Angels, Vampires & Monsters
Angels, Vampires & Monsters

Angels, Vampires & Monsters

Lead Author(s): Dr. L.M. Rodriguez

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This books explores how films in the 20th and 21st centuries participate in the creation of a series of “Others” against which humans define and measure themselves.

'Batman Begins': Fallen Angel, Vampire, Monster or (Un)Broken Human Hero?

'The Dark Knight Rises' (Batman Exhibit, Warner Bros. Tour, Hollywood). [1] ​

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriter: David S. Goyer

Characters created by: Bob Kane 

Production: Warner Brothers, DC Comics, Syncopy

Bruce Wayne/Batman: Christian Bale

Alfred: Michael Caine

Ducard: Liam Neeson

Katie Holmes: Rachel Dawes

Morgan Freeman: Lucius Fox

Gary Oldman: Jim Gordon

Cinematographer: Wally Pfister


Awards: Oscar Nomination in Best Achievement in Cinematography for Wally Pfister, 3 Saturn Awards, many other awards and nominations.

Duration: 140 minutes     Release date: June 15, 2005

Budget: $150,000,000.00 (estimated)    Gross: $205,343,774.00


INTRODUCTION: 'Batman Begins' as a Post 9/11 Film

With Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) we will be analyzing a post 9/11 film.

The anxieties and fear following the terrorists attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 turned many films into creative metaphors for the social-political issues that followed.

The first decade of the 21st century gave rise to the sub-genre known as "torture porn." The best known films of this type are James Wan’s Saw (2004) and Eli Roth’s Hostel (2006).

In Terror and Terrorism: Remembering 9/11' Effect on Genre Filmmaking, writer Gabriel Powers has observed that these films can be interpreted as a:

  • "comment on putting destructive leaders into power." 
  • "dying man’s frustration with the stagnate culture around him."
  • "fear of foreign cultures, and a mistrust of the mega-wealthy."
​ Satar Jabar attached to electrical shock devices at Abu Ghraib Prison.[2]


Also, near the same dates as Saw and Hostel, director Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ (2004) that, even though a religious film, focused on psychological and physical torture.

In real life, the post 9/11 decade gave us the very real images of torture released in 2004 from Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.



Resurgence of Zombies and Heightened Fear of the "Other"

Post 9/11 also gave us the resurgence of zombie-like creatures in films like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004).

Heightened fear of the "Other"  ---and the need to destroy "it" before "it" can destroy "us"--- can also be seen in films like M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002), Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005), Matt Reeve's Cloverfield (2008), and Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (2009) set in South Africa.

The treatment of the Aliens in District 9 echoes South Africa's history in which the white minority discriminated the majority native born Africans through the colonial system known as Apartheid.

Discussion 1: Batman Begins

Watch one of the films mentioned in the 'Introduction" and then write a brief comment about it.


Now, keeping post 9/11 issues in mind, let's analyze Batman Begins and consider how this film fits into our class topic: Angels, Vampires and Monsters, or De-Cloaking the Human "Other".


THE BASICS: Director, Writers, and Budget

These were the persons involved in writing and directing Batman Begins:

​ Nolan's hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.[3]

Christopher Nolan, award-winning Director, Screenwriter, and Producer who began his career at the Sundance Film Festival where his film Memento (2000) won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

Nolan has directed 10 full features, including: Dunkirk (2017), Interstellar (2014), Inception (2010), and The Prestige (2006).


David S. Goyer, Blade (1998), Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016), worked closely and in secret with Nolan to re-boot the Batman story. Listen to Goyer talk about the experience:


About the writing of Batman Begins, Goyer said in an interview with The Script Lab:

"That was an intense process. In writing Batman, I was fulfilling a life-long dream. It seemed surreal, at times.  Chris and I were determined to get it right. To do something classic, but also different. Working with Chris is an extremely rewarding, but rigorous experience. He's more demanding than anyone I've ever met. But he holds himself up to the same standard. Every tiny detail had to be worked out. Nothing was left to chance."

Read the Batman Begins screenplay plus many other Christopher Nolan screenplays here.

Batman character creator, Bob Kane (Photo taken in 1966).[4]​


The Batman first appeared in May 1939 in a magazine titled: Detective Comics [DC]. The original characters were created by Bob Kane.

For more on Bob Kane, go here.

