A year ago, I wrote a piece tracking the parallels between Ken Livingstone and Batman. Rather than an ideology-based comparison, I pointed towards the similarities in their careers over the past thirty years.
Briefly, I touched upon the notion that Batman is a left of centre hero. Following Robert Colvile’s argument in The Telegraph that the Caped Crusader is a conservative, and Anthony Painter’s subsequent critique, I feel the time is right for a proper defence of this.
Unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh has already pointed out that Batman is a left wing conspiracy, with the decades old villain in the new film, Bane, a homophone for a dodgy investment fund Mitt Romney once worked for. This, I admit, is a well-made point previously lost on me, but can be added as the latest in a long list of accusations that I think prove that the goddamn Batman is a goddamn pinko liberal.
Bruce Wayne’s transition from orphaned hereditary billionaire into a cowl-clad vigilante shows his evolution from revenge-driven conservative, seeking closure for his parents’ death by beating petty criminals to a pulp, into a symbol for social justice, on a mission to eliminate the type of environment which allowed street crime to thrive. It’s about looking at the wider picture, understanding that muggers are generally driven by desperation, rather than making a choice to go down that path.
Not that he ever stops beating petty criminals to a pulp of course. Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.
Wayne’s inherited fortune, rather than make him a more right wing figure, makes him more left. It is no coincidence that the only openly left wing comic book hero, the Green Arrow, began life as a Batman imitation. We do not have here a superhero in the traditional sense; he possesses no superpowers. He is no ubermensch, no superior being. He is just a bloke who happens to have a lot of money. Batman’s greatest strength is recognising that being endowed with such wealth in the modern capitalist system is akin to a superpower in itself. Gotham is a city corrupted by money: police, judiciary and elected officials can be bought off. They feed on the fear of the poor. That leaves those without money powerless, and Bruce Wayne with the potential to do whatever he wants.
In fact, he does do whatever he wants, but what he wants is to upset the social order of Gotham City. Whilst those that run crime syndicates or take bungs on the side begin to live in fear of the Batman, the people with nothing feel safer walking home at night and feel less likely to fall into the kind of deprivation that would force them into street crime.
So, salutations comrade Batman. You’ve always been one of us.