequent the same topics, but I've never seen it.
I think he made the promise in IRC, not on the fora.
Ever since this thread I've wanted to find some of Edmond's writing to do a literary critical liveblog on.
The thrill of delicious irony, huh?
anyway, I've actually posted fiction here before. I've only been holding off on the stories I take seriously.
Sadly there wasn't enough of a response here to justify me doing another of these.
Ha ha. I only skimmed it, but the fact that this even exists is hilarious.
Bon what are you saying? A true artist doesn't factor in audience reception of the quality of their work! They just create for the sake of their own ego!
Man, I forgot all about this topic until today.
Truthfully, I was going to post a rebuttal to Bon's analysis (and incidentally see if he'd give my ego a boost by analyzing my other stuff—hypocritical, I know), but it just didn't feel worth it. Now its even less so, since Bon himself isn't around to re-rebut anything (unless somebody is willing to speak as his proxy, but I'm sure that's a violation of some rule or other).
But anyway, everything I would've said can be summed up as:
"Dude, you realize you're finding these layers of meaning in a story I wrote in ten minutes purely as a joke on an internet forum, right?"
I just clicked Bon's own link to the topic which spawned this thing—that being the "pretentious artsy types" topic. Clicking the link gives a "no topic with that id exists" error, which I assume means its been deleted.
Well, here's a quick recap. The topic was started by me and I made three basic points:
1. Analyzing works of fiction is basically a game up making shit up with only a very loose connection to the actual content of said story, sort of like seeing shapes in a cloud.
2. Despite being basically a game, people tend to take it too seriously to the point of seeing it as an actual, useful skill even though there's not one thing in real life you could apply it to.
3. In the worst cases it can come back around and ruin fiction, either because of authors who were these kinds of people writing their own fiction and trying to deliberately insert themes and symbolism (whereas most authors are just trying to tell a good story and most of that stuff is read into it by analysts), or else because a certain interpretation is so prevalent that it becomes pretty much attached to the story.
To be fair, #3 rarely happens outside of high school and college. As for #2 and #1 though, Bon himself is and has provided an example. I can't talk much about #2, but examples of #1 are in this very analysis.
Early on in my story, Batman says "let's order a pizza!" Bon apparently reads this as a commentary on American society. But "let's order a pizza" is an everyday phrase, like "what's going on?" or "I'll see you later" or "I need groceries." There is nothing inherently deep in it, and there's nothing in the context of the story to justify the analyst's extrapolation. He pulled it out of thin air, and he continues to do this for much of the analysis.
For that matter, Bon seems to constantly read it as a commentary on society at large, even though even a literal bat can see that the story is not concerned with society, but rather concerns itself with one person—Bruce Wayne—as told through the eyes of the one who knew him best. Moreover, Bon sees the story as confirming a rather dark world view, when the story given is actually more idealistic than the comics that inspired it. Consider for example that Batman's parents are "alive and well and living in Minnesota" rather than having been shot dead in some filthy alley in a corrupt city. Bon claims that living in Minnesota is practically as bad as being dead, but that's a subjective statement and warrants no further response.
One mistake bothers me: He mentions police cars "ignoring" a rape attempt. But they didn't "ignore" it so much as they simply weren't aware it was happening—and why would they be? Nobody involved in the incident actually called them, and depending on how deep in the park this was they might not have been able to see it from the road. Bon nevertheless uses this as a springboard for a series of "deep" questions—a technique that is maintained throughout his analysis. And yet, is it really even much of an analysis at all if the analyzer just keeps asking questions, rather than providing answers?
Part two also contains this little nugget:
Here Bon shows his chops as a comic book fan, as statements like these are basically gospel to them. But they are not true, at all. "Most" classic Batman villains are not "dark mirror images" of damn near anything, and really only became so through fan-wank. The Joker for example—the mad, chaos-incarnate rogue we've come to love was invented in the 1970s, and yet the Joker himself first appeared in 1940 (in Batman #1), and for the longest time the Joker's most notable trait was his boner. The sad truth is, comics were and still are written in a literary style known as "make it up as you go," and factors like deadlines, low audience expectations and writing to appeal to marketing have meant that any of this supposed "depth" they have is false depth—they muddy the pool to make it look deep, but the minute you put your foot in the water only goes up to an ankle.
Afterwards, Bon says that a woman nearly being raped "underscores the Madonna/whore complex undercurrent of American sexual morality." Errr... what? Joe Chill's subplot serves only a practical purpose—to explain where Thomas Wayne's mythical murderer got his name, continuing the theme (indeed, the entire point of the story) of the reality being somewhat duller than the myth—but also somewhat brighter. As I said earlier, Comics-Chill was a successful murderer if nothing else. "Real"-Chill is a park mugger and attempted assassin who fails miserably at both.
For these reasons and more, I don't see where Bon gets off calling this an "ultimately pessimistic piece." Perhaps the fact that Bon saw it that way says something about him. He's standing in a bright place, but all he can see are the shadows.
This is one of the few things the analyst says that has some merit, and yet again, Bon surrounds this with negativity—apparently in the analyst's world, having a wife and child and having moved on with your life is a bad thing. It's true that Robin says he "sometimes misses the days of crime-fighting," but he "misses" them in the same way most of us "miss" high school—now that its far away, we're able to think about the good stuff, but nobody wants to actually repeat those days.
But even saying all this, it must be said that context is important, and the context of this story was that it was a joke, dreamed up and written in ten minutes or so by a man who was bored one night and wanted to rile people up by talking about Batman. Like the comics themselves, there is no deeper meaning in this story. You're certainly free to pretend their is, but you should take it as seriously as you take seeing images in the clouds.
edited 10th Oct '10 12:31:54 PM by Edmond_Dantes
Most of your reply is pretty interesting, but I don't really agree with one part:
I don't agree with your assumption that, just because the Joker was written with no depth in the past, that there can be no depth to the way he's written today. And I disagree for exactly the same reason that I disagree with your opponents' opinion that any current depth the Joker has should be projected back to his earliest appearances.
I'm of the opinion that any given Batman story should be judged on its own merits, canon and/or continuity be damned. If Jeph Loeb wants to make up something about Harvey Dent in order to make Two-Face a foil for Batman, contrary to Bob Kane's original ideas, then more power to him.
I'm okay with the idea that some interpretations of the Joker are deeper than others, but as you said it should not be retroactively applied to all his other appearances.
But moreover the comment was that "most" of Batman's classic villains are some sort of foil for him. Batman has existed for almost a century now, and for most of his run he fought one-off villains. It hadly makes sense to say that each and every of the thousands of villains he must've faced was somehow his counterpoint. It doesn't even really make sense when you apply it to his core rogue's gallery (what, exactly, is Poison Ivy a foil for? or Catwoman? or The Riddler? or Rupert Throne? or Scarface? or, more recently, Hush?) except, again, under the pen of certain writers.
edited 11th Oct '10 6:48:45 AM by Edmond_Dantes
Anyone who missed it: The OP was banned for something unrelated.
Yeah, but these replies will still be here when he gets back.
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