Why Batman Can’t Kill People, Part 1

By Shamus
on Jul 2, 2015
Filed under:
Batman

It comes up all the time: Why doesn’t Batman just kill the damn Joker? Sure, a no-killing stance makes perfect sense at first. But when you’ve got a ravenously homicidal loony who openly admits his guilt, gleefully expresses a desire to do more murder, has a seemingly endless supply of resources and willing manpower, is hyper-competent and dangerously intelligent, and is supernaturally able to evade capture and escape any asylum or prison, then it seems like maybe the “no-killing” policy should be set aside just this once.

Eventually Joker seems less like a character and more like a force of nature. So after a while we start getting angry at Batman. He’s smart, and he knows Joker will escape and kill again. At what point do we shift some blame to Batman for letting this problem run amok? He had the power to stop the Joker, so shouldn’t some of this blood be on his hands?

At this point Bat-fans jump in and offer in-universe excuses for his policy. “He’s just too idealistic!” Or maybe they offer out-of-universe excuses: “In the old days, the Comics Code wouldn’t allow for a hero to kill people on purpose!” Or maybe they weave a message into it, “Yeah, this constant death shows that Batman’s methods don’t work!”

Those are all fine reasons. Really, whatever lets you set aside your objections and get back to enjoying your Batman is fine. But there’s a deeper reason Batman can’t kill, and it has nothing to do with his personality or cultural attitudes towards killing. It’s a mechanical necessity of his stories, and no amount of hand-waving or excuse-making can change it. If Batman killed his foes, the entire world of Batman would fail to deliver on their central promise.

Which Batman are we Talking About?

I can dig 60’s blue Batman. I can dig Arkham’s grey Batman. But I think gunmetal black Nolan Batman is just a little too “Darth Vader” for my taste.

There have been a lot of Batmans over the last 75 years. Golden age Batman. Silver age Batman. 60’s Adam West Batman. Keaton Batman, Kilmer Batman, Clooney Batman, and Bale Batman. Superfriends Batman. Frank Miller Batman. Animated Series Batman. New 52 Batman. And so on. And on. This character has been given countless personalities over the decades. While Gotham itself has been reliably dark and art-deco-ish, the tone of the city has varied wildly from “typical metropolitan America” to “ruined urban hellscape of lawlessness”.

This story is all over the place with regards to tone, and don’t want to get nit-picked to death by Bat-scholars arguing over every possible version and permutation of the character. So for the purposes of this series we’re going to be talking about the Batman of the Arkham videogames: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham KnightNo, I’m not including Arkham Origins Batman, because that’s a slightly different Batman and like I said two sentences ago I’m trying to keep this simple.. I’m not doing this because Arkham Batman is the “best” Batman. Or because I think this version is somehow the definitive one. I’m choosing this Batman because he’s a solid example of the problem I want to talk about, he’s the version I’m most familiar with, and he’s the version I can most easily get screenshots for.

A Bent Premise

Is Joker’s handgun ejecting SHOTGUN SHELLS? Man, this guy really IS crazy!

The problem with Batman is that his world is based on a bent premise. Note that I didn’t say BROKEN. This isn’t like Fallout 3, where the world fell apart because nobody could be bothered to make the pieces fit together. Batman is bent, because to accomplish the goals of the story you have to be willing to bend the world into a shape where it no longer fits with the real world. And no, I’m not talking about accepting his hyper-competence or his super-gadgets. These problems go deeper. These problems inevitably bend everyone in the world a little bit, not just the main characters.

Batman is a very particular kind of Escapist fantasy designed to scratch a very particular itch. The problem with fiction designed to appeal to a particular fetish is that if it happens to be your fetish it doesn’t seem odd. You probably aren’t bothered by – and might not even notice – how bent the story is, because the world makes sense and you intuitively understand that if it were any other way, then it would no longer be catering to your entertainment needs. That’s fine, but it makes it kind of hard to look at it objectively.

So before we look at how Batman is bent, let’s look at something that – statistically – most of the readers of this blog don’t care about. Let’s look at something that probably doesn’t scratch your itch, and so the bent parts of the story will seem jarring and strange instead of natural. Let’s look at Twilight…

The Bent Premise of Twilight

Whelp, this is something I never thought I’d post on my blog.

To understand a bent premise, you first have to understand what a story is trying to do. Now, I haven’t read the Twilight books or watched any of the movies, but for the purposes of this discussion that’s not important. I’m basing my assessment entirely on the stuff that I’ve absorbed about Twilight through popular culture, and I’m talking about the Twilight world in abstract, broad-strokes terms and it doesn’t matter if any of these problems are ever lampshaded or explained by the author. Even if I’m flat-out wrong about the facts of the story, it doesn’t matter. Just imagine we’re talking about some hypothetical Twilight knockoff book. There are a lot of them, and they seem to be similarly bent.

So let’s say we want to write a story, and we want our story to achieve the following goals:

  1. The heroine needs to be a blank-ish slate without too much personality. Her physical description should be vague and her background should be ordinary in order to facilitate her role as an audience-insert.
  2. She needs to be the subject of intense desire by a gorgeous, powerful man. Heck, let’s make it two men, for a love triangle!
  3. Sometimes it’s more about the pursuit than the finish line. Sex can be scary for some young women, and there’s always the worry in the mind of the reader that the man’s love is merely feigned in order to obtain sex. So in our story, we’ll contrive an excuse for why these two young people don’t rip off their clothes and consummate their love at the first opportunity. Instead, we’ll draw the romantic tension out for several books. Our characters will ALWAYS be teetering on the edge of that “will they or won’t they?” precipice!

    This means our reader-insert character can be the subject of lust for two guys, but also the subject of love, and we’ll know the love is real because if all these guys wanted was sex, they would have moved on ages ago. She can enjoy the thrill of feeling sexy and desirable without the fantasy-ruining complications that come from graphic, sweaty, pelvic-thrusting sexNot that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a different fantasy with a different appeal..

  4. To be fair, this story has been done. A lot. Knock over a rack of romance novels at Barnes & Noble and half the books you pick up will fit this description. (Although I gather most of them eventually get to the sex, after a few hundred pages of anticipation and setup?) So let’s make our male leads a werewolf (muscular, shirtless) and a vampire (quiet, mysterious, old but still young-looking) to give our book a bit of genre-fiction flair and make the guys seem like dangerous bad-boys.

There’s a reason these books sold like crazy, and it’s not because they were intricate stories with vivid prose. The books found just the right way to scratch a very particular itch. If you’ve got that itch, you’ll probably love these books. If this isn’t an itch you have, then the whole thing comes off as strange, infantile, and horribly contrived.

Man, those crazy Twilight fans and their kinky hangups, am I right?

But the important thing here is that Twilight is bent, and you need to bend yourself to meet it halfway. No, it doesn’t make any sense that two super-sexy studs would fight over the same plain-Jane girl. No, it doesn’t make sense that a super-old vampire would have the hots for a high school girl. No, these characters don’t have a great reason to continue to not have sex as the series drags on. No, it doesn’t make sense that this ancient guy would be hanging around a high school, putting up with shallow teen drama. The reason that Twilight is bent is that you can’t fix these problems without ruining the appeal.

You could explain that werewolf and vampire have the hots for the heroine by saying she’s super-sexy, but then she wouldn’t work as an audience insert. They’re here for a, “What if hot men loved you the way you are?” kind of fantasy, which is fundamentally different from a “What if you were someone else?” sort of fantasy.

You could explain old-ass Mr. Vampire liking our heroine by saying he’s got this thing for underage girls, but while it’s alluring to have a mysterious older man interested in you, it’s revolting to have a lecherous creep interested in youYes, that line can get really blurry. No, I’m not interested in exploring that in detail. Go away..

You could help justify the “no sex” thingI know the vampire thing is part of this. I also know some people don’t think this is a very good justification. Again, I’m not interested in haggling over the details. by separating our leads with some sort of physical obstacle or putting them in different parts of the world and saying they’re struggling to reach each other. But then you lose all those scenes of staring into each other’s eyes, kissing, reciting passionately overblown dialog, and otherwise teetering on the brink of losing control and boinking each other cross-eyed.

Yes, we can make the world make more sense, but to do so would make it less fulfilling for the intended audience. The world is bent because this is as much sense as the world can make and still deliver on our four desired goals. People in the intended audience – the people who have a fetish for this particular fantasy – understand this intuitively and don’t complain about these odd contrivances, even though the rest of us notice them right away.

We’ll conclude this next time when we talk about the quirks of Batman and how the world of Gotham is unavoidably bent…

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] No, I’m not including Arkham Origins Batman, because that’s a slightly different Batman and like I said two sentences ago I’m trying to keep this simple.

[2] Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a different fantasy with a different appeal.

[3] Yes, that line can get really blurry. No, I’m not interested in exploring that in detail. Go away.

[4] I know the vampire thing is part of this. I also know some people don’t think this is a very good justification. Again, I’m not interested in haggling over the details.



A Hundred!A Hundred!2013233 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Kathryn says:

    I’m not defending Twilight here, but there *was* an excellent reason for them not to have sex besides the vampire thing. They weren’t married. I realize that in today’s world no one cares about that except me, but Edward did care, and the heroes and heroines of historical romance novels are typically from backgrounds where they did care. You don’t have to personally agree with that moral belief to accept it as a valid one. (At least, I hope you don’t…)

    • ilikemilkshake says:

      But that ties into the point of the post about the world being bent to fit a certain world view. I don’t personally know ANYBODY who cares about pre-marital sex, so for me that reason IS a massively contrived one.

      Where as for you it seems like pre-marital sex is a big deal so of course when someone else shares that belief it’s normal to you.

      Nothing wrong with having either opinion, it’s just that it’s hard to go along with the one you don’t share because they’re so completely different and unrelatable.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Its really not that contrived.

        1) There are still plenty of people today in the real world who believe it. You don’t have to believe it yourself to believe that others believe it. Disagreeing is one thing, but to find it contrived is to be obtuse.

        2) Edward is a vampire. Vampires are immortal. Unless there only recently started being Vampires, most of them are going to be old. Thus if you accept that Edward is a vampire, then its easy to believe that Edward is old, and its not contrived for him to have these views on premarital sex.

        Granted, Jacob is young but Bella prefers Edward.

        For the record, I know as much as I do about this series because the Rifftrax for Twilight make the series really entertaining.

        • Sand King, King of Sand says:

          I think the fact that it seems contrived stems more from the fact that the real world response being madly in love is to get married (and then bang, if that hasn’t happened already). That said, I don’t think it’s absurd to find it contrived that they don’t just have sex. I’m 26, am in a celibate relationship of over a year, and still think the fact that they aren’t having sex is part of what makes the story bent.

          It’s absolutely fine if you don’t, but it’s important to keep in mind that worldview plays into not only whether the bending works for you but also whether it even feels bent. People from rural Texas, suburban Vermont, and New York city are all going to have vastly different ideas of what’s normal (regardless of what they think should be normal).

          • Syal says:

            May not entirely fit here but I want to throw it in.

            A world bend implies the majority of the world has to run on different norms than reality in order for the story to work. Contrived or not, one character doing something you can’t relate to is not a world bend, it’s a character quirk.

            • Falterfire says:

              Yes. IF the characters mention it. I don’t know if they do. Presumably they say “let’s not bang until we’re married” at least once. If it’s not brought up and just assumed implied ‘not married = no sex’ then that’s at least a small bend.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                Even in the movies, Bella pushes for sex at least once. Edward declines. So credulity is satisfied. Bella acts like a shy but hormonal teenaged girl and Edward acts like an old man with traditional views and several decades of experience controlling powerful urges.

                There’s plenty else to be hung up on in this series. I don’t think this is so bad compared to the rest of whats wrong.

        • Regarding 2):

          Age is irrelevant. He didn’t just pop in from ye olden times to the present with nothing happening in between. Being old doesn’t make him a time traveler. He lived – as much as an undead can – through all the years in between and would had to have dragged his beliefs kicking and screaming through it all.

          Which is not to say that he couldn’t. There are a plethora of justifications you can smack on him for why he does things the way he does. I’m just saying ‘he’s old’ isn’t one of them.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            He does seem to be aware of how modern people are and he doesn’t act like he stepped out of a time machine from a hundred years ago but he does hold onto some old fashioned ideas. The fact that so many people believed in waiting till marriage back then and plenty still do now, as well as the fact that most old people hold onto some of their values even when they stop being trendy, means Edward’s attitudes are plenty believable.

            • Cept the reason old people hold onto them is BECAUSE they’re old. It’s a direct result of their own mortality, so it actually makes less sense for him to give a shit.

              • MichaelGC says:

                Is that right, or is it more about neural pathways hardening over time? So, it becomes more difficult to change one’s views because it’s literally more difficult to change the physical substrate which gives rise to (or just is) those views. (Genuine if somewhat rhetorical question – I guess anyone with a definite answer to this would also have a fistful of Nobel prizes. And maybe human blood keeps vampires’ neural pathways flexible, or some such handwavery.)

            • Shamus says:

              Yes, he’s from a time when people waited until being married to have sex. He’s also from a time when people got married at fifteen and marriage was a simple arrangement: I give her dad a cow and a new pair of boots, he gives me his daughter, and boom! We’re married.

              Edward is from a time where some people were allowed to own other people, but I’m sure he’s not down with that idea. He’s supposed to be sexy to the audience, and few women would find deeply ingrained racism to be an appealing trait.

              My point is that Edward is really picky about which traditions he holds and which ones he sets aside, and these decisions are driven more by the needs of the story than from some sort of well-defined moral code. (And as I said before, that’s fine. Having Edward say, You know what? We’re married enough. Let’s bang!” would be just as ruinous as having Batman look at his parent’s grave and say, “Maybe I’m over-reacting.”)

              • Happyturtle says:

                Not that old. He’s only about a hundred.

                *Dies giggling*

                “only”

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I will say against my own point that everybody else in the Cullen family seems pretty modern. Aside from Jasper having his Confederate soldier accent (off and on) Edward seem to be the only one who is particularly old fashioned. But then, I only saw the movies.

                  • 4th Dimension says:

                    Never saw or read anything about Twilight except by osmosis, but to me something like that could be explained by him still being a juvenile teenager for a vampire. He is possibly being treated by the older vampires as a kid, so he as any teenager overacts being adult, and thus he is sticking to some of the old morals to prove how adult and old he is to his family.

                • Dev Null says:

                  This, to me, is the most unbelievable thing about Twilight.

                  A hundred-year-old guy pretending to be a teenager so he can hang around high schools and pick up underage chicks is not just creepy, it’s totally unbelievable. I’m a 45-year-old guy and, while I don’t find teenagers actively horrifying or anything – my niece and nephew, individually, are very nice people – the very idea of hanging out with an entire school full of them wrapped in teenage drama makes me want to put my own eyes out with a fork. That is the completely bent part of the premise, from my point-of-view. But then, as Shamus points out, I’m not the target audience, and the target audience is meant to identify with the girl, not the vampire.

