My whole Facebook and Twitter feeds today have been nothing but ranting over the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. Anyone who knows me (and probably even people who don’t) knows that I’m a girl that loves superheroes.
It’s funny to me, though, that so many people have such strong opinions about Affleck as Batman. I don’t remember this kind of reaction to Henry Cavill’s casting as Superman. And I honestly can’t remember the reaction to Christian Bale being cast in the Nolan franchise. But it’s odd. The collective cultural conscience seems to throw Superman away as a joke, while getting up in arms about Batman.
I’m gonna be honest here, and hope that you don’t get too upset with my opinion:
I don’t like Batman.
Like, at all.
He’s kind of a tool.
I have friends who love him, sincerely, and who have long and deep histories with the character, just as I do with Superman. And that’s fine. I would never tell you that you can’t like a character, or that you shouldn’t, or try to sway your opinion. But because 1) a lot of people like to get in my face about how “Superman sucks” and 2) I want to take the collective Batman lovers down a peg, not the individuals, here is my little rant about good ole Bruce Wayne and his spot in pop culture:
I know why I dislike Bats. He’s moody and a pretty shitty father to a large brood. He gets away with being an asshole. He’s self-centered and manipulative and dark in a way that I generally don’t like. I like my heroes to be brighter and funnier and not Deus Ex Machina machines (“I have a gadget for that/a martial arts move for that/a genius plan for that/something batshaped for that” we get it, Bruce).
I know why a lot of fans like Batman: He’s dark in a way they like. His genre is very Noir and Mystery heavy, which are both very popular. He’s enigmatic and has brain and brawn. He’s a self-made man in many ways, and is powered by his emotions, which is compelling, as is his complex emotional state. Plus, he gets lots of hot girlfriends.
I just never understand why the world at large, including countless people who don’t care about the character beyond the buzz that periodically appears around a movie, trending topics on Twitter and making Buzzfeed lists, liked him so much. They give vague reasons like, “he’s so badass!” and “he’s a real human, unlike other heroes” and “Dude, I could be Batman.”
No, dude, you can’t. He’s less realistic than Superman. It makes sense for a non human to have non human abilities. It doesn’t make sense for a “human” to have THAT much money, THAT much insane and unrealistic martial arts training, THOSE crazy gadgets, and have no one catch him. Plus, running around like a bat in the night in a town like Gotham? Why is he not locked in Arkham? (side note: there are some GREAT comic arcs that deal with the line of Bruce’s sanity. Genius).
So yes, I get annoyed when people seem to like Batman for no real reason, other than unspecific comments about his power and badassery. But whatever, it doesn’t really affect my life if the general audience has subconsciously decided to use Batman as a cypher for whatever action character they want to watch.
It becomes more interesting when you look at the reactions to Affleck’s casting (ah, full circle). Affleck is, by all accounts, a good actor. He’s won Oscars and makes a ton of money. People love his movies. Except for a noted few, like Gigli. And Daredevil. Apparently playing one superhero in a movie that flopped means you can’t play anymore?
What does Affleck lack that fans want to see in Batman? Personally, I can see him doing a great job, but I lack an emotional connection to the character, plus I’ve seen him portrayed so differently in every story.
Here’s what Affleck isn’t: gruff, old, overtly dark or twisted. He’s not Christian Bale, with his barely covered anger. He’s not Josh Brolin, a rumored casting choice who’s played just as many villains as heroes, and who immediately recalls a grizzled kind of Frank Miller (a comic book vet) Batman.
I don’t say any of this to make people angry, or to call out anyone. Just some observations from a person that’s not really connected to any Batman emotions other than apathy. I’m more worried about what Zack Snyder chooses to do to Superman.
Because I love Superman. I have since I was a little kid. I’ve had a Superman poster in my room since middle school. If I were to ever get a tattoo, it would be of the S-shield, because that symbol of hope has gotten me through some really tough times.
That’s what Superman is, you know. Hope. The belief that anyone can make a difference, that anyone can do better, anyone can change the world. Superman is a role model, something to strive for. He’s an outcast and outsider who fights for mankind. He’s a man with inner demons and struggles, who had to deal with feelings of isolation his whole life, who is the sole survivor of his planet, who never feels at home in his own skin. But he’s also a pure hero who strives to make the world a better place with the gifts he has.
You know what everyone misses about this Affleck argument? This movie isn’t about him. This isn’t a Batman movie. This is Batman in a Superman movie. Noir in a traditionally sci-fi genre. Their friendship is great. They’re opposites who compliment and challenge each other, complete each other. They respect each other. In their contrasts you can see their true character. A man who strives to be inhuman, a nonhuman who strives for humanity. They’re a beautiful yin and yang.
So who cares that Ben Affleck is Batman? Who cares if he’s not the image you have of what Batman should be? This isn’t about him. It’s not even completely about Superman, really. It’s about them both, that push and pull, that mix of the dark and light that characterize our era. War on Terror meets Obama’s Change campaign. Optimism meets realism.
Plus, really, and I can’t stress this enough: Ben Affleck will never be the problem when Zack Snyder is at the helm. Gross.