Is Batman an altruist?

Posted by handyman 5 years, 4 months ago to Entertainment
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The first episode of the second season of Gotham (Fox) just aired this past Monday evening. I was expecting good things from this show because, after seeing several of last season’s episodes, I found the plot (young Bruce Wayne on the path to becoming Batman) and the acting above average for prime time viewing, but even more important, the theme (good vs evil), was one that I, as an Objectivist, found satisfying. So, it was with eager anticipation that I recorded, then later watched this last installment.

The plot continues and the acting remains very good. Surprisingly, the theme has taken a somewhat deeper dive into an ethical issue than I have come to expect from the entertainment industry. It involves the good cop (Jim Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie) going after the villains. To illustrate the disappointing portrayal of what constitutes the “good,” I’ll give a just a bit of back ground:

Detective Jim Gordon is removed from the police force by the commissioner. Gordon is distraught because he can now no longer fight the evil forces in Gotham. He goes to young Bruce Wayne’s house to tell him he can no longer help him find his parents’ killers. Gordon hints that he might get his job reinstated by doing “something ugly” like making a deal with a local super-villain (The Penguin). Bruce recognizes that if Gordon was reinstated to his position on the GCPD, he could continue to hunt down his parents’ killers. Recognizing that Gordon’s personal honor forbids him to “do something ugly,” he asks Gordon, “Are you not sacrificing the greater good for the sake of your dignity, self-esteem and vanity. Surely sometimes the right way is also the ugly way.”

After reflecting on this insightful question from the young Bruce Wayne, Gordon then goes on to do the “ugly” thing – i.e. he sacrificed his dignity, self-esteem and honor for the “greater good.” The term “greater good” in the story’s context seems harmonious with the utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

How disappointing that the writers portrayed the heroic as those who cast off personal virtue for the sake of “the greater good.” I guess my disappointment was heightened by the (unrealistic) expectation that somewhere from within the entertainment industry, there would be a glimmer of an enlightened view.

It gets worse. In one scene, the new Chairman of Development of Gotham’s Chamber of Commerce, is introduced as a businessman, visionary, and scientist. Naturally, he is on track to become the latest super-villain.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple minutes of the show, young Bruce discovers a letter written to him by his father shorty before his death. It includes. the following fatherly advice, “You can’t have both happiness and truth.” and then, “I beg of you, my son, please choose happiness unless you feel a calling. A true calling.”

So here we have the words of wisdom from Hollywood – happiness and truth are mutually exclusive. I guess I shouldn’t expect more, considering the source. A story about the origins of Batman seemed like it could have been a great vehicle to illustrate how personal virtue can translate into overcoming tremendous odds and defeating evil. Doesn’t Hollywood have any good Objectivist writers?

I guess I can hold out for the hope that the writers will have Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon recognize the errors in their thinking and formulate purposeful action from virtuous concepts.

Has anyone here in the Gulch seen this and, if so, what are your thoughts? Does anyone here know of any shows that come anywhere close to portraying values that an Objectivist can identify with?


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