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    As Edward explains, the younger he pretends to be upon first arriving somewhere, the longer they can stay in one place before people start to get suspicious. Made more sense when this book was published ten years ago. Today, Edward would be in enough photos for people to start noticing that he doesn’t just look young for his age, he’s not aging at all.

                    • Is it possible to take photos of Edward? Some versions of vampires can’t be photographed.

                    • asterismW says:

                      @Jennifer (I can’t reply directly to your comment; I guess it’s nested too far): IIRC, yes, these vampires can be photographed. I read the books once (to see what all the fuss was about), and in one of them Bella gets a camera for her birthday (or graduation or something). She takes pictures of her school friends and Edward and maybe his family. He then later steals those pictures when he dumps her to leave no evidence of himself in her life behind.

                    • Blackbird71 says:

                      Pretending to be young and going to high school are not necessarily linked requirements. Haven’t they heard of home school? It would be a nice way around the “needing to pretend to be young, but can’t stand hanging around all those teenagers” issue.

                      “If you’re 16, how come I never see you at school?”

                      “I’m homeschooled.”

                      Problem solved, cover preserved.

                      In fact, the more reclusive they are, the less anyone is going to notice the whole “not aging” issue.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                I kind of glossed over your last bit once but in Mask of the Phantasm a younger Bruce, training complete and nearly ready to begin being Batman, falls in love with a young woman then goes to his parent’s grave and begs out of his vow. Later she leaves him and he becomes Batman.

                I didn’t particularly like it. I can’t believe someone like Batman would do what he does only as a plan B. Why not run off with Talia or Vicky Vale when those chances presented themselves if all he needs is a beautiful woman to turn him aside from crimefighting?

                It was much more believable in Dark Knight where Bruce believed he’d done his part as Batman and was ready to let Harvey Dent pick up where he left off.

              • Model D says:

                You wrote: “… let’s look at something that – statistically – most of the readers of this blog don’t care about.” But I’m sensing surprising amounts of caring, in this comment thread.

            • Joe Informatico says:

              But it also means in over a century, he’s never actually examined the reasons for that belief:

              1) He’s a vampire and male. He doesn’t have to fear any physical consequences of premarital sex (e.g., STIs, pregnancy).

              2) He’s a vampire. He doesn’t have to fear the social consequences of premarital sex (e.g., his mortal lover’s father and brothers trying to kill him). These aren’t even that important in 21st century Washington State.

              3) He’s a vampire. He won’t die. He doesn’t have to fear any theological consequences of premarital sex. Vampires in other fiction have come up with religious rationales for their existence, but I can’t recall any such philosophical examinations in Twilight.

              4) He’s had at least a century to ponder all of these and other rationales, and probably seen dozens of others, mortal and vampire, have premarital sex and not get swallowed up by the Earth or set on fire. And he didn’t experiment even once?

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                1) He’s a vampire and male. He doesn’t have to fear any physical consequences of premarital sex (e.g., STIs, pregnancy).
                I’ll agree that he believes this to be the case (its a plot point later that all of the Cullens are shocked when Bella does get pregnant by Edward). What he is afraid of is losing control during sex and harming Bella with his super strength or possibly giving into his thirst for her blood (which he finds tastier than other people’s blood). This turns out to be a justified fear when Bella pushes to remain mortal for their honeymoon so she can experience sex as a mortal at least once. He does hurt her in spite of his best efforts and against all odds it turns out a mortal woman can get pregnant by a vampire.

                2) He’s a vampire. He doesn’t have to fear the social consequences of premarital sex (e.g., his mortal lover’s father and brothers trying to kill him). These aren’t even that important in 21st century Washington State.
                This never factors in. He shows respect to Bella’s father because he believes in being respectful. How weird, right? . . .

                3) He’s a vampire. He won’t die. He doesn’t have to fear any theological consequences of premarital sex. Vampires in other fiction have come up with religious rationales for their existence, but I can’t recall any such philosophical examinations in Twilight.
                Its not discussed much but Edward does believe in the existence of souls and believes himself to be soulless as a vampire. If he’s Christian (as is most likely given his origins) then he likely believes in a Rapture or second coming. Immortality is thus no escape from eternal consequences. Also, as mentioned below, he can be killed. And the Volturi do kill vampires who step too far out of line. So fear of death is not completely beyond him.

                4) He’s had at least a century to ponder all of these and other rationales, and probably seen dozens of others, mortal and vampire, have premarital sex and not get swallowed up by the Earth or set on fire. And he didn’t experiment even once?
                It gets a little old encountering this condescension in geek circles. Believe it or not, there are perfectly intelligent and knowledgeable people just like you who in spite of all the world’s arguments choose to be religious. Even today. Some of them are a part of the community that participates in these discussions on this very site. I won’t out anyone other than myself because I know doing so often invites contempt from other geeks.

                All I ask for is a little mutual respect. This is where someone combs through this thread or my past posts and no doubt finds an example of me not showing respect, let me save you the trouble. My use of the word “trendy” is meant to be insulting of people’s implied notion that the truth is whatever is current fashionable thinking. (As is my use of the word “fashionable” which would sting if used against me) I’m sorry about that, it stems from my irritation over this very subject.

                EDIT: I know entirely too much about this series. Curse you Rifftrax!

                • Abnaxis says:

                  Respectfully, there is a lot less respect coming from your end of the debate than from the people arguing against you (although Kdansky is kinda pushing the limit below). I have yet to see someone refer to your views as “groupthink,” even though you are just as guilty of espousing an agenda that I’m sure is reinforced by a community you participate in. No one is dismissing your paradigm as “fashionable,” even though there are many burgeoning communities where your rhetoric would be welcomed (I could suggest a few I’ve been in in the last few weeks, if you wanted to visit).

                  You are not under attack, but the language you are choosing is prematurely offensive because you have this idea that you are under siege. You really aren’t. I realize it can feel that way–I grew up being told what was right and what was wrong, and that everyone around me was going to shun me and persecute me for my beliefs. That’s kind of a central theme in the New Testament. However, you shouldn’t come onto the internet assuming you’re about to be crucified. There are plenty of people who agree with you too, and even the ones who don’t aren’t trammeling your faith.

                  On topic, your central objection seems to be with the word “contrivance.” Every story has to be set up just so for it to work narratively. Coincidences happen, heroic flaws express themselves at the worst possible time, the characters do just the right dumb things that might be understandable and physically viable, but also happen to be conveeeeenient for the storyteller. Take lightsaber colors–there’s (of course) a canonical reason why all the sith have red lightsabers involving the customary way they manufacture their weapons, but it just happens that those traditional practices contrive to make all the sith look like bad dudes.

                  If you can think of a less offensive word for this than “contrivance,” hit me with it.

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    You need only read the rest of this thread. People are incredulous that someone might believe in abstinence. Like because its 2015 its ridiculous that anybody would abstain. And then there’s the post I was replying to:

                    4) He’s had at least a century to ponder all of these and other rationales, and probably seen dozens of others, mortal and vampire, have premarital sex and not get swallowed up by the Earth or set on fire. And he didn’t experiment even once?

                    Which I found a bit condescending as if to say “after living for 100 years, he’d eventually realize his views are BS.” Including the little strawman about the earth swallowing you up. There’s no major religion, certainly not one Edward is likely to subscribe to, that believes in immediate supernatural consequences for sin.

                    As for the rest of what you’re saying, two words, Bill Nye. And plenty of others like him. And they have followings on the internet that have taken it and run with it.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      There’s a line, between saying that “I do not find this point of view to be reasonable” and “I do not find people who hold this point of view to be reasonable.”

                      Specifically, characterizing a point of view as “fashionable” or “trendy” is not countering any argument but is rather belittling the person making the argument, regardless of whether you are engaging in hyperbole (which is different than constructing a strawman) to make your point. That is why I say you are being disrepectful, regardless of whether or not I agree.

                      And I have zero idea what Bill Nye has to do with anything, unless you are saying he is replying to this thread under some sort of pseudonym or somehow abusing his celebrity status to subjugate you.

                    • Syal says:

                      When someone says a story is contrived because someone in the story believes in refraining from pre-marital sex, they are in fact saying that people who hold that view are unreasonable.

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      That is definitely often true, Syal, but I think what Abnaxis specifically said is worth emphasising: that there is a big difference between criticising a belief, and criticising a person – or even a group – for holding that belief.

                      For me, the former holds open the possibility of debate, whilst the latter is just an invitation to fight. (At best.) To get a bit airy: the former treats the other as a complex individual also struggling to attain rationality in a confusing world; the latter treats the other as an idiot who I’m better than.

                      I should stress that none of this is particularly relevant right here & now, because as usual on this site, everyone’s basically doing the former.

                      Words is hard, and it’s often easy to appear to be, or be assumed to be, lattering when attempting to former. (Er – ‘former’ is the good one, in case you’re losing track a bit. I know I am.) And it doesn’t help that some will pretend to be doing the former, when really doing the latter. But anyway, I think this means Syal & Abnaxis are really both right:

                      -People often are criticising the person along with the belief; but
                      -There really is a big difference between belief-criticism & person-criticism.

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      When someone says a story is contrived because someone in the story believes in refraining from pre-marital sex, they are in fact saying that people who hold that view are unreasonable.

                      The story is contrived because an immortal being who is over a hundred years old is refraining from pre-marital sex. In that context, “Til death do us part” takes on an entirely different weight. How long is Edward going to wait after Bella dies at 85 from dementia before he (with all of his youthful exuberance intact) finds another object of his affection to once again wait to marry before they have sex? For that matter, why did it take 100 years before seeking companionship? Was Edward an ascetic monk? Romantic relationships, and all the mores that surround them, should be completely alien for vampires versus us mortal humans.

                      Furthermore, to have lived this long without sticking out like a sore thumb Edward has to have a plastic moral compass. Otherwise he would be absolutely beside himself the first time he had to interact with an interracial couple. So why is Edward not moulding with the times when it comes to sex?

                      One or more of these things might actually be lampshaded in the text, but that’s not the point. The point is Edward is a very specific sort of immortal. You shouldn’t see it as derogatory if it’s pointed out–unless, of course, you happen to be a celibate centigenarian who could successfully audition for a boy band.

                    • Syal says:

                      If you read the first couple of comments in this thread, you will see that ‘if you believe in it then of course abstinence seems normal to you’ * and ‘if abstinence in fiction doesn’t bother you then I assume pre-marital sex does’ **. That’s not about Edward’s belief, it’s about anyone’s. There is a distinct implication that to believe in abstinence you must either live in an echo chamber, or actively want to; and while I doubt that implication was fully intentional on their part, it’s also rather widespread, both in this thread and far more intentionally elsewhere, and I don’t think Wide and Nerdy is wrong to express offense about it.

                      Like, everyone agrees Twilight is stupid, but the stupidity of Twilight stopped being relevant to this conversation pretty much instantly.

                      *paraphrased
                      **paraphrased

                      (My very fuzzy recollection of the story remembers physical problems associated with them doing it; like, a mortal having sex with a vampire was like Jello having sex with a jackhammer, or something.

                      Remember the baseball game? You’re the ball now.

                      Or something.)

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      There is a distinct implication that to believe in abstinence you must either live in an echo chamber, or actively want to

                      Not trying to be obtuse, but where is anyone saying this? Again, it seems like there is an expectation that this is what people who disagree with you think, and that preconception is causing you to put words in their mouths.

                      Also, your specific point to which I was replying was “When someone says a story is contrived because someone in the story believes in refraining from pre-marital sex, they are in fact saying that people who hold that view are unreasonable.” Strictly speaking, especially in the way I’m reading the article and this thread in response to the article, that’s not true.

                      The article is about how a celibate vampire is contrived. Everybody here is talking about how a celibate vampire is contrived. I can almost guarantee, that most of the participants wouldn’t find a story a bout a mortal, seventeen year old boy who is trying to maintain his celibacy until marriage contrived, at least not to the same degree; most of us have probably personally known at least one person like that.

                      I mean, people are quoting their own life experiences, historical data, and anecdotes to support their assertions, but the implication I read is that “if mortal people are this OK with sex on average, what the heck is an immortal getting hung up over?” not “everybody is having sex and you’re a total throwback if you don’t want to”

                      You’re seeing a lot more condemnation than I am in this thread. With one or two exceptions, every place where anybody says stories of celibacy don’t speak to them, there’s a big “not that there’s anything wrong with that” disclaimer attached to it.

                    • Syal says:

                      The first comment I mentioned said he found it massively contrived to have anyone not believe in pre-marital sex. No mention of vampirism, age or mortality. You have your own preconception on what the people who agree with you are saying.

                      I’m seeing more condemnation because I’m trying to see every interpretation of everything being said. I’m pointing it out because you made a claim as to whether people were offering offense, and you’re missing stuff. Arguments based on misinterpretation are a major peeve of mine.

        • I think its far more contrived that the vampires aren’t very vampire-ish. I’m not suggesting that they be true monsters, but at least the ones from the Dresden Files have to really really work at it if they want to avoid feeding on people the way Twilight vamps do.

          Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s all made up anyway and who cares, you can write your own legends, etc., etc. The problem is that the setup takes nearly all the down side from being a vampire out of the equation. Sunlight? Not a problem unless you hate looking like a disco ball. Uncontrollable urges to kill and feed? Nah, have some animal blood and never give it another thought.

          It’s turning vampirism into being a superhero instead of an object of fear, mystery, and darkness. It’s like rewriting Lord of the Rings where the One Ring doesn’t call Sauron, it lets you become invisible AND you can fly, and while wearing it you can summon a lightsaber and strike down any Nazgul you come across. It just sabotages a lot of the tension inherent in the premise for me.

        • Jeff says:

          95% of Americans appear to have no issues with premarital sex: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17236611

          That’s more than the portion without a foot fetish: http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v19/n4/full/3901547a.html

          It is absolutely a contrivance for the character to happen to belong to a minority that allows the “bend” to take place.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Again, I refer you to Edwards other reasons. Sex carries a much higher risk in his case of hurting his partner (till she turns), that 95% doesn’t risk breaking their partner’s bones and draining their blood. And note, she wants to take the risk, he doesn’t. So that should satisfy even your standards.

            And its not contrived because the strength and the urge for blood drinking are long established vampiric traits.

        • Abnaxis says:

          Something…slightly confuses me about the “no sex before marriage” thing.

          Like, I understand the idea of only consummating your love with the one person you want to be with for the rest of your life. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

          My issue is, is that the books (correct me if I’m wrong, because there’s NO WAY I’m going off to research this) portray the characters as waiting until they officially hold a ceremony and get hitched before the seal the deal.