The budget for Batman Begins was $150,000,00! Very expensive for 2005! And it didn't even double its cost (Gross: $205,343,776.00) 

But Batman Begins changed the way Super Hero films are made and how these “super” characters are portrayed. In fact, this movie, is the one that re-booted all Super Heroes.


The screenplay was developed following closely the work of Joseph Campbell and his analysis of the Hero's Journey. This gave Batman Begins not only a recognizable story structure and archetypal characters, but also dealt with psychological issues that are common to all humans, such as the transition and transformation from childhood to adulthood and the obstacles that block the full development of all human beings, that is, the film explored the Human Condition.


BATMAN AS A CHILD, TEENAGER, AND YOUNG ADULT

Batman Begins represents a careful psychological and humanizing re-boot of the Batman character achieved, in part, through a careful use of childhood memories.

You and me and all fictional characters, all we need to be a “real” human person is to have had a childhood! As part of the human species, biologically we have a very long CHILDHOOD and GROWING UP YEARS. Our HUMAN BRAINS are still growing until we are about 25 years old.


Bruce Wayne's Age

We first see Bruce Wayne as a 10 year old in a Paradise-like Garden with Rachel playing innocently. But there are many pitfalls (physical and emotional) in life, and so he falls down the old water well which is now dry (lack of life-giving water) but full of darkness and fear (bats).

Then we see Bruce Wayne returning from Princeton University, so he must be around 22 years old. That's when he nearly goes on the Dark Side and is ready to use the gun (violence as a solution to every thing) to REVENGE his parent's murder. This is when Rachel has to tell him that JUSTICE is not the same as REVENGE, which is one of the main themes of Batman Begins.

Then Bruce disappears for 7 years in which he continues getting physically strong but is PATH-less, then Ducard behaves like a Good Mentor for a while and helps Bruce figure out his feelings. Now Bruce is ready to return HOME to Gotham when he is 29 years old.

Notice in the film that at his birthday party there is large number 30 made out of balloons on a wall behind Bruce as he speaks with Rachel when she comes to the door to bring him a gift.

Discussion 2: Batman Begins

Why might turning 30 years old be important (biologically or psychologically) for Human Beings?


In The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Chapter 1) Joseph Campbell states:

Golden crowned fruit bat.[5]






...symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back... We remain fixated to the un-exorcised images of our infancy, and hence dis-inclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood.


Now let's take a closer look at The Hero's Journey and Archetypes.


STORY STRUCTURE: Joseph Campbell & Hero's Journey

It was in his study of mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), that Joseph Campbell first described the key story structure known as:  THE HERO'S JOURNEY.

The theme of the Hero/Heroine Myth occurs in every culture, in every time. It is as infinitely varied as the human race itself, and yet, its basic form remains the same, a persistent set of elements that spring in endless repetition from the deepest reaches of the human mind.

Campbell put forward another important concept: The MONOMYTH.

The Monomyth, or the ONE MYTH, refers to the theory that all mythic narratives are variations of a SINGLE GREAT STORY.

Campbell developed the Monomyth concept after observing a common pattern beneath the narrative elements of most great myths, no matter their origin or time of creation.

The Hero's Journey and the Monomyth. [6]


Carefully watch the following video which includes several quotes from Campbell's work:

Discussion 3: Batman Begins

Have you watched films that are structured using The Hero's Journey? Give at least 1 example.


ARCHETYPES: Standard Mythological Figures


What is an Archetype?

ARCHETYPES are SYMBOLS that appear over and over again in the dreams, imagination, and myths of millions of people around the world. 

ARCHETYPES also appear in the art work of most human cultures.

The noun "archetype" comes from:

  • Latin archetypum
  • Greek archetypon
  • archetypos "of the first mold"
  • archein "to begin" plus typos "type"


What are Archetypal Characters?

These ARCHETYPES have grown into ARCHETYPAL CHARACTERS that appear in oral and written stories and in film-making.

In the front from left to right: Sigmund Freud, Stanley Hall, and Carl Jung. [7]​


Joseph Campbell, as psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, suggested that ARCHETYPES reflect aspects of our human mind.

Moreover, their work suggests that our personalities divide themselves into ARCHETYPAL CHARACTERS to play out the DRAMA OF OUR LIVES!




And speaking of drama...

