For and Against

June 30th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

I’m not a fan of the later Bourne movies.  I think they skimp on the clever details of spy stuff and instead just show Bourne magically appearing places without explaining how he managed to be there.  I think the plots are shaky.  (Well, they were shaky to begin with.  He breaks into the ultra-top-secret headquarters in Paris, grabs all the guns and . . . gives them a good talking-to?  And that solves the problem?  Really?)  I think the camera is even shakier.  Shaky to the point where I couldn’t tell whether the struggles were between highly trained assassins or old ladies in a slap fight.

I have a friend who really likes the later movies, though.  And says so.  Usually to bait me into responding.  Which I do.  Vehemently.

During one argument, when I was getting particularly overheated about the idea that they were going to yet another Bourne movie, presumably called The Bourne Epilepsy, when he said, “You know, you don’t have to see it.”

And I realized that no, no I don’t.  I don’t particularly care about Jason Bourne or the movies in the first place.  Why was I even madly talking about how crappy the later movies were?

Because someone had said that they were good.  And I disagreed.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon in many areas  and the best term I can come up with to describe it is Irritation Inflation.  If you hit a message board in which there is a uniform opinion about something, the few people who disagree are often rabid with anger by the end.  (Of course, there is always the opposite case, in which a bunch of like-minded people egg each other on to greater and greater heights of outrage.)

Irritation Inflation pops up a lot in comics.  I’ve noticed it applied (both by myself and others) to creators.  Many creators seem to have an extremely militant fanbase, swearing up and down that everything they do is genius.  They also seem to have a group of people who sincerely believe that they are the anti-christ.  I wonder if the hatred of the antis sparked the devoted love of the pros, or the other way around, or if they just evolved together.

I have also seen it applied to individual works.  One person’s pillar of continuity is another person’s travesty.

What I’ve noticed, though, at least when it comes to my own reactions, is that Irritation Inflation is most devastating when it applies to characters.  When I disagree with a creator, I can get over it.  When I disagree with the way a character is portrayed, my blood starts boiling.

Personally, I think Batman’s a jerk.  Making various sidekicks’ lives a living hell?  Jerk.  Launching a spy satellite into outer space?  Jerk.  Oh, and the latest issue of Batman?  Where he left a secret message for Alfred, and the first part asked if Alfred would accept a hard, ongoing secret mission, and only when he accepted it did Bruce go on to say what a good father he was and thank him for raising and serving Bruce all of his life?  OH what a jerk.

The characters and the story, however, seem to think that he isn’t a jerk.  He’s misunderstood.  He’s tortured.  He’s acting for the greater good.  His way is the only way that works – that trains people properly and keeps them on their toes and provides a safety net.  I don’t know if this is genuinely the opinion of the comics creators or if they are attempting to protect the character, to give him false failings to create drama while re-affirming his status as heroic ubermensch.  All I know is it makes me so angry that sometimes I have to breathe into a paper bag and pretend that certain bits of continuity never happened.

Meanwhile, the Secret Six, whom I adore, are genuinely despicable people and it doesn’t bother me a bit.  Why?  Because for most of their issues, they are frank about their failings, and no character, no circumstance, no contrived bit of continuity tries to make them seem any better than they are.

I think I could greatly admire of a Batman who is both an incredible, selfless hero and a fearful, controlling man who makes life unnecessarily difficult (and sometimes impossible) for all of those around him because of his own mental problems.  What I can’t take is the extreme Irritation Inflation I experience when I read a story in which he’s an insufferable ass, but when every other element of the story is twisted in order to show him as a noble and flawless hero.

I suppose, at the end of this long and jumbled entry, I’d like some feedback from readers.  Do you experience this as well?  If so, does it manifest itself most in real-life or in-story elements?  Do you think that it’s justified or simply the tantrum of someone who doesn’t like being disagreed with?