          I once asked a smarter guy than me what the heck the point of the official ceremony is, if you aren’t religious and both partners understand they are in a permanent relationship. What’s the point of a piece of paper that tells you what you already know? His answer was: the piece of paper tells everybody else what you already know. And wouldn’t you know, the first year after we were married was the first year I got invited to Christmas dinner, despite having been with my wife for more than a decade…

          On topic, all of this has nothing to do with sex. Being official doesn’t tell you you’re with the person you’re supposed to be with, so what the heck does it have to do with sex? I mean sure, you can do your damnedest to save yourself until you’ve really found the right on to share with, but barring any “bending” to cater to a specific demographic, what does that have to do with marriage? Marriage is just there so you can declare your love to the rest of the world.

        • Abnaxis says:

          This is what strikes me about the “no sex before marriage” thing.

          Like, I understand the idea of only consummating your love with the one person you want to be with for the rest of your life. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.

          My issue is, is that the books (correct me if I’m wrong, because there’s NO WAY I’m going off to research this) portray the characters as waiting until they officially hold a ceremony and get hitched before they seal the deal.

          I once asked a smarter guy than me what the heck the point of the official ceremony is, if you aren’t religious and both partners understand they are in a permanent relationship. What’s the point of a piece of paper that tells you what you already know? His answer was: the piece of paper tells everybody else what you already know. And wouldn’t you know, the first year after we were married was the first year I got invited to Christmas dinner, despite having been with my wife for more than a decade…

          On topic, all of this has nothing to do with sex. Being official doesn’t tell you you’re with the person you’re supposed to be with, so what the heck does it have to do with sex? I mean sure, you can do your damnedest to save yourself until you’ve really found the right partner to share with, but barring any “bending” to cater to a specific demographic, what does that have to do with marriage? Marriage is just there so you can declare your love to the rest of the world.

          Again, haven’t read the books, but I’m guessing Edward and Bella aren’t all about to go have family dinner with their respective inlaws, whether they’re married or not. What does marriage really mean when one party is not even human?

      • Kathryn says:

        Actually, I live in a highly secular world (big city, no one in my family is a believer, my profession tends to attract the rationalist types, and my interests are typically shared by rationalist types as well), so running into someone who shares my beliefs is incredibly rare. As for the person below who wondered whether it would be a point against a book when characters bang without the benefit of a covenantal marriage, I’m so used to seeing that in every medium (books, movies, TV, games) that I ignore it.

        My point is that two people, one of whom is from a culture that frowns upon premarital sex, choosing to wait until marriage (at the ripe old age of 18) isn’t in the same category as someone with 100+ years of lived experience being romantically interested in a seventeen year old girl. (And I say this as someone who loves cross-gen.) It’s in the same category as two people both going gluten-free even though only one of them is gluten-sensitive. Maybe it’s not the choice you’d make, but it’s not so weird or unusual that I would expect it to give the average reader pause.

        (Now, the rest of the rationale, about being a vampire and whatnot, is pretty flimsy.)

        I guess the question is whether you believe Edward being from that culture is a contrivance existing primarily to create a reason for them to not boink, or whether you believe the fact that they don’t boink is a consequence arising naturally from Edward’s character. That is, would Twilight be a substantially different story if it were about an Edward from a different culture? …And that is definitely the point at which I’m done thinking about Twilight. Haha.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          “I’m so used to seeing that in every medium (books, movies, TV, games) that I ignore it.”

          Thank you yes. Word to anybody else here. People do not have traditional views because they live in some alternate reality or on a secluded commune. Believe it or not, its possible to live in the real world as an intelligent and knowledgeable person and still hold to ideas that don’t conform to the latest most fashionable brand of groupthink.

          • Abnaxis says:

            I went into more detail above, but I find it condescending and pretentious that you refer to anyone who disagrees with you as engaging in “groupthink” and only believing in what’s “fashionable.” Maybe you don’t mean to, but you are conveying yourself in a way that betrays you as every bit the elitist you are railing against.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I only do that because I’m really tired of people using arguments along the lines of “its 2015, why would anyone think X” or “get with the times”, there’s some of that in this very comment section. This combined with a recent CNN editorial about how we don’t need to dignify both sides anymore and that thought is echoed as well.

              My response is abrasive yes, but I’m only seeking to counter that specific brand of rhetoric.

              If someone wants to use that defense then I’m branding them as a fashionable groupthinker because thats what they deserve for falling back on that argument rather than thinking for themselves. If someone wants to offer their own arguments for what they think rather than presuming that mode thought is truth, then I’ll respect that.

              • Abnaxis says:

                But…I’ve yet to see someone say “get with the times” other than you. I’m seeing plenty “why would you think this way?” (which is still bad with the wrongs words, granted) without the implied “haven’t we gotten past this?” that you are working to preempt.

                I understand this blog does not exist in a vacuum. However, while there are plenty of people arguing with you in this thread, it really does seem like you came in here swinging, ready to fight some sort of liberal inquisition. Abrasive begets abrasive.

                I understand you have been made to feel uncomfortable with your views in your own slice of “geek culture” (though I have personally been around more “geeks” that agree with you than not). I want you to understand that the rest of us have had to put up with the converse in plenty of other cultural contexts where anti-secularism is more dominant (including, I would argue, popular culture). In fact, I’m willing to bet every single human being in existence has, at some point, been singled out for holding a close belief that runs contrary to the beliefs of those around them in some uncomfortable way.

                Jumping into the conversation ready to fight an defend those beliefs is not the path to the productive exchange ideas. Rather, try not to read things personal unless the language people use is explicitly so, and try not to use personal language yourself.

                • Shamus says:

                  Abnaxis, thanks for being cool-headed throughout this thread.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  I do understand that people from my leanings did a lot to make this culture predisposed to be hostile towards those views. For what its worth, that was never me and I rebelled against that back when I attended regularly.

                  • Actually, there has never been (and, I’d be willing to bet, never will be) a culture that *actually* “frowns” on premarital sex. Or extra-marital sex. There has only ever been one segment of the population where anybody actively cared about their virginity–rich women. A cultural *fetish* for virginity is not the same as general cultural *activity*. People talk a lot about wanting their wives to be virgins–and then actively violate this declaration in any way possible. The only difference between modern culture and what has existed in the past is that we moderns tend not to like institutionalized hypocrisy, so you have two groups: people who readily admit that they don’t give a hoot, and people who do actually attempt to stay virginal. The latter group simply tends to re-write the historical record to suit their views, imagining all of history as if it were 1950’s television.

                    Historically even the POPE often had a bastard or two hanging about. Which was probably a good thing considering the historical infant mortality rate. Humans (speaking in general, not necessarily any given individual) have lots and lots and LOTS of sex and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of offspring.

                    Even with the staggeringly high pre-industrial infant mortality rate, nearly every human culture that has ever existed practiced some form of open or disguised infanticide. I don’t say “every” flat out because there may be an exception or two out there, but based on the research they are EXTREME outliers. Even ones that theoretically eschewed the practice turned out to have places where you could get rid of unwanted infants–they were supposed to be cared for, but died of neglect upwards of 95% of the time.

                    It was much easier to hide a pregnancy historically than it is now (at least, among the groups where it would actually carry consequences–even those often tended to be more theoretical than real). And even now it isn’t unheard-of.

                    Most people’s “historical” knowledge regarding culture comes down to them via the medium of FICTION–the classics they read in high school or college. The trouble is that these books aren’t classics because they actually typified the attitudes of the people in the era they were written in or about (and these are usually NOT THE SAME THING), but because they have passed through DECADES of filtering–filtering usually done by people who were looking for edifying works for YOUNGSTERS. Adults are quite often staggeringly more prudish regarding youngsters than they are regarding their own lives.

                    Fiction novels are also written–intentionally–to intensify drama. If you don’t have conflict, you don’t have a plot. So, yes, if the only things you know about the Puritans comes from The Scarlet Letter–which, by the way, was written more than TWO HUNDRED YEARS after the time period it’s supposed to be depicting–you’re going to think the Puritans were aghast about sex. The truth is substantially more complex.

                    In the end, there isn’t one “traditional” view vs. a “modern” view. Both views are, in actuality, modern–one because it has sex and admits it, the other because it actually doesn’t have sex.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I feel like you went off on a tangent there. That the historical reality falls short of the ideal doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on Edward, who could still embrace the ideal. There’s also the issue of him fearing what he might do during sex with his vampiric powers, either injuring her or giving in to his urge to drink her blood (he has a stronger urge for her blood than other people’s blood). So even if the ideals don’t hold up, Edward has his own collection of special reasons for doing what he does.

                      Now if we want to nitpick, probably the biggest nitpick in the series is why doesn’t Edward change Bella sooner. She’s in constant danger because of him even when he leaves her and another vampire who can see the future sees that her transformation is inevitable. If he’d turned her as soon as he knew that, he could have saved them both a lot of grief AND that would take the remaining objections off the table for having premarital sex (if he doesn’t really care about the religious reasons).

    • ehlijen says:

      Doesn’t that just make it part of the bend?
      Given that it’s important to you, may I guess that when protagonists boink without marrying first and no consequences, that is a point against the story in your view?

      I believe that is what Shamus is talking about: We all want different things, from the world, from stories, from a partner…from everything. Every story is bent in some way, every story has some people liking it more than others.

      Edward could almost as easily have been turned in the 60s and been a free love kind of person, but the story needed him to be chaste instead, so he wasn’t.

      • wswordsmen says:

        No bend is against normal reality, and normal reality is w/o some outside reason, which can’t be established while keeping the blank slate, it is contrived to not have premarital sex at that age. Most people (probably more than 3/4 but almost defiantly more than 2/3) would do it so it is part of the bend.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Yeah, that’s one of the better explained reasonings in the Book.

      • Kdansky says:

        That’s only sensible to a devout (US American) Christian. [Oh Boy religion – Best topic!]

        Of course you should check whether you enjoy sex with your future wife. Because if your wants don’t match up, your marriage won’t last a decade, much less “till death us part”. It’s just common sense. It’s about as sensible as “not talking to your wife until marriage” or “not telling your wife about your hobbies / job until marriage.” A recipie for disaster. The older I get, the more insane this idea seems to me. Right now, it’s on the “batshit” tier, fitting for the topic of bats.

        Waiting with sex until married only leads to two things: Earlier marriages (because most people have a strong sex drive in their late teens), and many more divorces. Archer would say: “Do you want divorces? Because that’s how you get divorces.”

        We’re in 2015, where gay people can marry black people, and the only people having children at 16 are trailer park habitants, and most people have children in their thirties or fourties. The notion that sex comes after marriage is just not sensible any more. I’m sorry for everyone who still believes in it, but it’s not how the world works.

        But what’s the point: The Twilight books are not about how the world works, they are about a fetish, that’s why the reason seems sensible in their magical universe. But to a modern adult, this reason is a load of crap.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          It’s not necessarily a religion thing. Iv’e met quite a few people who want to wait for marriage as a mater of commitment. They don”t want to share something that intimate until it is right. Sure some people just do it for fun, but that”s not everyone. Implying that waiting, for any reason is “doing it wrong” is kinda….closed minded.

          • It’s not even necessarily a matter of commitment. Asexuality is on the rise, particularly in Japan, where last I heard the government is actually trying to figure out how to get their youngsters to have sex. 45% of young women and 25% of young men in Japan have indicated they find sex distasteful and don’t plan to pursue it.

            If you can hack it, there are plenty of good reasons to eschew a sexual lifestyle. It’s just that “somebody else thinks I should” isn’t one of them. But that’s never been a good reason to do ANYTHING.

        • Syal says:

          Talking to a woman doesn’t carry the same risk of eighteen-year commitment as sex.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Its that way in 2015 because people happen to choose to be that way in 2015. There is nothing about 2015 that suddenly makes one idea make more sense than another. There could just as easily be a massive backlash against sexual freedom in the coming decade such that someone could be telling you “look, its 2025, everybody goes in for neutering, stop living in the past.”

          And off the top of my head I could make an argument just as substantial as the one you made. What if I enjoy sex with my wife but not as much as I enjoyed it with a couple of my previous lovers? At least those who wait till marriage don’t know what they’re missing. Am I supposed to marry based on who I’ve had the best sex with?

          Now we could get into studies and all that but as you can see, the argument is not easily dismissed with a single bit of logic. Its possible for thoughtful people to arrive at different valid conclusions on something like this. And its funny how “its popular” never works when its against your own views is it? Or are all of your views popular?

          • Abnaxis says:

            It is incorrect to say that a position either way is not shaped by the society we live in. Sex is very much a morally relative subject

            However, it is also incorrect to say that you cannot use any sort of substantive reasoning to back up your position. The potential consequences of sex, as a well as our capacity to avoid those consequences, are in many ways concrete and measurable.

            It’s also incorrect to keep dismissing the opposing view as sheeple, especially when I strongly doubt the proportion of the overall population that agrees with you outnumbers those of your opponent by as much of a margin as you seem to think, if at all.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              It does outnumber me among geeks. And I spend my time among geeks.

              And I didn’t say you couldn’t make a substantive argument. But the guy I was responding too seemed to think that on the basis of his bit of reasoning alone that he had shut down the argument as though something that obvious had never occurred to anyone else.

              Believe me, many who choose abstinence think long and hard about it given that human nature and modern society both push us towards going ahead and having sex. There’s this trope in modern media that kids raised in religious families are clueless about sex and thats why they think what they do. That may be true some places but I can tell you plenty of us grew up knowing full well about the world. Almost none of us are apt to cling to the first bit of reasoning that justifies abstinence.

        • Abnaxis says:

          While I largely agree with your points, could we maybe try to stay away from using phrases like “that’s only sensible to X person” in these kinds of discussions?

          I have no authority at all in this space, but I like it much better if we discuss ideas on their individual merit, rather than writing people off as not “sensible” enough for you. That stinks of shunning, which I strongly believe only makes the world worse since the invention of the Internet.

          If any post you’re looking to make contains the words “common sense,” odds are what you’re writing is incendiary, and you should really try to read your post from the other side’s perspective before you hit the “Reply” button.

        • Blackbird71 says:

          “Of course you should check whether you enjoy sex with your future wife. Because if your wants don’t match up, your marriage won’t last a decade, much less “till death us part”. It’s just common sense.”

          I see, so my 13th wedding anniversary of a few weeks ago must have all been in my imagination then, because according to you we couldn’t possibly have lasted the past few years.

          I’m sorry for coming off a bit strong on this, but I am sick and tired of people spouting off these suppositions and assumptions as if they were somehow fact. When I look at the wonderful life I have with my wife, both of us having abstained before marriage to each other, and then I look at friends and relatives who did not, and many of their completely disastrous relationships, I have to say that the idea that you must “check whether you enjoy sex with your future wife” in order for a marriage to succeed to be completely ridiculous with no basis in reality one way or the other.

          I realize that my experiences are all anecdotal, but I’ve known those who abstained before marriage whose marriages lasted their whole life, and those who have failed, and I know those who did not abstain whose marriages failed, and some who succeeded. The point being that there may not be a lot of concrete evidence to support the idea that sex before marriage will ensure either the continuation or dissolution of a marriage, but there most certainly is sufficient evidence to disprove the idea that sex before marriage is somehow a requirement for that marriage to succeed.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Yeah, that’s massively a question of perspective.