A Dangerous Method

Did you know there's a film about Carl Jung?  It's titled A Dangerous Method!

In David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method (2011) Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and the first female psychologists,  Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) discuss their theories about the human mind. In a sense the film is a documentary, but the drama is very intense!

Check out a review and clip from the film:

Psychology now plays a major role in films like Batman Begins as writers and directors work to create characters that act in a "realistic" way within the boundaries of a fictional world.

Creating these "realistic" characters in filmmaking is especially difficult.  A character has to be "established" in the first 10 minutes of a film, or what is known as the SET-UP. If the scenes that make up the Set-Up are well written, we get a complete picture of a character's personality.

Read about how the character of the young Rey is "established" in the first minutes of Star Wars The Force Awakens (2015) here.


Discussion 4: Batman Begins

Carefully watch the first 10 minutes (Set-Up) of 'Batman Begins': What do we learn of Bruce Wayne's personality and family in these 10 minutes?


Now let's take a closer look at the main Archetypal Characters:

HEROES

The Hero/Heroine is the protagonist or central character, whose primary purpose is to separate from the Ordinary World and sacrifice “self” in the service of the Journey, order to:

  • Answer the Challenge.
  • Complete the Quest or Journey.
  • Restore the Ordinary World's Balance.
Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth (1861) by Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.[8]

In many stories a Hero/Heroine descends to a Hell-like cavernous place to rescue a "beloved," steal a "treasure" or fight a "dragon."

In the classic heroic story, Theseus enters the Labyrinth to face the Minotaur, and killing the "monster," brings "balance" back to the Mediterranean Sea "universe."

At present Theseus is Greece's national hero and his story has inspired artists through the centuries as Edward Burne-Jones, best known for The Sleep of Arthur in Avalon (1881-98) located at the Ponce Art Museum in Puerto Rico.


We, the audience, experience the Quest or Journey through the eyes of the Heroes.

HEROES:

  • Are brave or noble, but their essence is SELF-SACRIFICE.
  • Are PRO-ACTIVE individuals, willing to face dangers alone.
  • Endure LONELINESS and SEPARATION from Family or Known Group.
  • Enter willingly unfamiliar and challenging space: The SPECIAL WORLD.
  • Suffer HARDSHIP for the Group's Sake and Greater Good.
  • Embark on a Journey that becomes a PATH of TRANSFORMATION.
  • Learn on their Journey and transform from EGO (SELF) to a WIDER IDENTITY.
  • RETURN HOME, but not always, to their Ordinary World.
  • PAY A PRICE to obtain their GOAL or QUEST.

On the Journey, often Heroes lose someone they love or a physical ability, or their bodies get badly injured.  This is the"scar" which is physical and emotional and can never be completely erased.

For the Quest, at times Heroes give their life as Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in Rogue One (2016). Check out: Felicity Jones in ‘Rogue One’ delivers the greatest Star Wars heroine yet.

REMEMBER:

The essence of a Hero/Heroine is the SACRIFICE that he/she makes for the Quest or Journey.

Do Heroes, as Judy Hopps, have character flaws?[9]​


Heroes can be young, old, wanderer, martyr, warrior, vengeful, ruler, fool or innocent.

Heroes that we closely identify with have CHARACTER FLAWS as Judy Hopps in Zootopia (2016) who is prejudiced against predator animals such as foxes.

Judy Hopps' prejudice might have began in childhood when she was attacked by a fox who pushed her and scarred her cheek.


SYMBOLICAL SCARS IN HEROES AND VILLAINS

A defining factor for Heroes are their EMOTIONAL SCARS that are often accompanied by real physical scars received in childhood. Heroes and Villains that we identify with have CHARACTER FLAWS as Judy Hopps in Zootopia and Scar in The Lion King.

Judy is not a perfect heroine: She is prejudiced against predators because as a child Judy is bullied and scarred, physically and emotionally, by a young fox named Gideon. When she is older, she expresses her prejudice when she gives speaks about the predators' "biological component" and says that "these predators may be reverting back to their primitive, savage way."

But Judy is heroic as she is pro-active, self-sacrificing for the greater good, and chases her dream of becoming the first rabbit to serve on the police force of Zootopia. Judy is a feminist who is passionate about her chosen profession.

For more on Judy Hopps as a feminist character, take a look at: Burn your princess dress: Disney's new heroine is a badass feminist rabbit.

