The Monday Muse: On Liking HOW You Like

I am a huge Batman fan.

Oh, right. Welcome to the Monday Muse, wherein we talk about stuff and muse together. I’m the one who usually writes about writing, because…apparently, I have no other interests, or something. But today, I’m writing about something else.

So, as I said earlier: I am a huge Batman fan.

I was five when the animated series came on TV for the first time. This was my first taste of the world of comic books and superheroes, and I loved it. I loved that Batman was putting himself between evil and the city of Gotham. I loved that he became kinder and more compassionate because of his loss. To me, Batman wasn’t the angry guy with the tech (and it upsets me that he’s been reduced to that in recent years); Batman was the guy who looked around him and saw his anger and pain and fear reflected in the people of his home. As a child, he experienced a moment of absolute helplessness–a moment where the evil and pain of the world left him feeling powerless and ineffective–and he became determined to turn that fear and helplessness upon the criminals who preyed upon Gotham. He was a man who was going to place himself between his city and those who wanted to hurt it; he was going to be a hero.

This is the Batman I love. The Batman who used his mind first and his tools second. The Batman who showed compassion for Harley Quinn because he knew she was just troubled and not really evil. The Batman who didn’t use guns and didn’t play judge, jury, and executioner. This was a hero that knew his strengths, his enemies’ weaknesses, and vice versa. He manipulated the playing field and used strategic attacks rather than brute force. What mattered was defeating the bad guy; not being the hero who brought the villain down. He was a world’s greatest detective who wasn’t afraid to fight hard if he needed to. And he has always been my favorite superhero.

There are people out there who tell me my Batman isn’t the “real” Batman. That I’m wrong and not a real Batman fan because I was introduced to him via a cartoon and not the comic media. Even though I’ve spent the last couple of decades reading Batman comics, watching movies with Batman in them, and even writing papers for Literature courses about the psychology of the Nolan Batman movies (well, the first one)…I am not a real Batman fan because, to me, he is a compassionate hero who is more than just anger and technology. To me, he’s closer to Captain America than Iron Man (yeah, I like Marvel, too…which ALSO makes me less of a fan); he’s just the dark side of that coin. I think of Frank Miller as an exploration of what would happen if Batman *lost* what made him Batman in the first place. If Batman didn’t keep control over his anger and let it overwhelm him.

I’ve written more about Batman than I intended. I meant it more as an example of people who have the gall to tell someone that there’s a certain way to like something. That being a fan has a set of rules, or a checklist that you have to pass. Fandom is not exclusive. In fact, it is the opposite; it is inclusive. We should all celebrate the fact that what we love is the same! Why are we trying to create a hierarchy out of loving something? And why does it seem to be so much worse when it comes to nerd culture? For so long, nerds have been excluded; we’ve been made fun of, maligned, laughed at, and made to feel separate from everyone else. So what do we do when we meet someone else who loves something that we love? We force them to somehow prove themselves, as if they’re perhaps interlopers just waiting for the right moment to pounce and tear us down. And, in the process, we alienate the very people with whom we should be celebrating that love.

Let’s not do that. Let’s just be happy to find people who are nerds just like us. Let’s not have DC vs Marvel showdowns where liking one makes you childish (Marvel) and the other makes you a “butthurt fanboy” (DC). Let’s not call someone an idiot because they enjoyed a movie we didn’t, or insult the movie itself. Entertainment is not a marker of intelligence any more than having a different opinion about something makes you less of a fan. Accept that we can all love something together and have different opinions at the same time. Fandom is not specific. There isn’t a single definition. There is no one way to like Batman.

Let’s stop tearing one another down. Batman would never do that shit and neither should we. I mean, he would totally have a file on everyone and preparations for the day you turned evil, but he wouldn’t assume you were evil. It’s more of a completely justifiable paranoia based on years of watching good people go bad and living in a James Cagney nightmare.

I think I lost the point there. Just be nice to one another and stop telling them how to like stuff, mmkay? It’s just not cool.

On Friday, there will be booze.


ps- I have massive appreciation for Frank Miller despite how it might seem. The Dark Knight Returns was an absolutely seminal moment for Batman. The last taste the average American had had of the Bat was Adam West. After Miller, Batman was a character to take seriously. Miller also affected the Animated Series. I just think we’ve swung too far into Miller’s court lately.


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