      Because I know next to nothing about Twilight, so I’ll just use a different type of transgression: Drinking. Let’s say some story is written by a well-behaved author for well-behaved teenagers. This means that none of the protagonists will touch alcohol in the story, but of course (at least some of) the protagonists are popular, and get along with the rest of their schoolmates and that. So … I do know people who drank nothing at school, and I only drank very little and very occasionally and generally despised people getting drunk on parties. So I’m completely cool with people not drinking.

      … but if I saw a movie that depicted teenage life with no alcohol it’d break immersion immediately because not only was getting drunk the thing to do on parties at ages from about 15 until the end of school, but also all of the alpha people were doing it. If you did not get drunk, you were an outsider. Doubly so if you didn’t even touch alcohol. Now, there are certainly places on earth where this is different but let’s generalize this to any kind of transgression: Most teenagers test the boundaries of what’s OK and what isn’t. They do things they shouldn’t be doing. So any story where all the cool kids do exactly what Mom and Dad say cannot work for me, it’d just seem like crazy idealisation to me, meaning that the author is likely completely out of touch with the real world.

  2. Galad says:

    Ohh this is gonna be good. Not only do we get to read/discuss twatlight in a way we normally don’t witness, we also get to uncover the secrets of Batman, like the trail-blazers we surely must be. You’re spoiling us, Shamus! =P

    (I’m only semi-joking, I really am enjoying these analysises)

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I honestly did not expect the “How is Batman like Twilight” angle when I started reading the post.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Truth is, its probably nothing new for me. As a superhero fan who gets tired of the one guy with no powers* getting all the spotlight, I’ve become disenchanted enough with Batman to see all kinds of problems with him. I’m going to enjoy watching Shamus take him down a peg.

      *”Well that’s whats great about Batman. See he doesn’t have powers so he’s an aspirational**-”
      “WHY ARE YOU READING SUPERHERO COMICS!?!”

      **Or “so that makes him more believable” which is such a joke. You have to suspend far more disbelief with Batman than any other superhero.

      • Sand King, King of Sand says:

        There are reasons to follow Batman besides him being a superhero.

        I don’t particularly care for a lot of superheroes, but the film noir aesthetic of Batman helps. It can’t just be that, but I can’t put my finger on why else I like him.

        I don’t know about suspending more disbelief for Batman. I have less trouble with Batman’s not killing or not using guns than I do with Superman’s invincibility but oh wait Kryptonite is spooky scary and can give Superman cramps or even kill him. I don’t know what it is, but even campy Adam West Batman gives me less trouble than Kryptonite. Maybe it’s the power of lampshading?

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Someone else put it better than I but everything weird about Superman can be explained by “He’s a superpowered alien” including the Kryptonite which falls under the “alien” part (without getting into too much nerd detail). With Batman, you have to believe a massive series of contrivances and even then Batman routinely performs beyond human limits. His pitfall is that, unlike with Superman who’s abilities can be vaguely defined, we have a pretty solid idea of what humans can and can’t do.

          There’s no way he could do what he’s been doing for as long as he’s been doing it (in the comics its assumed he’s been active for around a decade) without suffering career ending or fatal injuries. Especially true in the comics where he fights superhuman foes alongside the Justice League.

          And thats not counting the cumulative effect of his lesser injuries. He should have all the health problems of a boxer and professional linebacker and then some because at least the former two do their thing in arenas where people generally follow the rules. He should probably be psychologically scarred for life after all the tortures he’s suffered at the hands of Joker, Scarecrow, and the Mad Hatter. And thats to say nothing of the effects of exposure to all the toxins and gases his enemies like to use. Bruce Wayne should probably have some kind of neurological condition named after him by now.

          There’s no way he could be the world’s greatest detective AND one of the greatest martial artists and an engineer capable of devising his own arsenal (used to be assumed that Batman somehow made his own toys, at least Nolan made a contribution in this regard by shifting that burden to Lucius Fox and WayneTech R&D) and all the other skills, such piloting, rappeling, stunt driving, skill with thrown projectiles, chemistry, and the general encyclopedic knowledge he seems to command. Batman is too good at too many things. He’s Sherlock Holmes, Bruce Lee, MacGyver and James Bond combined and only one of those people is even real.

          And since Batman is getting his gadgets from Waynetech and Lucius, there’s no way even with Lucius help that they could hide the construction and disappearance of all the tech that Batman uses forever. Between that and the fact that Batman is frequently active in the city, there’s no way the government wouldn’t have figured it out by now. Satellites, drones, and audits would eventually collide.

          Then there’s the part where Bruce is genetically gifted while also being rich and being allowed to be raised by his own employee while engaging in self directed training towards a career in crimefighting without anyone noticing and without losing motivation ever. Not impossible maybe, but incredibly unlikely.

          • The gov’t did figure it out.

            Jez sayin.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I haven’t read the most recent comics. I know they figured it out in the DCAU. The New 52 is fanfiction so whatever. You can put Jim Gordon in a big blue bunny suit and call him Batman for all I care about the New 52. Oh wait, they did.

          • MaxieJZeus says:

            “hide the construction”

            I really do love “Arkham Asylum” and forgive it almost everything. But I giggle when Batman tells Barbara how bit by bit he installed another Batcave under the island.

            And then we see this local Batcave.

            All that intricate metalwork?! Carried down there by himself?! Without being seen?!

            Forget the Joker’s taunt (in “Return of the Joker”) about him being a little boy crying for mommy and daddy. He’s a seven-year-old kid who spent his Sundays sketching elaborate blueprints for his ideal treehouse.

            • Mike S. says:

              Of course– because that’s who he was created to be the fantasy reflection of.

              (I can’t be the only one who pored over the cutaway diagrams of superhero headquarters–clearly, since they kept putting them in. Who didn’t want to know where the Avengers kept the submarines or where the Legion of Super-Heroes’ spaceship hangar was relative to the dorms?)

              No matter how grim Batman gets, he’s still someone whose brooding takes place in the shadow of a dinosaur, a giant penny, and an oversized playing card.

          • Dan Efran says:

            Your list of who he’s like suggests a possibly satisfying explanation. Like Holmes and Bond, probably Batman is part of the Wold Newton family. That would explain all his implausible “powers” at one stroke. Of course he’s rich, strong, agile, hardy, and clever way beyond the norm. They all are.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Hey, the moment they want to admit that Batman can do what he does because he’s some kind of mutant or metahuman, I drop all my objections. But then the fanboys have to drop their defense that Batman is relatable or realistic or the most inspiring or whatever because he has no powers.

        • Naota says:

          There are lots of reasons to like Batman beyond just the aesthetic. “Realism” doesn’t even enter the picture for me.

          For one, he’s a hero with relateable convictions and flaws – easy to empathize with and understand, and his nature is often leveraged against him for dramatic effect. Sometimes Batman’s biggest obstacle is Batman. As novel as the likes of Thor, Superman, or Captain America are, if explained at all, their “goodness” doesn’t come from anywhere particularly compelling, and only ever results in an unyielding and incorruptible good. Batman has complexes – in ways he’s a fanatic – yet he’s never so crazy that the audience loses touch of why he acts the way he does.

          Secondly, Batman stories are as much about his villains as they are about him. So many other superhero properties paint “bad” on a cardboard box so their stars can have something to kick around to show off. Look no further than the movies lately: The Guardians fight a stoic, frowny Darth Vader expy; Thor fights a literal robot and then a stoic, frowny Sauron expy; Cap fights an angry red nazi and a Scorpion expy without any personality; Iron Man fights a revolving door of hollow, caricatured capitalists; The Avengers fight rote evil aliens; The Hulk fights… tanks. About the only other superhero to have any fun with its antagonists in Hollywood is Spiderman, and none of them come close to the kind of personality you see from Joker or the rest of Batman’s primary rogue’s gallery.

        • Deadpool says:

          I notice different people see this very differently.

          Some people don’t like heroes with super powers because super powers “aren’t real.” Some people are willing to make that one leap as long as the rest is internally consistent, other people just never make that first leap.

          Other people have problems with super heroes without super powers because they STILL HAVE SUPERPOWERS. Batman, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Robin… They are all super powerful people (as in, have abilities that no human ever could) they just don’t tell the audience. Some people can ignore that, other people it grates at them.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            It only grates on me when people say super powers are fake and Batman is believable. I’m willing to accept both Superman and Batman on their own terms but neither of them are anything remotely approaching realistic.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Truth is: I’m actually very sceptical of the entire superhero thing in general. Most of them are idealized to the point that the stories have a hard time communicating anything relevant to me*. The Incredibles is probably the only superhero story one so far that I really completely liked… oh, and Dr. McNinja, he’s cool.

        … but then I have other things I love which few people understand, so my view is that everyone has their own favourite bends, and it’s all a question of what particular bend you’ll accept in a story and which you won’t. Which very much depends on your personal background and life experience.

        *So then why do I read Shamus discussions about Batman? Because I’m trying to understand already what the appeal is! This bugs me!

  3. Syal says:

    Shame you haven’t seen the Twilight movies, Shamus; they’re hilarious.

  4. Completely on a tangent, Shamus: Regarding your recent tweets, you really need to compose one of your electronica songs and call it “Blame it on the Batmobile.”

  5. lethal_guitar says:

    Aargh that cliffhanger ending..

  6. boz says:

    I’m fine with Batman’s unwillingness to kill Joker. But this is a “have time travel, will kill Hitler” thing. Someone would “accidentally” or willingly would kill him by now. And thats ignoring contracts on him. Considering his body count, relatives of his victims can pool their resources and hire Deathstroke for the job.

    • MichaelGC says:

      With whether or not it’d be entirely reasonable or even morally required to kill The Joker, I think part of it is the sort of fuzziness that applies to comics, where certain things are both definite and well-known, but also obscure. Time certainly works in this way: it passes straightforwardly comic to comic, but if you gathered, say, all the Spider-Man comics together, and tried to work out how much time had passed in total, there wouldn’t be an answer.

      That comics have a complicated continuity is not perhaps interesting on its own, but the key point here is what a reader – well, a fan: someone who has been following a particular character for some time – has to mentally accept. They’ll probably both have an idea of everything a character has been up to for 50 years across – as Shamus says – multiple sources, but also be fine with the fact that they only graduated last year. (Or whatever – you know the style o’ fing.)

      So, similar considerations apply to The Joker’s bodycount. He is a serial murderer, certainly, but that’s not enough for Batman. What might be is if he really had killed everyone he is supposed to have, over 75 years and multiple sources. Then he’d be one of the worst mass-murderers ever, and Batman’s seeming unwillingness to just put an end to it might even begin to seem immoral. (And as boz says, others would certainly have taken steps.)

      This is where the fan-fuzziness comes in. The big difference is that it actually would be possible to gather all Joker’s appearances together, and do the grisly maths. But that’s when the characters stop working. So, if the reader wants them to work, they have to get fuzzy with it: it’s an important part of both characters that they’ve shared a long & often bloody history, but it’s an important part of them operating as characters that we’re not sure *slowly waggles hand* exactly how long, and specifically not how bloody.

      (And thinking about it, you could replace ‘fuzzy’ with ‘bendy’.)

      • Joshua says:

        I’m wondering if it’s kind of like MMO-logic. No, there aren’t *really* thousands of heroes puttering around here or the conflict would be a lot more one-sided. You have to pretend you and your (current) friends are the only real heroes around.

        So, although the Joker has killed (thousands?) if you count every single appearance in every comic that has occurred, you kind of have to pretend most of them didn’t happen and he’s only killed a handful of people?

        For some reason, I’m thinking of Mr. Burns now. “Smithers, who is that employee?”. “Uh, that’s Homer Simpson, sir. You’ve had direct dealings with him that have had major impacts on your life on hundreds of occasions.”

        Reset button, it is.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          I was actually thinking that the “world bending” is very similar to how video games have various contrivances that we all just accept in order to get on with it.
          Like how stealth in games is always ridiculous compared to real life, or how very few enemies will actually use weapons to their full potential. No one really complains because realistic stealth isn’t fun, and it would really suck if suddenly enemies learned how to use under-slung grenade launchers.

    • silver Harloe says:

      “Considering his body count, relatives of his victims can pool their resources and hire Deathstroke for the job.”
      …which sounds like the premise of a Batman v Deathstroke issue.

    • James says:

      Let me just say if nothing else that is a GREAT idea for a batman comic. Batman protecting the joker from deathstroke all the while wondering if he should just turn his back and let the Joker be the victim of a crime for once

    • Syal says:

      What you don’t realize is that the world is significantly worse off in every timeline where Hitler died early, and time travelers have discovered that the hard way.

      • Robyrt says:

        Sure, you’ve tried killing Hitler, but have you tried saving Tutankhamen’s widow from bandits on the road on her way to ally with the Hittites, creating peace in the Middle East in 1370 BC? You might have prevented the ancient Greeks from even existing as a major cultural force! Screwing up the future by going back to World War 2 is for pikers. :)

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I suppose that the Batman universe is not quite like the real ones. For example, it contains a character called “the Joker” who was created by falling into a bowl of acid but instead of dying he turned into a supervillain. And a super-rich guy who fights crime in a funny costume by beating up people rather than financing streetworkers, schools and culture projects, or by using his money to help law enforcement, or sumesuch.

      In that light, since he’s making a weird choice about how he fights crime, I think it’s fairly easy to accept that does not ever kill, on principle. Actually makes him more likeable to me.

  7. newplan says:

    I accept that Batman doesn’t kill the Joker.

    In Dark Knight when he leaves the Joker hanging from a line in a building with the SWAT team I have zero doubt that when they find the Joker one of them shoots him in the skull. Twice.

    This explains why the Joker never shows up in Dark Knight Rises.

  8. Rayen says:

    I have read the twilight books and you aren’t missing much. Although they do lampshade a lot of the problems you talk about they’re really tacky lampshades that have those weird beads hanging off of them and they are immediately thrown away the moment the author doesn’t need them anymore.

    As to bending worlds, while batman doesn’t kill the Joker does make some sort of sense the rest of Gotham and justifiably the rest of the DC universe not killing him REALLY doesn’t. Oh and believe me I would love to see a an arc where either Batman kills the joker and starts to fall off that precipice, or Someone else kills Joker and Batman has a weird time dealing with that. Also tie-in the birth of the Jokerz gang and Bruce retirement to continuity nod to Batman Beyond.

  9. MaxieJZeus says:

    Spock eyebrow goes up.

    A series on why Batman doesn’t kill, using the Arkham series as the basis of discussion, and the author avowedly excludes the one title in which Batman’s refusal to kill (and to kill the Joker in particular) is the hinge on which the entire story turns?

    This should be fascinating.

    • ChristopherT says:

      I agree that it’s odd to leave out Origins, where while I found that overall game lack luster, the big Joker segment revolving around Batman saving his life, Joker’s short stint in the bin, and Joker’s view about his own past, I found really entertaining.