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11 comments to “For and Against”

  1. That latest issue of Batman is especially stupid because Tomasi had already established an “I Loved You, Dad” message to Alfred in his “Batman & The Outsiders” Special one-shot, even contrasting it to Alfred apologising to the Wayne Parent’s graves. Giffen can be a real idiot sometimes.

    Your complaints about the UberBat sort of reminds me of why I like Morrison’s run, or at least its premise – that Batman only is who he is because he has had an incredibly f-ed-up life. He’s been to alien planets and breathed in noxious gases and struggled out of death traps, and so on. In RIP, we even see that when you ‘Take Bruce Out Of The Equation’, what you’re left with is a violent maniac in a silly costume, able to communicate with insane people and bluffing that he has everything figured out. Morrison’s Batman isn’t a noble hero as much as he is a twisted, disfigured monster trying to make himself out as a noble hero in order to impress his dead parents.

  2. Irritation Inflation pops up a lot in comics. I’ve noticed it applied (both by myself and others) to creators. Many creators seem to have an extremely militant fanbase, swearing up and down that everything they do is genius. They also seem to have a group of people who sincerely believe that they are the anti-christ. I wonder if the hatred of the antis sparked the devoted love of the pros, or the other way around, or if they just evolved together.

    Whenever someone says “I like something”, there’s going to be a bunch of people ready to tell them precisely why they’re wrong. From there, enjoyment and balanced criticism quickly devolve into partisan battlelines as the hyperbole flies overhead. This seems to be especially true on the internet.

    As for the specific examples you mention, I personally hate the Batjerk interpretation, which really seems to have come about post-DKR/Year One, and was basically alien to me for the early part of my comic reading.

    I didn’t really read Miller’s Batman until I was in my 20s, by which point I was familiar with the Batman of the Animated Series, the 60s TV Show, the comics of the 50s through 80s and the JLI. (Well ok, you could make an argument for him being a jerk in the JLI, but he always seemed to be playing that up as a private joke.)

    And I’ve loved the Simone Secret Six ever since the first issue, for the same reasons I loved the old JLI. It’s always more entertaining to see “flawed people with powers” if they aren’t dropping into overwraught internal monologues about it every five minutes. And Gail Simone has a really deft hand with anti-heroes.

  3. …the Bourne movies are still freakin’ great, no matter what you say! And also, usually, it’s *you* bringing up your distaste for the Bourne movies to bait *me*. =P

  4. I think its a penis size thing.
    superman is the big, unstoppable dick in theory – he is bulletproof and can fly.
    but whereas I constantly see the Chris reeve/all star version of superman, I think miller and the like see someone ‘better than them’ and want to see the statistically and factually lesser man win, which is why I can’t stand superman and batman comics where batman wins, we get it writers, you want to see Hercules defeated by an aspie avatar of your id, deal with the fact that you are afraid to get naked in the change room elsewhere, and write a comic where the guy who can move at the speed of sound breaks the hand of the guy who has a deadly meteor piece in his back pocket.
    while batman is giving one of his silly grumbly speaches about how he’ss better than everybody, superman should just yank of the cowl and leave bruce on a rooftop to finish his grumble grumble ‘I’m rich but suffered a mild tragedy when I was young and I don’t use the money to help people I use it to dress in leather with a young boy and hurt people’ bull.

  5. @Andrew Bayer: You’re imagining things.

  6. @Paul Wilson: @edc:
    While I agree with you guys, that’s not entirely what I’m focusing on. I might be able to like Batjerk, but only if the writers, the other characters, and the universe at large admit that he’s a jerk and that causes problems. Instead, it’s more talk about how his personality ‘is how it has to be in Gotham’ or how it’s an act and he’s actually noble.

    It’s the justification I can’t stand.

  7. @Salieri: Ah, see this is where it’s up to interpretation. Morrison’s Batman still seems to be perfect in every way. In JLA he survives years of torture and outwits his torturer, and then shrugs it all off. His insane power-games defeat Prometheus. He is attacked in every way by the Black Hand, and in the end it was all part of his plan. He’s invincible.

