Why Batman?

by Lynette A. J. Foliaki

The Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the Greatest Detective, the Giant Bat! These are only some of the names (not forgetting Joker’s infamous ‘Batsy’) that cartoon, film and comic book character, Batman, is known by.

I’m not an expert on Batman and I’m not even going to pretend that what I’m going to say is anything new on the character. I just wanted to shed some light on my fascination of a fictional man (Mum, I hope you’re reading this!).
If you don’t know who Batman is, you’ve been living under a rock for the best part of a century or so.

Everyone knows the story of Bruce Wayne, the billionaire socialite of fictional Gotham City, who watched his parents’ murder when he was 8 and vowed to take on Gotham’s criminal underworld at his parents’ grave. After more than a decade of physical and mental training and conditioning, Wayne returned to Gotham and took on the cowl as his alter ego, Batman. When the Justice League was formed, he had already commanded the respect of powerhouses like Superman, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman, who deferred to him as decision maker more than once. He didn’t hit the hardest and neither was he the fastest but he had the brilliant mind and the indomitable will that made him the leader of the League as much as Superman was.

In an episode of Young Justice, Captain Marvel offers a word of advice to Aqualad after the team had taken off without orders. He reminded Aqualad that Batman was able to stop any protests from the team with a single word. Aqualad’s response to that was ‘That’s because Batman is…Batman.’ And he was right. Batman inspires awe and a little fear even in his friends and if I was a criminal and I saw him coming at me on a dark night, I’d return the lady’s purse with a heartfelt apology before running away screaming. Or rather, drop the purse and run away screaming my apologies. All in vain, no doubt, but the guy’s dressed as a giant bat, that’s a little freaky so you can’t blame me for trying to get away.

But I’m not a giggly fan girl, I know the character is flawed. He’s dangerous, obsessive and emotionally broken. He’s been the topic of discussions by psychiatrists (in real life, what’s more) who have tried to decipher the mental and emotional battlefield that is Batman. He’s driven by vengeance and the trauma of his parents’ murder (and we all know how unhealthy that is) and his crime fighting methods can be…questionable.

If Batman really did exist, the UN would be in a tizzy trying to figure out whether to give him an award or arrest him for violating numerous human rights conventions. Maybe his description as a vigilante is more fitting than of a superhero. But no one can fault that he gets the job done and that he feels for every victim he saves. Batman may use intimidation like a weapon and may be one of the most feared members of the League but no one can say that he would turn his back on a plea for help.

It’s not just about a fictional character – it’s about what that character represents. It’s about a man with the drive and determination to push himself to the limit to do what needs to be done and to sacrifice everything, including himself, for what is right.

It’s about a man who has the confidence to stand beside so many super-powered  hard hitters, without having any special powers of his own, and still stand tall. It’s about a man who, regardless of he has suffered, opts for rehabilitation over destruction. It’s about the strength of character of a man who refused to let his worst nightmare break him but instead, turned it into his greatest strength.

Batman is about living, even when your world has turned to dust around you. It’s about fighting inner demons constantly and not breaking. It’s about refusing to give up even when life sucker punches you in the stomach and then kicks you when you’re down. It’s about knowing that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes – no one is constantly deliriously happy and if they are, there’s a medical term for that. It’s about setting goals and then soaring well above them. It’s about knowing your limitations but refusing to become limited by them.

Simply put, it’s about Batman.

Connected Trust

Watching the movie Trust the other night reminded me of the real danger that teenagers are exposed to today as computers and the internet are increasingly becoming ubiquitous. Trust is about a family dealing with the aftermath of an online predator incidence.

In this dramatic thriller, British actor Clive Owen and young American Liana Liberato play a father and daughter who struggle to mend their relationship after an online predator threatens to tear their family apart. Trust is a must-see for parents with teenage children and all educators especially those who are interested in the use of modern technology in education.

Today, teenagers are connected 24/7; they are conversing with their friends using SMS, internet forums and chat facilities. Unfortunately, however, most parents are clueless about what their teenage children are doing with their mobile phone or computer. Trust is a stark reminder that 1) new media literacies are more important today than ever before, and 2) that the teaching of new media literacies must not be left only to school teachers or a particular group of people.

Although the teaching of new media literacy skills is everybody business, it must start from home. Parents must take an active role in talking to their children about the media in general and the internet in particular. In online environments, it is totally irresponsible to assume that children will be able to fend for themselves in the chaos of things. Teenage children need adult guidance so that they able to use the internet safely and responsibly. In online environments, parents must show the same level of protection that they provide their children offline.  Just because that the child is in the next room at home doesn’t mean that he or she is safe with the internet.

The school too has a lot to do. First, it must rethink it’s literacy emphasis. In some parts of the world, including the Pacific Islands, the school and the curriculum are doing very little in the areas of internet safety and new media literacies. There is an urgent need to expand our curriculum conceptualization of literacy to include skills that people need to succeed in today’s online culture.

The Internet Safety Teens website has a lot of useful information on internet safety. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I would like to highlight the common 5-stage technique that internet predators use to lure and deceive their victims:

  • In Stage 1 of the grooming process, Internet predators typically collect information from your profile or chat, disguise their own identity, and pretend to have common interests with you.
  • In Stage 2, they typically support your point of view in online conflicts or offline arguments that you tell them about, pretend to be the only person who understands you, and become your IM or chat buddy.
  • In Stage 3, they typically ask you to keep the friendship a secret, exchange email addresses and phone numbers with you, and use more adult-oriented language and materials.
  • In Stage 4, they typically talk more about adult experiences and sexual topics, gradually introduce more sexual photos and pictures into conversations, encourage you to be sexually curious, and to believe that sex between adults and minors is normal.
  • In Stage 5, they typically use threats of violence or public humiliation if you stop communicating or refuse to meet in person.
  • In the Final Stage of the grooming process, Internet predators achieve their ultimate goal of arranging a face-to-face meeting with you.

With online predator incidences such as the one in Trust, the internet and new media can quickly become victims of blame and suspicion. Stephanie Booth has written excellent and well-researched articles on the issue of internet predators. In one blog post, she writes:

don’t panic — the media make the whole online sexual predator issue sound much worse than it is; (they (teenagers) might even be more at risk offline than online if they’re “normal” kids who do not generally engage in risky behaviour, given that most perpetrators of sex crimes against minors are family members or ‘known people’)