      Also, with how little I’ve seen of Arkham Knight Batman, I wonder why it gets to be added to the side with Asylum and City when player controlled Batman is plowing through people in the streets, and story Batman is locking villains up in his trunk, and a mixture of that is blowing up cars with people in them. Arkham Knight Batman sounds like he belongs on the Origins side of the list.

      • MichaelGC says:

        It’s treating the Asylum, City & Knight character as three implementations of ‘the same Batman’, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that all three are going to be assessed as equally successful implementations.

      • lethal_guitar says:

        I disagree, his dialog and facial expressions are very much in line with the Asylum and City Batman. Also the way he talks to his friends and allies is different.

    • MichaelGC says:

      That does happen in Asylum too – it’s not a huge story moment: it’d be an exaggeration to call it the hinge of the entire Asylum story, of course, but it is in there. Anyway, as Shamus says, he’s treating the Origins Batman as a ‘different Batman’ just for the porpoises of this discussion, and focusing on the ‘one’ he knows best, which seems reasonable.

      • MaxieJZeus says:

        Expansion to clarify my objection to Shamus’s methodology (an objection that would stand even if I wind up liking his theory when we get it):

        AO’s Batman is the same character as AA’s, AC’s, and AK’s; after all, AO is explicitly set in the same continuity. “Arkham Batman” is a single, unitary character that appears across four games, and so any interpretation of him in AA/AC/AK must take account of his character in AO; conversely, any interpretation of him in AO must take account of his character in the other three games. (Generalization: Each appearance affects and is affected by each of the other appearances.) You cannot scissor out AO Batman as an irrelevance. There’s a word for that kind of thing: data-massaging, and it’s as bad in literary analysis as it is in experimental science.

        Look, I understand why people dislike AO Batman. I didn’t enjoy his company either. But instead of dismissing him as “different character/Nolanverse/Dark Knight envy/etc.”, you have to remember what the fact of continuity implies: AA’s Batman evolved from AO’s Batman. And then you understand: AO’s Batman is not a “different” character, he’s a younger version of the same character, and we are SHOWN, in scenes that are usually uncomfortable and sometimes excruciating, that he is relatively immature, inexperienced, overly sensitive, impatient, and insecure.**

        And contra Shamus’s implicit assumption, this fact is highly relevant to a discussion of his “does not kill” philosophy. Because despite his prickly attitude and his aggressive lack of social skills … AO’s Batman REFUSES TO KILL. Despite all the Joker’s provocations and Batman’s own voiced horror, he instinctively risks his own neck to save the psycho from pancaking onto the street below. In other words, this very mature aspect of Batman’s final persona is, on the evidence of AO, one of the first things to jell in him, and it is such a hard and fast part of him even this early on that he never questions or hesitates over it.

        Surely this is important, and you totally miss it if you dismissively ignore AO. “Why can’t Batman kill people?” Whatever the reason, it had better be consistent with the fact that angry, growly, snarly, yells-at-Alfred-and-gets-shirty-with-Gordon Batman ALSO can’t kill.

        Shamus calls AO Batman “slightly different” than the others. Yes, he is. But that difference does not make AO Batman IRRELEVANT to the overall “Arkham Batman” (of which he is the earliest stage); on the contrary, that difference is EXACTLY what makes him highly relevant to such a discussion. When you find a striking similarity (the granite-like refusal to kill) within two otherwise dissimilar data sets, you know that you’ve found something interesting, and you have to take account of its presence in both data sets. Suppressing one of the data sets make that highly salient similarity vanish, and your theory will be weaker because you haven’t taken it into account.

        Shamus talks about how stories are “bent” relative to the real world. Suppressing AO Batman risks something worse: it risks further bending an already bent story not so it better fits the real world, but so it better fits a theory.

        ** Do people prefer the company of the guy who’s always ten moves ahead of everyone else in 5-dimesional chess? That’s fine. Frankly, I do too. But if you dismiss the inexperienced guy as an imposter or a mistake or a publisher-imposed blemish—as a thing which does not belong in the “Arkham” collection so you’re going to pretend it didn’t happen—then you are implicitly asserting that Batman was always perfect and never had to learn anything. Presumably he popped out of Mrs. Wayne’s womb in little bat-booties and a little bat-cowl, and he head-butted the physician when he tried to spank his bottom. But BTAS and Paul Dini never made the same assumption about Batman’s original perfection: See “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Zatanna.”

        • Shamus says:

          I left out AO because I wanted to avoid a bunch of pointless, pedantic, and ultimately useless digressions on AO and how it does and doesn’t fit into the Arkham series or Batman mythos overall. I’m not “suppressing” it, I’m cutting down on the scope of the nitpicking I’ll have to contend with, because some people take their Batman really seriously.

          And where I’m going with this, it really, totally, absolutely, Does Not Matter.

        • Syal says:

          How strong does the point need to be? If it holds up without Origins, is it really worth including another version of Batman with different beliefs and limits to make it somewhat stronger? If it doesn’t hold up without Origins, can it really be sound to begin with?

  10. silver Harloe says:

    Batman doesn’t kill because he’s so smart he realizes he’s in a comic, and he’s totally genre-savvy and realizes that killing won’t last, but will lull people into a false sense of accomplishment.

  11. guy says:

    I think SF debris had a good counterpoint to the question of why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker: Why doesn’t anyone else kill the Joker? Why does he go to Arkham instead of facing a firing squad? Well, because it’s against the law, and it’s against the law because ultimately society thinks it’s not right.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      But thats just it:Why isnt the death penalty reinstituted for the joker and some of the others in this universe?Furthermore,even if its against the law,gotham is a pretty lawless place,so how come no one kills the joker out of fear,or revenge,when he is in jail?Its easy to explain why batman doesnt kill(and Ill do it in 2 words:childhood trauma),but its much harder to explain why no one else does it.Much harder to explain why the state doesnt do it.

      And this ties nicely to what Josh was saying on the diecast:We create these intricate worlds that have elements way different from the real world,and yet then we refuse to see how those elements would change it.The existence of supervillains would definitely impact the “no death penalty” stance of the usa.Furthermore,the existence of superheroes would definitely get some of them to work for the government,and even get the “judge,jury and executioner” title.Heck,having a superhero just as a prison guard would definitely eliminate at least part of the problem many of these books have with escaping supervillains(seriously,why dont some superheroes work as prison guards?Peter parker would definitely appreciate the money).

      • I’m guessing he keeps getting “life by reason of insanity” and locked up. Then, either he contrives a method of escape or some other super-villain springs him (on purpose or by accident).

        It’s hard to find a real-life analogue since you’d have to have someone found insane and given life who then escapes to kill again. I don’t think there’s ever been a case where someone declared unfit for trial is then tried for a crime committed after their first.

        It’d be new territory for DCU law.

        • JAB says:

          In the real world, “not guilty by reason of insanity” is screwed up. Defense attorneys hate it, since you have to give up any chance at a “not guilty” ruling.

          I knew a forensic psychiatrist who pushed for “guilty, but insane.” That would work by being introduced in the sentencing section of the trial, not the guilty/not guilty part of the trial.

          With regard to the Joker, he’s known to have killed absurd numbers of people, he’s broken out of jail or the asylum innumerable times, and he intends to go right back to killing when he gets out again. I believe it is entirely moral for the State to execute him, in spite of his “insanity.”

          • Any time a client admits they killed someone, the defense attorneys have to give up the “not guilty” thing. At that point, they push for lenient sentencing.

            Putting aside the comic book universe aspect for a second, I’m rather surprised Arkham Asylum hasn’t been sued into oblivion for allowing him to escape on so many occasions. We could pick apart the whole bat-universe if we wanted to, but that would take weeks.

        • Taellosse says:

          I don’t think The Joker could win a ruling as legally insane. The legal definition of “insane” varies state to state, but is never a terribly close analogue for any clinical definition. A court’s concern with respect to “sanity” generally isn’t “does this person have an aberrant mind” but rather “does this person have something reasonably close to an awareness of what we consider the real world, and do they know what they did to get put on trial?” A common corollary is something along the lines of “did they understand the thing they did was wrong?”

          The Joker is not suffering from any major delusional disorder – he doesn’t believe he’s performing heroic acts or anything like that. He knows he’s killing people, and he knows he’s doing it for reasons that society considers poor justification at best. Hell, he even generally acknowledges he kills for dumb reasons – he just doesn’t care. “Having a deeply, deeply warped sense of humor” would never win a defendant the insanity defense in any court in the country.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            And to back up your point, the Law and the Multiverse blog weighs in.

            Its a blog written by a couple of attorneys that uses primarily comic book superheroes as a launching point to explore legal concepts. They’ve written quite a bit about Joker and Batman.

            The point is basically the same as you make. Insanity is about whether the defendant knows what they’ve done and whether they know its wrong. And the blog agrees with you that Joker does know both of these things (he at least knows he’s committing crimes). A few U.S. states do allow “irresistible impulse” as a defense which some of Batman’s villains would qualify for (Two Face comes to mind. Not sure if the Riddler qualifies since he could find legal ways to match wits with others.) Actually Two Face might qualify under the standard definition, at least the Nolanverse version. He’s become convinced that only pure chance is fair.

      • That’s where you’re running into the marketing department. Superman will always be the Last Son of Krypton, and he’s a paragon of virtue all by himself. He’ll never work for the government unless he thinks the government’s goals are worthy.

        Nothing can ever truly change the basic characters unless it somehow sells more comics. Also, they’re so firmly rooted in their origins in the days of yore that even when they reboot the continuity, they can’t seem to help giving them the SAME origins more or less, along with the same contrivances (e.g. secret identities, vigilantes when solo, possibly answering to the world when a team, never killing, etc.).

        If you want more real-world consequences for superheroes, you’ll have to look to “Elseworlds” comics, “What If?” and so on where the writers are allowed to actually DO something with a character.

        Also, you might want to look up “The Justice Lords” for a take on if the JLA was more “efficient” at stopping crimes. Also, the Wildstorm-era comic “The Authority” has pretty much what you want: A super-team with no qualms about killing bad guys. It’s often unusual if an early issue goes by without someone literally punching some dude’s head off.

        • JAB says:

          There’s a heck of a lot of difference between a superteam having no qualms about killing and someone [Batman or the State] killing the Joker.

          • In this case, the bad guys are already racking up a body count. The Authority is called in to deal with “Omega level” threats, like someone flooding L.A. while opening portals to other dimensions for their invading army to get in.

            They don’t just off mooks, if I gave that impression.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But isnt the batman the perfect example of the change happening?He did undergo a huuuge change from his campy beginnings into his current day dark persona.So heroes can and do change over time.

          • Again, if it sells comics. Camp Batman wouldn’t be such a box office draw (well, not easily). It worked okay for the Brave & the Bold cartoon show, I suppose.

            If for some reason more campy comic book heroes become popular, we might see a return to the Bat-Ladder and Bat-Shark-Repellent and so on, but not right now. People point out how comics are getting Dark & Gritty, but I think they’re also getting more Sci-Fi, in that the fans want a little more suspension of disbelief in their characters than readers of old.

            By the way, that gives me a wonderful idea for a future Batman video game. Take the magic system of Morrowind, and adapt it to crime-fighting gadgets. Your personal utility belt would be hysterically broken and loads of fun.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              If for some reason more campy comic book heroes become popular

              You mean something like avengers movies,with bright colors,and corny dialogue and funny one liners?I mean granted,its not as camp as the 60s,but its still pretty goofy.

          • MichaelGC says:

            Aye, they certainly do change, but the way it works is via this strange indeterminacy, almost, where:

            -Certain things must not change, or else we’d be dealing with a fundamentally different character.
            -The certain things which must not change don’t have to be the same things each time.

            I hope that makes some sort of sense: this is quite a weird phenomenon to begin with, and I don’t know if I’m expressing it very well. There are certainly no hard & fast rules – it’s not like one could look at a particular Bat-implementation and go: “Yep, I like what you’ve done with the character, but it’s currently only 95% Batman. Can we add a scene where he pretends to drop a thug off a ledge? Nearly there: let’s put a giant penny and a T-Rex in the background here, and call it a day.”

            Rather, for the purposes of any given story, you can take any known Batqualities and mess with them. I can well imagine a comic cover showing Batman, in full Batregalia, startled at encountering his aged parents, for example. Or you could do a story where Batman does kill someone, and explore the consequences of that – and that’d work precisely because Batman doesn’t kill.

            Also entirely possible to go too far, of course: hence we end up with the likes of “Crazy Steve” from All Star B&R. And the story needs to earn any deviations, or you end up with the Man of Steel neck snap. Finally, mileages are obviously going to vary as there are no hard & fast rules: I might be fine with a hulking-thug version of The Riddler who operates mainly through brute force, whereas e.g. Mumbles would … be rather less fine with it, I’d imagine!

          • SL128 says:

            Minor detail – Batman started out dark, then became campy with the CCA.

      • p_johnston says:

        See that was always my biggest problem. I get why batman doesn’t kill joker. I never figured out how Joker even get’s to arkham asylum on a regular basis without having an “accident” involving one of the officers sidearms. I always figured the reason the joker doesn’t get killed has more to do with it being profitable to sell comics with the joker in them than anything else.

        Also as to the death I also just figured that the Joker never actually stays locked up long enough to get a real trial, much less the almost decade long marathon of them required to execute someone. He just keeps escaping before they can execute him.

      • Robyrt says:

        Marvel has been pretty good at exploring a hypothetical relationship between heroes, villains and the government. Memorably, in the ’80s, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants joined up with the FBI to become the government-sponsored “Freedom Force”, in exchange for a pardon for their past crimes. This leads to some great fight scenes where no matter which side wins, the bad guys flash their badges and walk away scot-free.

    • Syal says:

      I’m pretty sure this is exactly the world bend that Shamus was leading into; Batman fights for a city that doesn’t defend itself, and it’s unbelievable that a) the city would keep letting these people loose, b) Batman would hold to his morals for so long with the city doing so little, and c) he wouldn’t turn on the city himself, like some other heroes would.

      • Thomas says:

        I’m interested in where this is going to go though. Because my first thought is that the world is bent that way because if the Joker dies they don’t get to tell stories about the Joker. The same kind of bend for why no-one can seem to make a prison that can actually hold any inmates for any length of time (incidentally the definition of bent seems really close to “broken but I liked this thing”.).

        But I’m wondering if it’s going to go more down the line of scratching the itch of imaging you’re beating up criminals to a pulp whilst still getting to think that you’re a nice person.

        • Syal says:

          I would answer this if I didn’t think Shamus was planning to. I will say that Origins shows that not even killing the Joker will stop Joker stories.

          Broken is internally inconsistent; bent follows its own logic. Head trauma has no lasting effects, car doors can stop bullets, all windows are made of sugarpane; those are bends. Someone shooting a car’s gas tank at 300 meters with one shot, but failing to hit the hero fifteen times in a row from 50 meters is a break.

          Both can be overlooked for the sake of other elements.