    I still find Morrison’s Batman interesting, though, because Morrison doesn’t rely on Batman degrading, attacking, manipulating or abusing his teammates in order to stir up drama that then has to be justified.

  8. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: Suuuuuuure.

  9. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: Exactly. If you go back to an earlier 4L post about the Club of Heroes, the original poster (I can’t recall if it was David or Gavok) was theorising that the ‘Darker’ elements of Batman would be purged in favour of the ‘hairy-chested love-god’ version. And while that has happened more or less (http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2009/06/24/lets-give-em-something-to-talk-about/ – damn it, I still ship for Dick/Babs), what we also find is that he’s leaning back towards a Batman who is a marginally nice person. In those RIP/FC bridge issues, one of the biggest elements of Bruce was his dependence on the various Robins; even in a universe where he didn’t become Batman, seeing the corpse of Dick Grayson would have become his inspiration anyway.

    That started even in the first few issues of Morrison’s run on the title, with Alfred wondering where the fun-loving playboy had gone and Bruce specifically telling Tim “You Don’t Have To Prove Yourself To Me”, even to the degree that as the series goes on you feel that if not for sunshiney Dick Grayson, the story of Batman would have ended in the same way as the story of Hamlet – with all the characters dead. Now, with B&R, we’re seeing the dynamic again, played in reverse, with Damian reminding Dick that he is no longer Robin and needs to step up the darker elements again.

    But, as you said, the whole thing is up to interpretation. That’s another thing I like about it, just as I liked V For Vendetta or The Sandman; you can work it out for yourself, or even make it up as it goes along.

  10. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: If I had to try and justify the justifcations it’d be like this: if we take the 70 years of Batman comics as taking place over a 15-year frame, then for the first decade at least of his career, Batman was a decent, well-liked guy who had adventures with most of the DCU at various points and developed a solid reputation as this noble paragon.

    In the last five years, he’s become progressively more paranoid and insular in reaction to a series of catastrophic events:He got mindf**ked by his friends, his sidekick was murdered, his back was broken, his city was subject to plagues and earthquakes, he was implicated in the murder of an ex-girlfriend, and his plans were used to foment a bloody gang war in Gotham. All of this culmnated in him losing control of Brother Eye and the wackiness that ensued there.

    All-in-all, the people close to him remember who he was, and even if they don’t condone that jerky period in the middle, they appreciate the incredible stresses that he was placed under. And god damn it, he really tried to be better after Infinite Crisis/52, but the Black Glove came along and screwed that pooch.

    And now that he’s “dead”, of course people are going to focus on the good he did rather than the mistakes he made.

  11. many good points on both sides. Personally, besides the outstanding Nolan franchise, the comics and even the TV show (BTAS) I grew up with have erred so often (the latter moreso) that I’ve had to make my own continuity. This is what I appreciate about the Nolan films; they don’t have Batman out there for the thrill nor do they maintain him as Batman because the movie’ll make more money. They gave a clarity of purpose to Batman, his mission, and his approach. The biggest comic book blunder, regardless of what his fans say, is the addition of Robin to the mythos. I’m willing to accept the BTAS Dick Grayson Roin who was a young adult when he donned the costume, but a Batman who in order to achieve order has honed both mind and body to perfection, putting a child’s life in such danger is unacceptable. So the sidekick drama genuinely doesn’t belong in Batman stories. They will continue to be made because they sell but not because they make sense. Has comic book Gotham gotten better since Batman’s arrival? Another example would be his membership in the JLA. As much as our mind’s eye must have a Batman in the JLA, given not only how he operates as a fearful myth (or at least he should be) but given his unfulfilled mission in Gotham, he couldn’t give up Gotham for JLA adventures. And don’t even get me started on how sad and funny, Gotham existing in a perpetual nightmare makes the superhuman crimefighters of DC look.
    As for Batman being an asshole, I happen to like the interpretation insofar he isn’t trying to be an asshole. It’s his nature to be all about the mission. If you want a perfect example, look at him Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. He is a noble character, sadly we just have writers who keep writing in circles.