Scar in The Lion King (1994) is one of the greatest villains ever imagined and brought to the screen. His relentless scheming and the depth of his evil spirit is Shakespearean.

Take a look at this analysis of Scar's character:

To grow and overcome prejudice, like those deeply held by Judy Hopps, and other personal obstacles, Heroes must learn from their experiences on the Journey. Many times the real journey and story is not the physical obstacles, but the new wisdom gained from a mentoring figure, an ally, friend or lover, or from an antagonist. Nick Wilde, as a mentoring friend, aids Judy in her Journey and helps her confront her long-standing prejudice against predators as himself.

Mentors, like the fox Nick Wilde who is knowledgeable of street life in the city of Zootopia, and Star War's Obi Wan Kenobi, often wear the Hero's mask and make sacrifices for the Quest.

Villains as Scar do not learn from their "symbolical scars" and do not transform. Their Journey  usually has a bad end. But note that Villains can have heroic qualities and be complex and appealing characters. In fact, well-written characters ---be it Heroes, Villains, or Mentors--- wear several archetypal masks that are symbolical of the different parts of a complete personality.

Discussion 5: Batman Begins

Who is the Hero/Heroine in 'Batman Begins'? What is his/her "emotional scar"? Name another film or TV hero/heroine or main character that has a visible and emotional scar.


BATMAN AS A “DUMB” HERO?

As a loner, Bruce travels off to Asia and the World, joining in with criminals to “better understand common people and find himself.” But as he drops out of university, Bruce ends up with no formal education unlike his father who was a doctor or Rachel who is a lawyer.

Keep in mind that C.G. Jung, in his analysis of Archetypes noted that:

Superhero the Flame (1930-40).[10]​





“THE HERO IS, HOWEVER, OFTEN DUMB AS A POST.”






So Bruce Wayne is a "perfect" Hero, with little formal education and isolated, therefore ignorant of himself and the ways of the collective unconscious.

Ultimately, this Modern-Stereotypical-Hollywood-Hero-White-Boy-With-Issues (Star Trek (2009), Tron: Legacy (2010), Battleship (2012), etc) desperately needs a Mentor or two or three plus a strong female figure, Rachel, to get him off his dumb skull and self-pitying ways!

And on with the Journey!

MENTOR:

Athena Mentor_punishes_Daedalus.jpg
Athena often appears as a strong figure. Here she is punishing Daedalus. Vatican City ceiling fresco. [11]

Joseph Campbell called the Mentor the archetype of a Wise Man or Wise Woman.  Mentors embody thoughtfulness, good judgement, and emotinal and physical strength.   

The word “mentor” comes from Homer's The Odyssey where a character called Mentor, who happens to be Athena disguised as a man, guides Telemachus on his Hero's Journey.

Mentors should be "enthused," that is, have “enthusiasm” which in Greek means “en theos” or in god's presence or god-inspired.



Roles of Mentors

  • To motivate and give insights and helpful comments.
  • To teach and train as a parent, coach, teacher, military officer, etc.
  • To grant a key gift to the Quest's success as information, weapon, medicine, food, spell, etc.
  • To act as a conscience, return Heroes to their Path, and strength their will when hurt.

At times Mentors seem inept or foolish, but they do have skills or wisdom needed by a Hero.

Mentors can be tough and force Heroes to pass TESTS or show COMMITMENT before they give them a GIFT that might seem at first insignificant but later in the adventure becomes of great importance. Sometimes the Hero just needs to learn to use the GIFT.

Finally, not all Mentors are appreciated by the Hero or Heroine because the Mentor Archetype is closely related to the image of parent and our relationships to our fathers or mothers is complex.

Yet, Heroes look for Mentors because their parents may be missing or are not adequate. Take a look at:
Hagrid & Haymitch: 10 Traits of the Mentor Character Archetype.

Types of Mentors:

Dark Mentors, or Anti-Mentors: Lead Heroes into crime and destruction. Heroes must overcome or outgrow the energy of these Mentors to move to the next development stage.

Fallen Mentors: Often experience a crisis of faith on the Journey as they go through their own Journey because even if they do not know it, they are on their own path, perhaps to redemption. 

Multiple Mentors:  Used when a Hero needs several "teachers" who each know a specific skill.  Star Wars Saga's Heroes have several Mentors, as Jedi Master Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Padmé.