  12. James says:

    I think the question should be why doesn’t Gotham kill Joker. They ether wont or can’t. This becomes a question than, is capital punishment abolished in Gotham? Did they feel it was because they felt the death penalty wrong? If so isn’t it wrong to place this at the feat of Batman? Yes he is technically a vigilantly but he works closely with the law and leaves the courts to decide a villains fate for better or worse. This is an interesting Idea worth exploring and probably has in the comics at some point.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’m not up to date but I think in batmanverse Killing Is Wrong as a general rule (this was the big thing way back with Azrael. But even if the death penalty is a thing (don’t remember if there’s any evidence for it in the comics?) it would be hard to push it through in a court of law in case of most major villains because insanity.

      • Thomas says:

        It really wouldn’t be that hard. As said upstream, a world with supervillains would change its law on insanity really really quickly. The US and UK have justified in the past things which are less ethical (although often in secret) for lower death counts.

        I mean I really doubt Bin Laden would still be walking round now if he had a case for pleading insanity. (I hope that isn’t too political, I think most people would agree that disregarding discussion of ethics either way, that’s still what would happen)

  13. Matt K says:

    Honestly, this is why I prefer the sillier Joker we got prior. Once Joker becomes a mass murderer, then each time has to up the ante and that just breaks the world of Batman because we get into this situation when we start feeling like Batman is an idiot and kind of ruins his character.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Yes, but I reckon asking why The Joker hasn’t been executed for mass murder is akin to asking why Hawkeye hasn’t retired, as he must be in his 70s or even 80s by now.

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    In comics canon, Joker used to be just a fun-themed villain who ultimately did no real harm until he snapped and started killing people. That’s the point where his comic appereances should have spread further. Instead, the comics kept bringing him back and every time they did they stretched suspension of disbelief exponentially.

    Granted, a lot of comics hinge on Joker causing psychological torture rather than murder (such as Death of the Family), and some comics explore the possibilty of killing him, with him getting out of it by using a double or actually being innocent of the murders he’s accused of in a particular issue.

    Now, while the debate about the Joker leaves for a lot of discussion, I think it’s absolutely unfair to blame Batman. After all, he’s the one at least doing something about him. Other criminals don’t get near him, and the Gotham police force, well, it’s a complete mess, so even those who are willing to do something about him have as much trouble inside as they do outside.

    Furthermore, the system hasn’t killed Joker, and it’s obviously not because there’s no death penalty in Gotham, since there clearly is. If no one is doing something about it, why does Batman get all the blame? The closest that has happened was some guy disguising as Batman and shooting Joker in the face… which he survived.

    At this point I’d rather have DC just admit the Joker is inmortal or something like that. Or that he’s a legacy character, and that he’s been “played” by several people all over the years. Or hell, at least have people trying to kill him and not succeeding for one reason or another, anything to show that not everyone is an idiot in Gotham.

    • I think they’ve made him a kind of trickster god at this point. Frankly, with Gotham practically turning into the Roaring 20’s version of Transylvania (see the Court of Owls), it wouldn’t be too far off the current trends.

      I would’ve also found it humorous and cool if Batman started capturing several Jokers, all claiming to be the one true Joker, like some kind of a cult, leaving him never knowing who the real one truly is, or if there ever was just a single Joker.

  15. noahpocalypse says:

    I’m okay with Batman refusing to kill. The thing that breaks my immersion is that Joker hasn’t gotten (and to the best of my knowledge, has NEVER gotten) the death penalty. Assuming it exists in Gotham, then surely some judge would’ve been sentenced him long ago.

  16. krellen says:

    So, chatting with my gaming group today, I came up with a theory. The reason Batman doesn’t kill Joker is because it wouldn’t do any good to kill him; in fact, it might be worse. See, Joker is clearly the avatar of Khorne, the Chaos God of death and destruction. His goals line up perfectly with the Blood God, and even his constant insistence on trying to push Batman over that line fits as Khorne trying to corrupt Batman towards Chaos, since a dark Batman would be an excellent servant of Khorne.

    Locking the Joker up is far more useful, because you then know where the Blood God’s avatar is, what it looks like, and what it wants. Killing Joker would free the God to remanifest somewhere else, possibly as something worse than Joker.

    • Incunabulum says:

      Khorne is the god of ‘honorable’ (or honourable) combat – trials of strength and will and all that.

      Not so much of the ‘gas unsuspecting people to death’.

      Khorne does not care *who* spills blood, as long as blood is spilt, but he’s not going to reward you for stabbing someone in the back.

      The Joker is obviously seeking the patronage of Slaneesh – he kills at whim and for pleasure.

      • krellen says:

        Yes, Khorne’s Berserkers are so very honourable.

      • Variety says:

        Eh, Joker strikes me more as a follower of Tzeentch, if he only follows one of them. He kills, and enjoys doing it, but he doesn’t kill just to kill (most of the time); in all three games, and The Dark Knight (which are the only real sources of Joker characterization I have experience with), killing is a means to an end; he usually has some goal in mind, beyond ‘kill people.’ Taking over the Asylum to make an army, finding a cure, corrupting/breaking Batman, etc.

  17. Neil D says:

    I think the main problem with this topic is that every time it comes up the debate pretty much all takes place within the fictional bounds or why Batman does/doesn’t/should/shouldn’t kill the Joker, when ultimately it’s a real-world problem.

    You think the Batman should kill the Joker? Okay fine, you’re now in charge of DC editorial, Batman division. Go ahead, do it.

    But first you better polish up your resume because the CFO is about to toss you out of the building via the nearest window for killing off one of their biggest merchandising properties.

    They’re not going to let the rights lapse due to disuse, so even if you did pull it off, there will be an all-new (or resurrected) Joker coming along soon. Given a choice between Joker continually escaping every time Batman puts him away, and Joker continually rising from the grave every time Batman kills him, I’ll take the former as easier to roll with.

    Lastly, even if you found a way around all of the above, and you could whack villains permanently, you still have the recurring vacuum problem. Joker’s gone – so now somebody else moves up to “Batman’s arch-nemesis”. Let’s say it’s Two-Face. So now Two-Face is the one that sets all of Gotham trembling and makes Batman drop everything due to the extreme danger he poses, and each successive appearance is more shocking than the last as writers keep trying to make their mark and outdo the creative team before them. The body count rises and rises until, son of a bitch, why the hell hasn’t Batman killed this guy yet? He already offed the Joker, what isn’t three hundred Gothamites dead enough? How many more have to die before Batman does the right thing and puts this guy in the ground? Oh he did? All right, Poison Ivy, step right up.

    All of this, of course, applies to the ongoing monthly comics industry much more than something self-contained like the video game series (as they kind of proved). So I don’t think I’ll be stepping on any of Shamus’ toes with the above. I’m very much looking forward to this discussion.

    • Cinebeast says:

      You’re arguing the subject from a Doylist perspective, but I get the impression Shamus wants to steer this discussion toward a more Watsonian viewpoint.

      • Thomas says:

        I’m not sure. All the talk of world-bending is fairly Doylist right?

        • Syal says:

          Shamus is looking at the Watsonian necessities of the Doylist priorities. “This is the out-of-universe explanation; what does that require from the in-universe one?”

          • Neil D says:

            Yeah, it really is two different discussions – “Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker” vs. “Why doesn’t DC kill the Joker”. The former is certainly the more interesting discussion, I just always have trouble separating them whenever the topic comes up. The more “in-universe” the debate goes, the more pointless it feels to me due to the “real world” directives that override it.

            But like I said, that’s all for the ongoing comics medium. Something isolated like the Arkham video game universe opens up much more potential for exploration.

            On that subject, MAJOR Arkham Knight spoilers ahead, but I think the place the game failed HUGELY, even more than the Batmobile is when You are actually forced to kill the Joker. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t real, it doesn’t matter that your mind is being twisted by a combination of the Joker’s influence and Scarecrow’s gas, at that point, Batman has been beaten. They got him to a point where he breaks his code. They do follow through with it to the logical conclusion with the Knightfall protocol, but that was a tremendously unsatisfying ending for me.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok we all know why batman doesnt kill.Thats fine.But I have a better question:

    Why doesnt batman keep joker imprisoned himself?The staff and facilities of arkham and blackgate are obviously lacking,and batmans super rich power does enable him to build and maintain something much better.Plus,his home has the advantage of not that many people knowing about it,so joker wouldnt be able to get help from outside.

    • MichaelGC says:

      That is indeed a tricky one! I got nothing. Errr… He’s still waiting for the permit-to-incarcerate to come through from City Hall? Sure, it’s taken 75 years, but we all know what red tape is like, amirite?

      Or, or … maybe The Joker is severely allergic to bat-dander? So, Batman knows a visit to the Batcave could kill him. And Batman doesn’t kill.

      Errr… on balance perhaps I should have stopped at ‘I got nothing’.

    • Because in addition to his parents dying childhood trauma, he suffered some sort of jail/prison related trauma and now is phobic about prisons? I don’t read the comics, so I have no idea if they could make that work, but you could certainly do some interesting things with it, like Batman having to take xanax every time he goes into a jail to turn someone in.
      It’d also make Batman more interesting as a human being, struggling against his own brain betraying him.

    • Syal says:

      He doesn’t know what Joker eats and it makes Alfred uncomfortable to prepare a meal when he didn’t know the person eating it will enjoy it.

    • Kian says:

      He doesn’t incarcerate him for the same reason he doesn’t kill. Because taking people off the streets to keep in your basement is wrong.

      People that complain about Batman not killing are looking at it from a utilitarian perspective; what action does the most good? But Batman isn’t an utilitarian hero. He is a moral one. So long as Batman doesn’t act in extreme ways, he is clearly doing the right thing. Stopping someone who is actively causing damage is always right.

      Taking preemptive actions unilaterally becomes a grey area: when is it ok for a single person to make a decision like that? How long does Batman have to wait before he kills? Who is he accountable to?

      So instead, he sticks to what is unarguably right: stop the bad guys, give them over to the authorities to do with as they decide. If the authorities fail to keep people safe, that’s the authorities’ responsibility, which ultimately makes it the people’s responsibility. You don’t like your authorities? Change them.

      • Mike S. says:

        “Because taking people off the streets to keep in your basement is wrong.”

        Something which, much though I love them both, the CW versions of Green Arrow and Flash really need to learn at some point.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Why are you doing this to me?Why do you make me defend the green arrow?Damn you!

          Ok,green arrow didnt imprison anyone,he gave them to the authorities.He just picked a spy agency instead of the police in a couple of cases.

          As for the flash,thats easy:The prisons dont have the facilities to keep these people.The government official faced with what a meta can do flat out admitted it.

          • Mike S. says:

            Sure, that’s the given reason. But unlike freelance vigilantism, freelance imprisonment without sanction from the state isn’t really part of the genre conventions. (The exceptions tend to sketch out the shape of the rule: e.g., Superman would generally only put people in the Phantom Zone who’d originally been sentenced there by Kryptonian courts.) And there’s no really clear reason that the government can’t set up facilities comparable to the Pipeline.

            In practice, it may actually depend on technology that only Wells has because he’s from the future. But that’s not something any of the rest of them know when they’re starting to put criminals there. Keeping them there indefinitely (rather than as a temporary restraint while the prison system gets Iron Heights retrofitted) is outside the usual bounds of amateur law enforcement engaged in by superheroes. And it’s not something I really like seeing.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Even when they dont know wells is from the future,he is still a genius.And he had at least a year studying one of the metas before shit broke loose.So in order for the state to make something like that,they would need a bunch of money(that supercollider was mighty expensive),and at least a comparable genius with comparable experience(if he denies to help them).So yeah,building a prison for metas would take a lot of time and money.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Because taking people off the streets to keep in your basement is wrong.

        But beating them up and interrogating them is not?Being a vigilante is just as wrong you know,not to mention that in many of the works,batman often buts head with the police and has to cause injury to good people as well.If he wanted to do the right thing,he would join the police and try to make a change like gordon does.

        This applies to every hero who works from the shadows:They are a vigilante,they are already doing a thing that is outside the law,and often morally wrong.Keeping someone captive who would easily escape the prison(or worse,has done so multiple times already)would be the morally right thing to do.Heck,even superman did that with kriptonians at times when he was still being the paragon of goodness.

        • Mike S. says:

          I can’t think of any Kryptonians Superman put in the Phantom Zone who hadn’t been sentenced there by a court.

          Beyond that, long-established departures from normal rules that are central to the genre (like vigilantism) don’t in themselves justify further departures (like the hero appointing themselves judge, jury, and prison warden in addition to cop).

          Conventionally, heroes going beyond their usual self-imposed limits are treated as warning signs that they’re going off the rails. (How many stories have seen Superman deciding to be more proactive in dealing with threats? In how many of them has it ended well?)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But thats because superheroes operate on this false dichotomy that there is either just vigilantism or straight up murderer.Being a prison warden is almost never explored,and when it is(as the case with the flash tv show),it works out fine.And there are plenty of other ways to pacify a criminal without killing them.Some seem outright evil(like the lobotomy explored in justice league better worlds),some are not(like the phantom zone).

            And heck,there are some superheroes that would be great for establishing a super prison.Like daredevil.He could devise a great system for doing it.

            • Mike S. says:

              That would seem like a particular departure for someone whose personality is so defined by his being a lawyer.

              (Though I’m way out of date on Daredevil, so it’s always possible that he’s since come to the conclusion that the legal system is irrevocably broken.)

      • Isaac says:

        “Because taking people off the streets to keep in your basement is wrong.”

        Batman does exactly this in Batman: Arkham Knight.

    • Mike S. says:

      The other issue with Batman incarcerating the criminals himself is that it necessarily wouldn’t work. (For the same Doylist reasons that they can’t be permanently killed or held by Arkham.)

      That creates the storytelling problem is that it’s hard to see how you pull off the Joker’s inevitable escape from a prison designed by Batman himself, without making Batman look incompetent or impotent. Or maybe it’s okay, because it’s the Joker… but he can’t keep in the Riddler? Killer Croc?

      If part of the fantasy of Batman is that he’s supremely competent at what he sets himself to do, it’s probably a bad idea to have him aim at a goal that has to fail. (Unless that’s the point of the story, to show that even Batman has limits.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well this touches on another problem:Why do superhero comics need to be static?Whats wrong with a comic that ends,like watchmen?This is especially true for a comic with so many supporting characters like batman,where you can continue the story long,looooong past the original heroes death.

        • Mike S. says:

          Because if you have a world that changes in response to the existence of superhuman powers and aliens, you rapidly don’t have a superhero story, but a science fiction story. (As in Watchmen, where the part of history in which there are really superheroes and supervillains is very brief, because supervillainy turns out not to work very well and costumed superheroing isn’t sane or sustainable.) The superhero genre runs on the idea that it’s basically our world that happens to also have mutants and ray guns (which somehow never filter down to ordinary people). It’s a fundamental unrealism that’s part of the genre’s bedrock.

