Introduction to Batman and Nietzsche

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At first glance there is nothing in common between the famous american hero and the crazy german philosopher who obviously stemmed from two different worlds and centuries. So why wanting to create some kind of particular bridge between them at any cost? Why Batman? Why Nietzsche? 

I/- Why having chosen Batman in particular and the Nolan’s version of him instead of another famous hero such as Captain America, Hulk, Thor or Wolverine?

1) Because Batman/Bruce Wayne (especially the Nolan’s interpretation of the character) is human, therefore closer to us than any other super heroes who are most of the time surnatural creatures, magical ones, or mutants. It is easier to philosophically and psychologically analyse him than the Fantastic 4, the Silver Surfer, and Superman, heroes who live most of the time on a manichean world. Christopher Nolan, in his astounding trilogy, has made huge efforts to, on one hand, erase all these tiny details which sounded too ‘ comics ‘ : teenagers’ jokes, colorful costumes, extraordinary gadgetry, every bat-shaped item (except metallic batarangs cut by Bruce himself in Batman Begins) such as the batcave and the batmobile (if we obviously think of all of these items in the previous movies: Batman (1989)Batman returns (1992)Batman Forever (1995), and Batman and Robin (1997)). On the other hand, Nolan has focused on the normal and human side of Bruce Wayne: in the whole trilogy Bruce appears and investigates much during the day, has an exciting social and public life (sort of, hey, he’s nevrotic after all!) by always sharing beautiful women’s company, cries and gets some of his bones broken, and has to fight villains whose the surnatural side has been completely neglected or so (men like the Joker and Bane could exist in our own world, even the character of Harvey Two-Face might exist as well: the make-up is definitely convincing, so is Harvey’s life expectancy (after he’s got his face burnt down by gasoline). Furthermore, Nolan has also brought Batman closer to us by having focused on current social issues, or issues that every modern and westerner society has to deal with: terrorism (see the dark knight and the dark knight rises, especially the way the Joker and Bane try to take over Gotham City), the problem linked to the limits of laws (in the dark knight (2008) Batman breaks the law by going to China and illegaly penetrating in a huge building in order to bring back Lau in America…).

2) Unlike another human hero, Tony/Stark/Iron Man, Bruce Wayne/Batman is darker and far more complicated from a psychological perspective: Batman has built himself up by having mastered or let’s rather say having tried to master his own neurosis, that is to say his feeling of guiltiness, and his fear of bats and of darkness. Besides he has let out his will of revenge and his inner violence over the most terrible crooks of Gotham City. But nonetheless he never killed one of them, even if they have tried to drive him mad, to push him into the abyss of insanity. Furthermore Batman does not have any super powers at all. Ok, he’s got cool gear from the militarian section of his own entreprise. But his real strength does not lie in weaponry but on his own mind, his own will, and his capacity to fight off, to thrust off the darkness (the real darkness, his own darkness, the other’s darkness), to endure a lot of physical and psychological suffering, and to rise again and again after having been beaten up by the Joker, Bane, and so forth.

Compared to him, Iron Man’s own world sounds too manichean: he was never tempted to go evil or to let himself be controlled by his own anger unlike Batman in some of his darkest adventure. Even if Iron Man shares some things in common with the dark knight (he’s only human, he’s millionaire and he’s fond of creating special and powerful weapons in his cave in order to only hurt not to kill his enemies), he is different (at least if we refer to the Iron Man’s trilogy, especially to Iron Man 3 (2013) made by Shane Black). Indeed Tony Stark is quite joyful and likes showing off, he has a beautiful assistant who has quickly fallen in love with him – compared to the poor Bruce who is not lucky at all with women in general and has to content himself either with Alfred’s affection, or with women who does not want to spend their whole lives with him, who swiftly leave him or die in his arms -_-‘…Of course, Iron Man and most of the super heroes have suffered one moment or another in their lives, and all of them have had more or less tragic and awful destinies. But according to me Batman’s got the darkest destiny.

II/- Why having chosen Friedrich Nietzsche?

Needless to tremendously bore people by explaining or justifying why I have chosen to talk about the mad moustached man. Let me briefly explain it to you! Here my aim goal is to prove that some of nietzschean ideas (the ones which can be found in thus spoke Zarathustra) are still valuable by trying to connect them to something original and unexpected (at least according to me xD), that is to say Batman. After all, what was one of the main goal of Nietzsche? To create a specific way of writing philosophy, which could be very different from the typical and scholar way of writing philosophy in Germany during the 19st century. Unlike Kant and Hegel Nietzsche did despise the heavy and the logical sides of the german language. That is why he did love french writers and the light way they wrote and describe human feelings, passions, and the life itself, such as La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) and Stendhal (1783-1842) for example (read the Charterhouse of Parma and all these beautiful and enthralling descriptions of italian landscapes and feelings about love and war!). And that is why he did imitate the french syntax and the french style of the great moralists by having written all these aphorisms! Aphorisms are fragments which have been often written like maxims and proverbs. And they are some unfinished and open reflections which have been expressed in order to push the ones who could read them to think, or to ruminate as Nietzsche once wrote in the preface of on the genealogy on morals (1887). Here we can say that this german genius has created some sort of ‘ pop ‘ philosophy before Deleuze and Guattari themselves!  Therefore and a priori it does not seem contradictory wanting to plug Nietzsche’s own world in Batman’s! You’ll find two articles related to such a topic: ‘ A dark Apollo VS a purple Dionysus ‘, and ‘ 3 fantastic living-deads : Batman, Bane, and Zarathustra ‘. 

III/- Further readings

– The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839, Stendhal.

– The Birth of the Tragedy, 1872, Friedrich Nietzsche. 

– The Gay Science, 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche. 

– Thus spoke Zarathustra, 1885, Friedrich Nietzsche. 

– Beyond Good and Evil, 1886, Friedrich Nietzsche. 

– Dionysian-Dithyrambs, 1888, Friedrich Nietzsche. 

– Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1965, Gilles Deleuze. 

– Nietzsche (vol. I and II), 1936-1946, Martin Heidegger. 

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