Comic Mentors: Give the Hero or Heroine advice on love matters that often leads Heroes into a temporary disaster, but usually at the end, things work out and there is a happy ending.

Mentor as Shaman: Medicine Man or Woman of cultures such as Native American who travels in dreams and visions, bringing back from other magical worlds stories that heal their societies. Often this type of Mentor helps Heroes find a guiding vision for a Quest to another world.

Inner Mentors: Heroes may be experienced, tough and need no Mentor because he or she has internalized the Mentor Archetype. The Inner Mentor could be a memory of someone who is no longer alive but provides an inner code of behavior. The Inner Mentor's power can come from a book or artifact.

Young Mentors: An innocent child or foolish-child-like adult can be wise and act as a Mentor.

Classic Mentors: Merlin the Magician who guides King Arthur or the Fairy Godmother who helps Cinderella with an elegant carriage, party clothes, and unique glass shoes! Shoes can definitely be a key gift given by a Mentor to their protégé as we can see in The Wizard of Oz (1939):


Check out this list of Mentors in films: SCRIPT NOTES: Major Character Types – “Mentor.”

Also, watch Top 10 Best Old Wise Men in Movies, that is, Mentors, that includes Batman's Alfred:

Discusion 6: Batman Begins

In Hollywood films, most Mentors tend to be male: Can you name at least one female film Mentor?


Placement of Mentors in the Story Structure:

In general, the Mentor appears in Act I. It is possible that a Mentor does not appear until Act II or Act III when the situation for the Heroes is truly critical!

Listen to Joseph Campbell speak about "standard mythological figures" that is, archetypes in Star Wars (1977). Campbell specifically stresses the character of Obi Wan as Mentor:

Discussion 7: Batman Begins

Which characters behave as "mentors" in 'Batman Begins'? What type of mentors are they?


THRESHOLD GUARDIANS:

At the Threshold of the Special World. [12]


Heroes must face Threshold Guardians and these archetypal characters require that Heroes be persistent, active, and put in use what the Mentor has taught them.

Threshold Guardians are the first obstacle in the Journey. The Threshold is the door, passage or gateway to the Special World the Hero/Heroine must enter.

Threshold Guardians protect the Special World and secrets from the Hero/Heroine, and test their commitment and worth.

Heroes must try to understand the nature of a Threshold Guardian if they want to get through.

Threshold Guardians can be scary or menacing but can be overcome, bypassed or even turned into Allies.


Threshold Guardians keep the unworthy from entering!

The Hero/Heroine will face a Threshold Guardian usually right after he/she starts the Quest.

The Threshold Guardian serves the antagonist, and is usually big and strong as it guards the entrance to the Villain's home: castle, mountain, cave, a luxurious house in an exotic location, etc. 

It is only after the Threshold Guardian's test(s) that the Hero/Heroine faces the real villain.

A Threshold Guardian can be a neutral character or just part of the Special World's landscape.

Also, a Threshold Guardian can secretly help the Heroes or become an Ally as in The Wizard of Oz's Cowardly Lion who first frightens and then becomes devoted to Dorothy:


Functions of the Threshold Guardian:

PSYCHOLOGICAL: Hero/Heroine's internal issues that stop personal growth and progress:

  • neurotic behaviors
  • emotional scars
  • addictions
  • dependencies
  • self-limitations
  • negative thoughts
  • prejudices
​ Two-handled jar (amphora) depicting Oedipus and the Sphinx of Thebes. Greek. Classical Period. 450–440 B.C. [13]

Threshold Guardians can be represented by every day obstacles:

  • heavy snowfall
  • road accidents
  • locked gates
  • uncooperative mates

We find an example of a classic Threshold Guardian in Oedipus Rex with the puzzle-asking-Sphinx:

"What has 4 legs in the morning, 2 at noon, and 3 at night?"



How to Deal with Threshold Guardians:

  • Run!
  • Attack!
  • Deceive or Trick!
  • Bribe or Appease!
  • Talk to the Enemy and turn into an Ally!
  • Get dressed as the Enemy and walk in disguised!


Signals of New Power:

In their learning process, Heroes begin to recognize that Threshold Guardians are a sign that a new power or success is near.

As in physical training, resisting and pushing back the Threshold Guardian, ends up making a Hero or Heroine stronger.