          Just as if, say, you explore the actual social and psychological (and legal!) implications of one person being in inexplicable proximity to murders on a weekly basis, you stop having a detective story and wind up with something very different.

          There’s nothing wrong with taking the ideas from one genre and exploring them in another, and there have been well-done instances. But it’s a different storytelling goal from doing a sustained Batman or Superman story. (Which, if I’m understanding him, gets back to Shamus’s point about the world being bent to sustain the conventions of the character and the genre.)

  19. Talby says:

    I signed up for an article about Batman and got some rambling about Twilight. I feel robbed.

    Anyway, Batman killed people in the old comics, and IIRC the Tim Burton film. Once he even locked a guy in a basement and let him starve to death on purpose. The no-kill rule came later.

    • DeadlyDark says:

      Oh, yeah. In first Batman film he bomb the factory with all the goons and technically killed Joker, in the second one he burned dude and and killed someone with his own bomb. Keaton’s Batman was a psycho.

  20. Dude says:

    You pulled a bait and switch, Shamus. This is your way of letting us feel what you feel when an RPG becomes a Halo (Mass Effect), isn’t it? I came for Batman and got Twilight.

    (But I like the article.) :)

  21. Humanoid says:

    “The Blistering Stupidity of ” is a pretty fun idea I think as a long term series of articles. Okay so it’s not strictly titled “The Blistering Stupidity of Batman” but it does kind of feel like a sort of follow-up to the Fallout 3 blog posts.

  22. Incunabulum says:

    “At what point do we shift some blame to Batman for letting this problem run amok? He had the power to stop the Joker, so shouldn’t some of this blood be on his hands?”

    Here’s the deal.

    The Joker has been captured by Batman, and then turned over and imprisoned by the ‘authorities’.

    Its pretty obvious that Gotham has a death penalty.

    So, instead of asking why *Batman* doesn’t execute the Joker, we should ask why *the state* is unwilling to use the ultimate sanction against The Joker when they’ve been willing to do so against lesser criminals.

    The Joker’s insane, sure – but that’s not how an insanity defense works. To work a successful insanity plea you have to show that the defendant is incapable of *understanding the import of his crimes*. The Joker is fully aware of what he does, that its considered ‘wrong’, and he’s completely mentally competent enough to understand what’s happening in the trial and the consequences of his actions.

    There is no way in hell that The Joker (in the real world) stays in Arkham for longer than it is necessary for a psychologist to interview him and declare him competent (not *sane*, just competent) to stand trial.

    *During* the trial, The Joker can bring up insanity as an affirmative defense of his actions – but that’s an uphill battle and still hinges on him not, at the time of commission, understanding the import of what he was doing.

    If the state was doing the job the taxpayers *pay* it to do, The Joker situation would have been resolved decades ago.

    Really, given Gotham’s poor follow-up to Batman rounding up the criminals that the police don’t have the capability to apprehend, he should just figure that Gothamites simply don’t care enough about their own safety and freedom to be worth defending.

    He should simply walk away – but he’s more than a little insane himself.

    • Syal says:

      I’m trying to imagine a world in which the Unabomber, DC Snipers, and Son of Sam all kept breaking out of prison and going on more murder streaks, and it was up to a vigilante to stop them.

      I think the entirety of law enforcement would be fired. Possibly more than once.

  23. ChristopherT says:

    I pretty much disagree with everything in this article. BUT, since the main thing I’d actually care about is How you find Batman’s world to be bent, and that’s left out of the article for a next time. I’ll reserve Batman judgement. However, on Twilight, while I don’t for Twilight at all, I do find it really odd to claim that – even if you are wrong at these specifics in regards to Twilight, you are still right – Feels a bit like you need to check your ego there, sir.

    Something else I’d like to touch on,
    You could explain old-ass Mr. Vampire liking our heroine by saying he’s got this thing for underage girls, but while it’s alluring to have a mysterious older man interested in you, it’s revolting to have a lecherous creep interested in you

    There’s some odd/interesting things that could be said about all of that though. If my quick internet search was right, Twilight takes place in Washington state(?) and at the time of the first story Bella is 17, which, would make her over the age of consent for the state. So we’d then have to question this “underage” thing.

    To further “older man interested in you”, where in a world talking about vampires, so we have to accept the idea of someone who Looks your own age, but happens to somehow be one-hundred years older than yourself. It’s a fairy tale concept, so maybe we have to say it’s bent, but, you would have to divorce the vampire aspect completely then. As vampires have, since I believe their conception, been about getting into girls’ pants. And as the vampire tale developed long life has been added, and we’ve had a number of other stories exploring vampire (and the aspect of their age) love/sex.

    To which, “lecherous creep”, matter of perspective? You like the older person? or do not like the attention, nor the person? Old, lonely soul, vs gross old dude. Which easily carries over to the real world. There’s stories, and celebs mixed with younger and older with decades in years apart.

    But, anyways the main reason I wanted to address that particular part was the idea of the outside appearance vs the inner mind, and how that might break the story, or perhaps I’m reading that wrong? I guess it’s about how much the reader is willing to accept the bending of reality?

    Anyways, it’s a fun an interesting concept though, that’s not contained to just vampires. Human brains in robot bodies, prolonged life, cyber implants to keep the body going, mind transplants, aliens with different life spans, various forms of undead, immortal life, ect.

    TO, Doctor Who. Is Doctor Who gross if the Doctor, whose lived for what? I’m not a big enough fan to know if an age has ever been given, even in ballpark numbers. But, if/when the Doctor is traveling around with young adults, and he appears to be a young adult, is he then an old creeper? There’s an immortal or two out there, why not go hang with them?

    Or, to, The Time Traveler’s Wife. In which two people grow to love each other and form a relationship while first meeting each other out of the order of time, because he jumps through time unintentionally. So, she meets him for the first time, and falls for him when shes a child and he’s an adult. But the first time he meets her they’re both adults (?). It’s an interesting topic, I feel, how time, and age can affect our relationships.

    • Incunabulum says:

      1. 17 is still underage compared to 100. Even if its *legal*, I wouldn’t want my 17 year old screwing around with a 45 year old, let alone in a ‘romantic’ relationship.

      2. Vampires are not about getting into anyone’s pants. They use sexual attraction to *feed*. But they don’t form romantic relations with the cattle.

      So it would be entirely understandable if Edward were hanging around the local high school for some easy fodder, not understandable at all that a century plus undead monster would have some unbreakable ‘romantic love’ for someone who is effectively a toddler by comparison.

      3. Yes, the Doctor is a creeper. Why do you think his preferred companions are always young, attractive women?

      But, like you say, its *fantasy*. And fantasies ignore the icky, messy parts.

      • ChristpherT says:

        1) okay, but you are then talking about your own child. There are many parents who want certain love lives for their children, from gender, to race, job, religeon, I can certainly understand not wanting someone you care about in a relationship you see in a negative way. As I said they’re have even been a number of celebs with public relationships with large age gaps, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore for example, or the Olsen Twins even. Varying aged relationships do happen was what I was trying to point out.

        2) I could have worded that better, I didn’t mean the pants part as entirely literal. However I would like to add that there are a number of older vampire stories that consist of repeat visits and an idea of the act of feeding as “romantic” though there are times where that can be written off as some form of psychic somesuch vampire attack.

        • Syal says:

          Vampires have pretty much always been skilled at the art of seduction. It’s old enough that the original Dracula wasn’t allowed to drink men’s blood because of the sexual implication. A lot of people find that seductive quality attractive, so they make the vampires more seductive and less monstrous, of which Twilight vampires are the end result.

          A lot of girls want to be able to attract an older man; it makes them feel mature. But very few of them want that older man to try to sleep with them; that feeling of maturity relies on the older man following social norms, and if he doesn’t then what rules, if any, does he actually follow? They’re suddenly swimming in the deep end of the pool, with someone who resembles a shark.

          “Still young enough to be in High School” is close enough to “underage” to not sweat the details, regardless of the particulars of the law.

          Doctor Who gets away with it because it’s more of a Hobbit show and he’s basically Gandalf. “Come with me on an adventure; see the universe, and kick its ass!

          • Thomas says:

            Vampires getting into people’s pants is actually part of the Twilight universe and a major factor in the books appeal (one of the reasons it had to be vampires).

            Edward’s family are specifically vampires who have denied their wilder vampiric nature. So Edward wants to screw Bella’s brains out so passionately that he’d lose control of his mind and suck her dry (this is canon in the books), but he’s resisting because he doesn’t want to hurt her.

            So readers get the thrill of feeling like Edward is a dangerous bad boy, and the thrill of this hot guy absolutely on edge with desire for the reader-insert all the time, but without any of the potential scariness of that actually happening.

            • Incunabulum says:

              But, this is a *girl’s* fantasy genre. As Syal pointed out – the young woman is able to attract this guy, who’s older, more sophisticated, etc but is still able to avoid all the *icky* parts about dating an older guy (especially from the perspective of a girl just starting to have to deal with her own sexuality and other’s response to her blooming).

              Edward is not old *looking* and he desperately desires her – but she doesn’t have to *deal* with the real world consequences of that desire (at least not until the later books).

              He gets to make her completely aware of how desirable she is, but she never has to take the responsibility of fending off his advances.

              • Syal says:

                Exactly; he wants to sleep with her, but he’s not trying to sleep with her. He’s holding himself back because “it would be wrong” for whichever reason we want to go with. That’s the social norm I was talking about.

              • ChristopherT says:

                The part about it being an exclusive for girls has also kind of bothered me(in the article), in that, I don’t think it is. In a sense the story is about an average, run of the mill, plain “duck” getting an encounter with a beautiful/popular “prince”, Cinderella certainly. But, we’ve had a number of stories about just that, that don’t seem to be part of a girls only club, quick for instance – The Girl Next Door, a movie about a run of the mill guy who falls for a pornstar and gets his chance, or I Love you, Beth Cooper. To then also K Dramas, which a number of those stories are about an average young lady finding herself amixed some form of reverse harem, hell, to wit Harems! and debauchery, there’s debauchery here, yeah debauchery!

                Granted most of that is NOT about a much younger person finding love interests in a man who is decades older than them. Granted, when talking about vampires I wonder how much Twilight gets picked apart for the sum of its parts, and not as much as its separate parts in the existence of themselves – I love Buffy for instance, and we have the same idea of a 17ish highschool girl hooking up and having sex with a over one-hundred year old vampire man.

        • Incunabulum says:

          Ashton Kutcher was not 17 either. If my 25 year old daughter wants to marry a 55 year old man – I’m not going to be completely thrilled, but I would accept that by that age she’s able to hold her own in the relationship and that she’s not being used.

          At 17, not so much.

          • ChristopherT says:

            But, then in a way, and please forgive me, but we’re talking about arbitrary numbers, or simply what works for you. 17 IS young, I agree completely, since I was 17 I’ve thought 17 as young. The time when I finally felt no longer a child, or as “too innocent” or “too young” compared to the world was around 27 personally. 25 still felt incredibly young to me. I think, that comes to a matter of perspective.

            Yes, Ashton was older, so are the Olsen twins (in their late 20s dating guys in their late 40s), and then there’s Hugh Hefner, there was that “thing” with pornstar Bree Olsen and Charlie Sheen (?). But, that age gap is still considered odd. It’s still a bit taboo. Was my point.

            Of course there’s a difference between 17 and 25, or 23, or pick a number really. But, to that, older women can also find themselves in bad relationships and not have the mind to get out. But, I agree with you, for the most part, 17years on this planet can’t (in most situations) be enough to deal with many factors in life, just that, in the eyes of the law, of the US, of the state of Washington, 16 and older is enough time on this world to have a presence of mind to consent to sexual intercourse. Which, I think was all I was trying to point out. The point, in the article, seemed more to the point that she was “underage” than the age gap, so, that’s what I addressed, and it I feel it is a point of interest.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        3. Yes, the Doctor is a creeper. Why do you think his preferred companions are always young, attractive women?

        *sigh*they arent.In fact,the whole thing of the doctor traveling only with women is the new who thing that frankly rubs plenty of fans the wrong way(bring back jamie damn it!).Second,one(of the many)reason people hated rose was the whole stupid romance thing,which is also one huge reason why many cant go over river song being the doctors wife.But with most of his companions,even the new who is platonic,which is a big staple of the franchise.The doctor is traveling with companions because he is afraid of what he would turn into if he were alone,and he chooses humans over others because humans fascinate him(one very plausible interpretation of the first episode of doctor who is that the mercy of ian towards that cave man is what made the doctor so intrigued,and numerous sacrifices of his other human companions only reinforced that).

        • MikhailBorg says:

          You can be an older male and spend a lot of time around younger, attractive women without being a creep about it; you merely have to comport yourself in such a manner that the younger, attractive women feel completely comfortable around you. The Doctor does this. You think Sarah, Leela, or Ace would have had any qualms about kicking his ass if his attentions became unwelcome?

          (Also, as long as the Doctor hangs out with Earthlings, they’ll be younger than him…)

          • Dan Efran says:

            3. (And yes, the Doctor’s age has been given in ballpark figures: between 500 and 1000 at various times.)

            The Doctor’s apparently “safe” platonic attitude toward his (not exclusively but frequently) young female companions was an unstated assumption for decades; his crush on the human Rose changed that assumption, for better or worse; the character is no longer quite who he “always” was. More options are on the table (even for the male companions, in theory…). He got with the times…I guess?

            It’s kind of like if Batman, after 900 years of self-control, abruptly got the urge to try some killing finally.

            I’m mostly fine with that change in the Doctor’s boundaries, but it bends the fantasy in a rather different direction. I imagine some fans were put off by it, others pleased.

            (I’ve personally never cared whether Batman kills or doesn’t. I never even noticed the question until everybody started taking off the lampshade in recent years. To me, the no-killing rule doesn’t feel like a huge part of his Batman-ness – sorry, Batmanity – but maybe it should. I’m not much of a comics guy, so what do I know?)

    • MichaelGC says:

      There’s no ego in the ‘even if I’m wrong’ bit. It’s not: “even if I’m wrong about it I’m still right; nyah” but rather: “if I’m wrong about it, OK – forget Twilight specifically and imagine a fiction which does work as I’m suggesting, as it’s the general framework I’m setting up here which is going to be important when we get to Batman.”

      • ChristopherT says:

        from the article To understand a bent premise, you first have to understand what a story is trying to do.

        If Shamus happens to Not understand the premise, if he Is wrong, then in his own words he has to be wrong. You cannot state that an understanding of the story is important, and then state that even if you’re wrong it doesn’t matter ’cause you were just using it as an example of an idea.

        I find the two statements contradict, heavily.

        To understand a bent premise, you first have to understand what a story is trying to do.

        Even if I’m flat-out wrong about the facts of the story, it doesn’t matter.
        This is part of the same paragraph. And, if there are other stories that fit the bill well enough that Shamus has knowledge of, then why Not use that as an example instead? Why Not have an understanding of a topic, when an understanding is Needed? Instead of using an example that is unpopular?

