Saturday, June 5, 2010

Abdication of Personal Responsibility - Two Case Studies (Two-Face and The Riddler)

This started out as a comment on my last post, and before long I realized I had something to say, but I didn’t want to take a lot of time on it. So here, in very rough form, written and read over just once, then shot out onto your computer screen, is everything I want to get out at the moment about my two favorite Batman villains.

I’ve mentioned that I don’t care for the interpretation that Two-Face is a multiple personality, as in the Dini/Timm animated show – Harvey Dent vs. “Big Bad Harv.” This isn’t because I think it’s terrible or anything, it’s entirely a matter of there being a far more interesting way of looking at Two-Face.

The brilliant thing about Two-Face – not “brilliant” as in, “Hey, that’s pretty cool,” but rather “Seriously you guys, do not tell me that 1940s comics weren’t capable of sophistication, because listen to this” – is that he was a lawyer. The law, being what it is, is a very long, messy process of deliberation, and Dent has replaced it with the instant gratification of the coin flip.

And it’s very important that he was district attorney, and not a defense attorney. Because imagine you’ve got to prosecute criminals in Gotham City. Gotham City! Not an enviable task! You have to make a lot of tough choices, wade through some really murky gray areas. I’m sure it’s the sort of thing where you have to make decisions that feel terrible and are terrible, but that you’re banking on serving the greater good in the long, long run. That’s going to really wind a dude up.

And now imagine that your reward for all that hard work, all those carefully weighed decisions and master plans, is that some uppity gangster throws a bottle of acid at you in court and ruins your perfect face.

Screw that, man, from now on I’m just going to make all my decisions with a coin toss!

What a relief it must be! Surely there’s a part of him thinking, “If only I wouldn’t have prosecuted that guy, if only I’d made sure they checked him more thoroughly, if only I’d decided to skip out on court and stay in bed or go fishing, this would never have happened.” I’m sure we can all relate to something like that, albeit less sensationally. Even when something’s “not your fault,” even if you’re the perfect innocent victim, something in your decision making process led you to a place where you became the victim. Anything bad that happens to you is, from a certain point of view, your own damn fault, no matter how unfair that may be.

But not with the coin. Nothing’s ever Harvey’s fault anymore. Caught by Batman? Mob takeover bid ruined? Hey, that’s on the silver dollar, man, not him! Neither luck nor the criminal justice system are perfect or even always fair, but at least the coin gives you a black-and-white answer with no fuss. I like to imagine DA Harvey Dent as a guy on the verge of a nervous breakdown before the incident, and that he doesn’t quite see why everyone calls him crazy for developing this great new therapy he’s found that really does make him feel so much better about everything!

But of course, that’s not a healthy way to deal with stress – he’s just abdicating personal responsibility for decision making and handing it to a coin. Which brings me, I think, to the Riddler.

So Riddler’s deal is he leaves clues at the scene of his crimes, and the reasonable enough question to ask is why a criminal would want to do this. One school of thought says that he’s less interested in crime than he is at challenging Batman, and so the riddles are an element of the “game” he’s playing. Another interpretation is that it’s a compulsion or “mental block” – that he couldn’t commit a crime without leaving a clue.

My own personal spin I’d run with, if I were given the opportunity, (and I bring this up a lot because it's my pet theory, so if you know me and I’ve already told you this a dozen times, I’m sorry,) is that the riddles serve to undermine Batman. Batman’s the world’s greatest detective, and the Riddler tries to assert superiority by condescending to him, by leaving him – let’s face it – fairly obvious clues. The mental whammy this puts on Batman is that he has to ask himself, would he be able to catch the Riddler if he didn’t leave clues? Or (he wonders, paranoid), what if the Riddler has been committing secret sideline crimes for years without leaving clues, and Batman has never found out about them?

And yet, it occurs to me now, this intrepretation might betray some insecurity on the Riddler’s part. Because what if the Riddler didn’t leave a clue … and Batman caught him anyway? Holy crap, that’d pretty much be the end of the Riddler, wouldn’t it? It’d prove that Batman really is smarter than him, and that’d be enough to make him hang up both the dapper three-piece suit and the spandex bodysuit for good, right?

So maybe those riddles have become to him what the coin is to Two-Face – a way to abdicate responsibility for his actions. So long as the Riddler leaves a clue, it’s not his fault when he’s caught. And so in this way, it does become a compulsion of sorts. But rather than the twisted pathology of a criminal genius, it’s a hedge so that he doesn’t have to face the sobering possibility that maybe he’s not as smart as he thought he was.

