Seated crosslegged in front of the television, I watch in suspense as a low voice growls a threat from the shadows. A pair of eyes narrow against the dark, predicating his attack. The crooks only have time enough to look toward the noise before a pair of black boots makes contact with their sternums, sending them through a window, or off a scaffold, or into the water. “IT’S THE BAT!” they cry through volleys of automatic gunfire before a flap of wings and a fist to the jaw silences them. Pow.
Batman has, for as long as I can remember, been my idol. And I don’t just mean as a youngin’ flinging Saltine Batarangs whilst draping a towel over my shoulders and wearing underwear over my boy-shorts (if the clothes make the man, the tights must make the hero, I thought). No, Batman informs many of decisions today even after 22 years on Earth. And to be honest, I couldn’t have hoped for a better role model to have stuck with me.
I won’t bother detailing what defines possibly the most recognizable (next to Supes) and relatable crime-fighter to ever have been drawn to page; rather, I want to talk about why the hilariously absurd idea of a loner dressing as a flying rodent and punching purse-snatchers is so damn appealing to me.
Past the colorful villains, cool one-liners, and tragic backstory, is a man — a fact that cultural scholars and comic nerds alike have identified and praised as the reason why Batman remains so important to millions of fans. However, even more empirical to Batman than his humanity are his ideals — unshakable life values that guide on his mission for justice.
Let me back up a bit. Batman may be my fantasy role model, but before he ever perched on the gargoyle of my mind, there was another man whose ideals taught me how to, well, be a man. My father, like the Dark Knight, preached ideals, not truths (or at least that was what stuck with me).
Growing up, I was taught how life should be, rather than how life was — and I’m glad he did. Harsh realities are notions that in time I’ve come to understand and accept. I can’t say that I would have known what was wrong with those realities if it wasn’t for my father. Justice, fairness, and equality. The gravity with which he said the words weighed on me with all the seriousness in the world, and I absorbed them into my heart and mind.
Batman embodied the ideals my father instilled in me but used them as justification for action, making a difference in a world he saw as flawed. As a child, his ability to use force to correct society seemed much more impressive than my father’s paltry words. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
With all the violence that exists in the world today, I see just how flawed and ignorant Batman’s methods are, even if he does follow a moral code. As much as we don’t want to believe it, Batman can only exist in a fictionalized world where literally back-handing the gods of chaos is a viable option in solving one’s problems. My father, though following ideals himself, came to the decision to do so faced with the real world and not a scripted universe. There’s a strange validity in that that I can’t explain but it means a lot to me.
So yes. In my head, Batman remains my role model because he fits a convenient fantasy image. But when I think of Batman, I know it’s really my father under the cowl. Even if he’s too fat to fit in the suit.