        I don’t mean to say anything negative about Shamus in particular. He seems like a great guy, I really enjoy reading these articles, and even when I disagree this still interested in what he has to say.

        I feel it was/is a valid criticism, as some one who does not Like Twilight, as someone who doesn’t care for or about Twilight, as someone who is a little tired of anything to do about Twilight. Why talk about Twilight further, if you have no interest in the material? I think at this point, ALL of the Twilight sucks stuff has pretty much been covered, so why include it in a comparison piece for an in-depth look, without seeming to care if you are right, wrong, or ill-informed about the material. I think it’s folly.

        • Syal says:

          What a story is trying to do and the facts of a story are not the same thing; the first is the intent of the author, the second is the details of the execution. Twilight is one of those stories where the intent determines the facts rather obviously, and that’s what’s being pointed out. The facts themselves don’t particularly matter.

          And all the examples will be unpopular; they’re necessarily stories where the message overrides the plot.

          • ChristopherT says:

            If I am being ignorant please forgive. But, that doesn’t sound anything like the article Shamus wrote. It reads to me like Shamus is comparing the suspension of disbelief between Twilight and Batman. And that, most here may not care for/about Twilight so they can see it’s separation from reality that much easier than Batman. Though, perhaps narrowing the field even further to base components.

            I don’t really see any strong regard towards the rabbit hole that i find authorial intent to be.

            And if all examples of Shamus’s point are to be unpopular, then what is that to say of Batman? Which, on here seems to be fairly popular? Since this is supposed to lead up to, and be about how Batman is the same.

            • Syal says:

              I’m struggling to explain this one better, at least without directly tying it to Batman, or the highly political/religious examples I can think of.

              So, to be continued in Part 2.

              EDIT: I guess I’ll throw this out. Can’t hurt, right?

              Imagine watching a magic show where the magician uses mirrors in his tricks, but you’ve taken a seat outside the normal arrangement, and the mirrors aren’t lined up for you; so none of it looks impressive, it all looks fake and wrong. Then you see another magician, you sit on the far side again and the show is amazing. But is that because it’s a better show, or are the mirrors just lined up for your perspective this time? If you asked someone on the other side, would they say it all looked fake and wrong?

              • ChristopherT says:

                I thank you for your patience. I believe I understand that though. It’s whether you can accept the world the story takes place in or not and how much you are willing to accept.

                Granted, I think that’s most any sc-fi, superhero, horror, monster, story, you can either accept the world or cannot. I for instance cannot accept the world of the movie (haven’t read the comic) Snowpiercer.

                • Syal says:

                  It’s also that, by looking at what works for us and what doesn’t, we can better understand what we’re looking for in these things, what the shows themselves are trying to provide, and choose our seats in the audience accordingly. Any entertainment requires something from the audience (imagine watching a movie where you refuse to accept the actors can’t see the crew and buffet table behind the camera), and if they think about it, they might find it worthwhile to give more leeway to a show than they would normally.

                  (Although I don’t think Snowpiercer wants you to believe in its world, actually; there’s so much surreality about it I’m pretty sure you’re meant to take a step back and analyze it as an outsider, try to figure out the rules of this world and what they imply. Kind of like Where The Wild Things Are; I’d put them in the same category.

                  Or Twin Peaks, maybe.)

        • MichaelGC says:

          Well, for me Twilight was used to introduce the general idea to those of us who aren’t so familar with the genre, but probably know the gist of it: as you say, it is a bit hard to avoid! Sparkly vampires, right?

          But he mentions he’s not seen/read it, so the bit about understanding what a story is trying to do only makes sense if that sentence isn’t actually about Twilight. Instead it links with the end of that paragraph which talks about a hypothetical story, and I reckon everything after that is about this hypothetical story. (So, even if he’s flat wrong about Twilight, he’ll certainly be right about the hypothetical, because he’s stipulating the terms of how it works. He’s choosing the rules, as it were.)

          I also don’t think he’s saying anything sucks! But, that’s my personal interpretation, so I shan’t insist on it. It seemed more descriptive than at all nasty, and is likely just setting things up for the second part. And I seem to be doing a poor job of not-insisting.

    • The Doctor’s about a millennium old, I think, give or take. Young adults traveling is a pretty common thing (gap years, going abroad after college for a bit) because they don’t yet have all the stuff that keeps older people in place (job, kids, aging parents, ect). Mix that with “humans are special” trope and “women must be pretty and young” thing, and you end up with Rose and Martha. The new who actually had an ep near the end of 11’s tenure where he had to stay put on Earth with Rory and whats-her-face and well, he does not idle well. Toddler on massive amounts of sugar sort of thing.
      He has hung out with another immortal (cut for new who and torchwood spoilers) Captain Jack Harkness aka the Face of Bo. I’d guess that immortals don’t hang out together too often because they don’t change or evolve on their own. Not a big problem if you’re living in the Middle Ages, a big damn problem now given how much society has changed in the past 100 years. Actually, the white wolf vampire rpg touches on that, saying that vampires often make new progeny to help them understand the modern world. Less of a problem for a time-traveler though.
      It’s kinda funny how similar the Doctor and Batman are. They both live by self-imposed codes, their companions often come to unpleasant ends, and they both seem to cause a lot of their own problems. OMG, the Doctor is the British Batman! It all makes sense now! :)
      I think the Twilight thing is so squicky because I’ve seen a college graduate man date a 17 year old, and he used her ignorance against her in a ton of abusive and controlling ways, all the while telling her how much he loved her and this was how relationships were. I can’t accept the bend that turns stalking, predatory behavior into “true love”

      • ChristopherT says:

        To the Doctor, it may be common for young adults to go on cross country trips, and backpacking through countries. But, to add to that, the Doctor seems to also live with these younger than him companions though. IF, we brought that idea to the real world, we’re talking about a much older man, who is not related to, nor a family friend of out young adventure-ers, and not someone who is simply giving them a ride from point A to B, or giving them a place to rest over night, But, is traveling with them, essentially living with them, and their near constant attendant. That Would be considered odd in the real world.

        So, yes, the Doctor is an otherworldly being. And most of his relationships are platonic, and we, as a viewer come to know each form of the Doctor, so he’s not this old guy we don’t know and can’t understand. But, still, I think it raises an interesting point. To, that, even though the person in question would be much younger than himself do you often see the Doctor traveling with anyone near or past their 40s? If the Doctor likes humans, their stories, their strive, and ideologies why doesn’t the Doctor also happen to stop by some rest homes and take some of the elderly sightseeing and get to hear their stories?

    • Joe Informatico says:

      Twilight’s just part of a long tradition of women’s literature that “helps women either contextualize the contradictory expectations placed upon them by society or offers them an escape from those expectations into a particular sort of fantasy that allows them to function in the world.”

  24. Phill says:

    My own preferred twilight theory – Edward’s family are in fact trying to teach him to view humans as nothing more than food. After all, he has been forced to sit through the same two years of high school for about a century now. Combine the tedium of being taught the same stuff you already know over and over and over (and over) with the insufferability of a bunch of high school kids when you are forty, never mind over 100 years old. I can’t imagine anything more diabolically designed to desensetize Edward towards humans than that Suffering yet another tranche of kids being ‘original’ in the same patterns time after time. Ugh.

    At some point he is bound to snap and just eat the whole school in a single sitting.

  25. Steve C says:

    The best reason I’ve heard why Batman does not kill was given by Batman in Batman: Under the Red Hood in this spoiler filled scene. (1m20s –> 2min) To paraphrase: Batman does not kill because he would enjoy it too much. Batman would not be able to stop killing after he started. It’s not a moral issue for him. It is a self control issue. Batman won’t kill because, like an alcoholic that won’t stop at one shot, Batman would not stop at shooting one criminal.

    Batman does not do the things he does because they are “good”, or “moral”, or “right” or even because they are “helpful”. Bruce Wayne HAS to be Batman. He knows he is an addict. He cannot stop being Batman.

  26. Zaxares says:

    I actually think that the reason Batman never kills anybody is actually a flip argument for why the Joker is hellbent on trying to drive Batman crazy or make him snap. It’s because if Batman ever gave into the temptation, he’s become no better than the villains he puts away.

    Think about it. Over the course of his career, Batman has violated people’s privacy, placed lots of innocent civilians in harm’s way, gotten several young sidekicks killed, caused untold amounts of property damage, and probably injured plenty of hapless mooks to the point where their lives are no longer worth living (they’d either be in comas due to irreversible traumatic head injuries, had to have limbs amputated because they’re too badly damaged and they don’t have the insurance to pay for rehab, and it’s not like the guys who turned to crime because they had no other options are suddenly going to become upstanding citizens once they become permanently crippled). The sole redeeming factor for Batman is that he is ostensibly doing all this to “protect” people from the supervillains, to serve the greater good.

    But once he starts killing people, he can no longer hide behind that defense. Batman doesn’t face repercussion for his actions because the “threat is still out there”. But as soon as that threat is gone, you can bet that all the ordinary people who have had their lives ruined by Batman’s actions are going to want to see him made accountable.

    The irony of the situation is that Batman NEEDS the villains alive. He’s only a “good guy” when contrasted against the “evil guys”. Batman appeals to the resentful dark side in us who want to see those who have wronged us get their just desserts, even if it means going against the law, doing things that normal society would find too extreme. But we still want to believe in our hearts that we’re on the side of the “good guys”. So, in order for that to continue to be true, Batman cannot ever kill his enemies. Because the moment he does, with no worse evil to contrast him against, he becomes society’s new “bad guy”.

    • Incunabulum says:

      Its certainly an apt description.

      And it paints Batman as a horrible person who causes more destruction than he prevents.

      He is, by meddling, upsetting the balance of power. By knocking out, temporarily, each major villain of the story he creates a power vacuum where the others fight to take the top spot next. And then when the last villain gets free again, he joins the fight to regain what he lost.

      Batman is guilty of perpetuating the carnage that he uses to justify his existence.

  27. Bropocalypse says:

    Cripes. I leave this blog for a day and look at all these comments.
    Best way to generate conversation: Include Batman AND Twilight. Find a way to throw in Star Wars and you have the nerd discourse trifecta.

  28. Duoae says:

    Oooh. Looking forward to the second part of this!

    I’ve never thought about Batman from this perspective before so I don’t really have very well-formed views on the topic. I enjoy the Arkham games for the gameplay and side missions more than the main story so I’m not getting the “bend” angle at the moment.

    I understand the power fantasy appeal of things but then most games are power fantasies of some sort on a particular level (even chess!) so… Wondering where Shamus is going with this.

    What I will say is that I think Batman (and the world of Batman) is the only superhero reality that is worth playing as a game over a game series and even over multiple games. I think he’s the only character that really has a good arc to explore, has the ability to generate offspring, rivals, enemies and events purely through his existence.

    What I really don’t like is how they always focus on Joker. I’d love an Arkham game that really focuses on Batman opening up and trusting his charges/allies. I think that’d be great. I was pretty disappointed with Arkham Knight in this respect… especially that one scene! (You know the one!)

  29. Ed says:

    So I thought, and to be fair, I have not read or watched any twilight, was that the reason Edward and Bella don’t ever have sex was in part because his vampire super strength might actually rip her in half, like, it was a logistical problem, not a moral one? This being the reason the don’t bang until Bella becomes a vampire in the last book? (In part).

    • ChristopherT says:

      They don’t have sex because vampires are old and can’t get it up. And he looks like that for eternity, good luck getting some blue with that face.

      Kidding of course. But, yeah, he’s just another Limp Dick throat sucker.

  30. Vorpal Kitten says:

    I mean, there’s no way it could fit into like, any batman series, but the best reason I could come up with for why Batman won’t kill the Joker would be that Bruce is the Joker too, Tyler Durden style. Actually, if I was going to write a Batman fan fiction, that’s the premise I’d go with – Batman’s mind is obsessed with putting him in situations where his inability to react to danger sufficiently gets innocent people killed, after the parents thing, so it creates the Joker persona that’s always a step ahead of Batman and constantly upping the ante. Then you get the ending where Batman finally gives in and shoots the Joker, and ends up killing himself.

  31. LazerBlade says:

    I saw the title and was like “Oh brother, another one.” Then, upon further investigation, I saw you were actually doing something interesting as usual. I think it’s funny that I’ve never seen anyone ask why batman can’t kill mechanically.

    Part of it seems to be that too many miss out on looking at what goes into creating the final experience of a piece of art. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that all of this type of analysis is pointless because the average audience member doesn’t think about it when they consume the art, but that forgets that the artist has to think about it when they create the art.

  32. Wandering back because I saw This Batman and Alfred text exchange and it was just too perfect not to link.

  33. mwchase says:

    The various “he’s really messed up” explanations from these comments kind of have me imagining Batman as, like, a really deep-cover Hobospy.

    “Oh, that guy? No metahuman abilities, just a teched up suit and a lot of personal trauma. When he’s not beating up street thugs, he runs overwatch and tech support up here.”
    “Wait, some of you are basically gods. Why can’t you just kick him out and change the access codes?”
    “He once nearly killed us with stuff that was just lying around in his basement, by accident. We’re frankly afraid to make him angry. Shit! He’s looking this way. Act casual!”

  34. straymute says:

    My line of thinking is that the way Batman stories are set up already would look already look like the actions of a fascist secret police to the average Gotham inhabitant and Batman killing/imprisoning people would take it even further. I’ll try to keep it Arkham specific for convenience.

    1. GCPD starts off with a well earned reputation for corruption.
    2. There is little reason for the average person in Gotham to actually think Gordon is different. We only know he is because of a shared perspective with Batman.
    3. The Bat Signal at police HQ is suspicious as hell. The police could easily use a relationship with a vigilante to subvert the the law and remember to the average person the bat signal goes up at night and a bunch of broken bodies are found the next morning.
    4. In the Arkham games you aren’t strictly going after people committing a crime. Many of the enemy mobs are just sitting around in an area. You don’t actually have an excuse for assaulting these people so it already looks/is bad.
    5. The surveillance stuff. People would suspect that either the police are giving targets to a vigilante or that the vigilante had his own surveillance network and both would be true.

  35. Deoxy says:

    Forget Batman – he’s got some kind of mental hang-up on killing people, or whatever (goodness knows he’s got enough OTHER mental hang-ups, what’s one more?).

    Why hasn’t someone ELSE put a bullet in the Joker one of the many times he’s been in custody? Seriously, go to prison for a while, lower the Gotham body count by several hundred to several thousand over the next decade (and the “going to prison” part might not even happen, seriously).

    THAT is the part that is so ridiculous. Not just Batman, but NOBODY executes the guy.

    Edit: and the Twilight series, like the books you mentioned, is just pr0n for women. It scratches the typical female mating desires in essentially exactly the same way pr0n does for men. I think it’s at least as destructive in the unrealistic expectations it fosters, if not significantly more so.

  36. Austin says:

    Shamoose, WHY DO YOU KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT TWILIGHT?

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>