A Threshold Guardian's strength, power, and skill can be adopted by a Hero or Heroine.

Heroes transcend, that is, they go beyond and above normal limits, NOT destroy.

Transformed and fully developed Heroes feel compassion for all beings that block their way.

Discussion 8: Batman Begins

Who or What are some of the Threshold Guardians in 'Batman Begins'? Do you consider that Bruce Wayne/Batman integrates into himself the power of any of these Threshold Guardians?


HERALD:

Heralds are characters that inject energy into a story. They usually appear in Act I and announce the Call to Adventure, but they can appear at any time during the Hero's Journey.

Heralds bring a message that challenges and wakes up Heroes from their comfortable lives.

Heralds upset the equilibrium by bringing the news that a great change approaches!

Any character, person or event or force, can wear the Herald's mask to make an announcement, reveal information or emit a judgment, report news or deliver a message.

Heralds can appear as:

  • A special person or animal or even just a voice.
  • Beginning of historical moment as the start of a war.
  • Natural disaster as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, etc.
  • Ad in newspaper, internet, text message, treasure map, etc.


SHAPESHIFTER:

In a story or film several characters can show the qualities of the Shapeshifter archetype.

A Hero/Heroine can behave like a Shapeshifter to past an obstacle or achieve specific goal.

Mentors can appear as Shapeshifters and continue to change their shapes and personalities as the story progresses and the Heroes' needs change.

Allies, as magical wizards, can also be Shapeshifters. It is common trope in speculative fiction!

Shapeshifters can actually or symbolically change the way they look, and also they:

  • Hide their true intentions.
  • Deeply change their roles.
  • Mutate their personalities.
  • Change loyalties and alliances.
  • Misdirect and unbalance the Hero/Heroine.

Above all, the sincerity of a Shapeshifter's message is very questionable!

In Batman Begins, Ducard acts as a strong and supportive Mentor to Bruce Wayne during part of his Journey to becoming the Batman.

But Ducard is also a Shapeshifter that hides under West's attitudes toward the East. Casting Asian people as exotics and dangerous was referred to Edward Said as Orientalism.

Here you can see Ducard training Bruce Wayne in martial arts:

Discussion 9: Batman Begins

Would you consider Bruce Wayne a Shapeshifter? How about Dr.Crane? Any other characters in 'Batman Begins' that act as Shapeshifters?


SHADOW:

The Shadow Archetype represents things or people we dis-like and want to push away.

The Shadow can represent repressed feelings such as trauma or guilt that pushed into the unconscious and denied outlet can turn into an emotional monster that wants to destroy us.

A film that makes a near perfect use of the "repressed emotional monster" is the Australian production, The Babadook (2014) written and directed by Jennifer Kent. Read review here.

While the Threshold Guardian can be symbolic for a Hero's “neuroses”, the Shadow can be symbolic for a destructive psychoses and fears and phobias, dark, and hidden secrets.

When a Shadow has become very powerful, Heroes will act:

  • In a doubtful way, feel guilt and even abuse their power.
  • In a self-destructive manner and even consider suicide.
  • In selfish ways and set aside their most important trait: Self-sacrifice.

Shadows can be Shapeshifters, moving from evil to good and from good to evil.

Examples of "vulnerable" Shadow-Villains:

  • Wicked Queen in Snow White story who wants to be the most beautiful.
  • Beast in Beauty and the Beast story feels lonely and wants to be loved.
  • Darth Vader in Star Wars Saga is really a hurt and physically broken man.
Darth Vader is "broken​" but hides his "scars" under a hard outer shell.[14]


Shadows are often vulnerable, frail and broken and perhaps even act "good" in an unexpected way that humanizes them.

Fight between Hero/Heroine and Shadow-Villain is to the end: One or the other must be destroyed!



Discussion 10: Batman Begins

What character(s) serves as Bruce Wayne's Shadow?


ALLIES:

FUNCTIONS:

  • Offer companionship and fun moments to Heroes.
  • Fight together with Heroes.
  • Thoughtfully discuss plans with Heroes.
  • Go on errands and carry messages. 

Allies are great listeners and Heroes feel comfortable revealing details of the Quest to them.

Allies humanize the Hero/Heroine by helping them be more open and talk about their feelings.