So I don’t know what the significance is that my own little personal interpretations of these characters are linked in this way – two guys trying to shirk their responsibility in the nuttiest, most desperate ways. But it gave me something to think about and, perhaps, you as well.*

(* - Unless, of course, you think there is a flaw in my reasoning, or even that “my” Two-Face and Riddler are just total crap ways of looking at the characters. I did ask my wife for her somewhat-outsider guess about why the Riddler leaves clues, and she said she just figures Riddler likes to be caught (a bit of pervy-ness was implied). Which is elegant and simple and sad and compelling in its own way, really.)


Anonymous said...

I can' t but agree.I always wanted to write in my site something like that but I guess you' r faster.

Anonymous said...

After reading you site, Your site is very useful for me .I bookmarked your site!

Anonymous said...

Hi buddy, your blog' s design is four-square and clean and i like it. Your blog posts are superb. Satisfy maintain them coming. Greets!!!

Anonymous said...

When they grоwn into frіenԁs,
they will count on familiaritу, but not aѕ well a gгeat
deal гight up until thеn. Thiѕ Floгida tenting аrea iѕ peгfect for
a famіly unit оn а budget сonsіԁering that it iѕ reasonably priced
foг the Orlando communitу and however it
is near to all thе most іmpоrtant points of interеst liκe Disney.
You poѕsibly wіll be the reason
of hurdles in yοur father's success.

My web page :: williams sonoma rectangular pizza stone

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty pleased to find this web site. I need to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every little bit of it and I have you book-marked to see new information in your website.

my web-site: Chemietoilette

Anonymous said...

Μy rеlatіѵеs all
the time sаy that I am ωаsting mу time here
аt net, еxcept I knoω I am gettіng
know-hоw еverуԁаy by reaԁing such
nice аrtісles oг reviews.

Here is my webѕite

Anonymous said...

What a informatіon οf un-ambiguity and preserνeneѕs оf valuаble knoω-how on the topic of unexpectеd

Also visit my web blog -

Anonymous said...

Quality cοntent is the іmportant to interest the visitors to go
to see the web site, that's what this web page is providing.

Also visit my homepage ...

Anonymous said...

Grеаte pieces. Keep poѕting ѕuch kіnԁ of info on your
blog. Im reаlly іmpressed by it.
Hellо there, You've done an excellent job. I'll definitely
ԁigg it аnd in my opіniоn suggest tо my friеndѕ.
Ι'm sure they'll bе benefited fгom thiѕ website.

Нerе is my homepagе :: Chemietoilette
My website > Chemietoilette

Anonymous said...

Hello my friend! I want to say that this article
is amazing, nice written and include almost all vital infos.

I'd like to peer extra posts like this .

my web site - painting your bathroom vanity cabinet

Anonymous said...

Aw, this was an ехtrеmely good post.
Spеnding some time and actual effоrt to prοduce a great aгticle…
but ωhat cаn I say… I hesitаtе
a lot and don't manage to get anything done.

Here is my web-site:

Anonymous said...

I dο not even know hοw I ended up here,
but I thought this ρost was great. I don't know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

My web-site ::

Anonymous said...

Hi would you mind sharing whіch blog platform you're working with? I'm plаnning to staгt my own blog soon but I'm having a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm lоoking for something cоmpletely unіquе.
P.S Sorry fоr bеing off-topic but I
had to ask!

my ωeblog;

Anonymous said...

This ԁеsign іs ѕteller!

Үou most cеrtаіnly knοw hοw to kеeр a reаdeг amused.

Bеtweеn yοuг ωіt and
уour videos, I wаѕ almost moved
to start mу own blog (wеll, almοst.
..HaНа!) Fantastic job. I reаlly enјoуeԁ what you had to sаy,
and moгe than that, how you рresenteԁ it.
Toο cool!

Herе iѕ mу homepage - Chemietoilette

Anonymous said...

Reduсe heat; simmеr, uncoveгed, for 35 to 40minutes
ог to desiгeԁ cоnsiѕtencу, stirгing oссasionally.
Τhis annuаl plant cаn be gгown in an
cοntainer, and ωill уield betωеen
1-2 сups of fresh basіl. Top the dοugh with olive oil οr cooking spray,
and sсoop the onion mixturе over іt еvenly.

My web page pizza pan alexandria va

Anonymous said...

Prettу! This was an incredibly wondeгful агticle.
Many thanks for suрplying this info.

my web-site; augen lasern

Anonymous said...

great issues altοgethеr, you just rеcеived a
logo nеw гeader. What could you suggest іn rеgards to youг
pοѕt thаt you made a few days in the past?
Anу positiνe?

My ωeb ρage :: augen lasern