Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I just watched the new Batman finally. At first I was bored and disappointed. Why was Batman acting all good? It had been several years since the last Batman movie, but I seemed to recall it being dark with an antihero protagonist. In the new one, Batman has somehow reformed and become a contributing member of society. Not likely. Batman is a sociopath. He's actually one of the better examples of what i consider "the good sociopath." Being a sociopath doesn't necessarily mean you do bad things, it just means your brain is wired a certain way, and you do things a certain way. Power is power. A sociopath can just as easily satisfy his cravings for power and excitement by fighting alongside local city police as fighting alongside villains. But Batman's girlfriend's note pleads with him to not lose faith in humanity. I guess for the normal moviegoer it's too much to believe that Batman would fight on the side of good for anything other than an undying belief in the decency and equality of mankind. How about because fighting is fun? Or convenient? How about because his natural inclination was to be a fighter, and the best option to him at the time was to fight for "good"? How about because he was trying to impress a girl? There are many reasons why a sociopath like Batman would choose to fight for "good"--reasons that have nothing to do with a vague faith in humankind.
And how about the Joker? His character is a more accurate depiction of a sociopath, although the portrayal here is somewhat heavy-handed. The Joker's view of humanity is jaded in a way that many sociopaths' views are. I mean jaded strictly in the Webster's sense of the word: "Made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by surfeit." "Bad" sociopaths tend to have little respect for the social structure because they have been exposed to it enough to know it's rotten. The Joker makes some typical sociopathic comments about humanity, saying that people are only as "good" as the situation allows them to be. But he quickly learns that people are actually worse: empaths will frequently make irrational decisions based on something other than the exigencies of a particular situation. The Joker is surprised when the criminals and civilians on the ferries did not kill each other because he believes empaths can make the rational decision of blowing up the other ferry before they get blown up themselves. But they can't. The movie portrays the behavior of the passengers as noble, when really it is just irrational. This capacity for irrationality is probably the most disturbing thing about empaths to the sociopath. It's what makes them unpredictable and dangerous. The great thing about sociopaths is that they won't let emotions cloud their rational decision making.