Dorothy makes Multiple Allies as she journeys through the Land of Oz.(​15)


Heroes can have Multiple Allies like Dorothy who has Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion in The Wizard of Oz and Simba in The Lion King who has Timon and Pumbaa.

A helpful servant can be Ally and valuable Mentor as Batman’s Butler Alfred.



TRICKSTER:

The Trickster is the element that cannot ever be totally controlled! CHAOS!!!

It can be momentarily controlled but cannot be defeated or destroyed.

Tricksters:

  • Are astute, sneaky, and smart talkers.
  • Are physically playful and clownish.
  • Enjoy disruption and chaos.
  • Use laughter and ridicule.
  • Point out a situation's absurdity.
  • Act as catalyst to force a change.

Tricksters often battle opponents or forces that are much more powerful than they are!

Classic Examples:

  • Loki, Norse deity of trickery and deceit.
  • Rabbit, weak but quick-thinking, gets away from predators. (Think Bugs Bunny!)
  • Birds, foxes, coyotes, and many other animals are also portrayed as Trickster-Heroes in images, stories, and film adaptations of classic children's novels as in Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).
The Trickster (1890) by Zacharie Noterman (Ghent 1808-Paris 1863). [16]​


Tricksters do not change during a story but their actions change the characters around them and they can even change the world. They also act as comedic relief and help h

Tricksters can add a touch of comedy to a story and help Heroes keep things in proportion as they go through their Journey.

Tricksters can appear in comedies or dramas and may be allies of the Villain or Hero/Heroine.

Remember: Tricksters are the living embodiment of chaos and can never be fully defeated.

The JOKER has become a cinematic classic Trickster which continues to evolve:


Finally, if you would like to know more about archetypal characters, see: The Role of Archetypes in Literature About the Hero's Journey.

Discussion 11: Batman Begins

Who do you think plays the role of "Trickster" in 'Batman Begins'? And in the 'Dark Knight' from 2008? Are their chaotic forces that bring disruption of society completely defeated by Batman?



OTHER KEY TOPICS AND ISSUES IN 'BATMAN BEGINS'

BATMAN BEGINS: THE FALL

There is something that makes the Batman character very much a transitional figure, or hybrid, between Angels and Vampires: The Fall.

In Batman Begins the “fall” of the child Bruce Wayne is dramatized and emphasized.

But what is his “fall”?

Just the fall into an abandoned water-well full of bats? Or an emotional-psychological FALL?

Water-Wells

Water is an an important symbol of life and regeneration, but the well young Bruce falls into is dry. But later the Batman Cave is “blessed” with a curtain of water that safeguards its entrance.

So what is the Nature of Bruce Wayne’s Fall?

It can be interpreted as a symbolical Fall from Paradise (Wayne family mansion’s garden) and from a state of innocence (his platonic, childhood friendship with Rachel), into a more fully human state which includes Hell-like events.

And what can Bruce Wayne do, once he has fallen, to rise above his tortured human feelings, his human condition and nature which includes desires for revenge and killing? 


BATMAN BEGINS: THE WINGS

As a simple answer to these complicated questions dealing with our human condition, the filmmakers in Batman Begins seem to be saying: Bruce Wayne must make WINGS for himself!!!

But does he make white angel wings for himself? NO!

NOTE: If you check out Constantine (2005) and Legion (2010) you will see that even those angel wings go from white to grey to black to deadly weapons.

Remember, we are trying to understand films at a symbolical/metaphorical and subconscious level so remember that:

Phases of flight by a domestic pigeon. [17]​



Wings are symbolical of rising toward the sublime and of the effort to transcend the limits of the human condition.







Bats

One of the most dominant symbols used in the film is BATS.

And bats, the only mammal that can truly fly, is often associated with vampires and the mythology surrounding this supernatural figure.

In addition, in Batman’s association with the “DARK” he is associated with Vampires because as Child-Vampire Claudia says to Father-Lover Vampire Louis in Interview with a Vampire (1994), you are... “My Dark Angel”.


BATMAN AS A “VAMPIRIC-MONSTROUS” HERO:

The character of Bruce Wayne/Batman is related to Vampires in several ways:

  • Bruce Wayne as Count Dracula is powerful, wealthy, and aristocratic and is often called the Prince of Gotham, so is an aristocrat as Count Dracula.
  • Bruce is a loner who likes to play the “outsider" and the ultimate “outsider” is Dracula (and in general vampires) as he is stuck in-between life and death!


BATMAN BEGINS: CLASSIC OPERA & the SHADOW ARCHETYPE

​ Poster for theatrical performance of Goethe's play Mephistopheles (1887).[18]


While in A Matter of Life and Death there was a clear reference to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, in Batman Begins we see a reference to the Italian opera, Mephistopheles (1868), where the performance starts with a scene of angels  singing in Heaven.


In Mephistopheles, the main character Faust, sells his soul to Satan for more youth and love but at the end asks for forgiveness and is allowed to go to Heaven rather than Hell.

But do keep in mind that “Satan” is a Fallen Angel and a possible Shadow Figure for Bruce Wayne as he will grow up with a very DARK WOUND.

A Shadow Archetype is someone (or something) who we admire in some way, but then we reject because we learn they represent our Dark Side, that is, our more negative characteristics.

Even the Satan figure has characteristics that might be attractive to some, because as German poet and philosopher, GOETHE, writes:

“You have the devil underrated/I cannot yet persuaded be/A fellow who is all be-hated/Must something be!”

In some ways, Bruce Wayne's story reflects that of Mephistopheles. Wayne fully accepts his dark side, in a way "sales his soul" in order to live forever as a legend.  And a legend is forever present in our lives, in similar fashion as Heroes. Perhaps this is why Campbell states in The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

"The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is.”

A Monster or "Freak" Film? 

In the second film in Nolan's trilogy, The Dark Knight (2008), the Joker says to Batman:

"Don't talk like one of them, you're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me. They need you right now. But when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper. See, their morals, their code... it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you, when the chips are down, these... these civilized people? They'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster, I'm just ahead of the curve."

In his speech, the Joker emphasizes that he and Batman are both viewed by the general public as "freaks" and "monsters."


BATMAN AS A HYBRID BAT-MAN:

Slowly Bruce learns about the “collective unconscious” and “normal, common people” and decides to transform himself into a symbol and ends up as a Bat-Man, that is a HYBRID, an in-between, like a Vampire.

Batman as a Vampire needs special nourishment. That is, Batman feeds, like Count Dracula, off humans. In Dracula's case, he feeds directly off the blood of humans, and Batman's case, he feeds off the fear of humans, both guilty and innocent. But mostly, Batman feeds off the criminal activities of humans, that is, without criminals in society there would be no Batman.

Batman quite resembles the vampire in the German film Nosferatu (1922):

  • Both have pointy ears.
  • Batman tries out super long nails, a defining feature of Nosferatu.
  • Both are definitely terrifying creatures of the night!

Check out Nosferatu's look here.

Moreover, in some comic books, Batman has become a vampire himself like in “Nightmare in Crimson” featured in Batman #350 (August 1982):

Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, California, USA (2014). [19]​


“It was Batman as Dracula, the vampire as hero, preying on the even more unwholesome creatures of the night.”



INTEGRATED STORYTELLING: NAMES and SYMBOLS

Integrated storytelling is the most effective and unforgettable way to tell a story.

In filmmaking, integrated storytelling means that every scene, and what is shown in the scene via mise-en-scène, visually reinforces the narrative and helps to move the story forward.

And Batman Begins is an excellent example of integrated storytelling!

Let's see why...

PEARLS

A pearl necklace similar to the one worn by Bruce Wayne's mother.[20]​

Pearls are symbols of the feminine, love, marriage and are associated with angels. It is the only gem found inside a living creature. In some cultures, pearls are associated with the afterlife and a dead person's mouth is filled with pearls. 

An example of integrated storytelling is the scene in which Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered: Bruce is left alone in the trash in an emotional and real dead-end as a fire burns in the background reminding us that this child is in "Hell."

In this scene the mother's pearl necklace breaks and the pearls are spilled and loss on the filthy floor, as the life of Bruce's mother has been loss to the injustices caused by extreme social and economic inequalities.


BATMAN BEGINS and SYMBOLICAL NAMES

As in It’s a Wonderful Life, the use of symbolical names in Batman Begins is quite extensive.

For example:

Many of the characters are named after BIRDS (Detective Finch, Criminal Boss Falcone, Dr. Crane) and also other ANIMALS come into play (Mr. Fox, Teddy Bears, Stuffed Rabbits).

Some characters are linked to Biblical Figures (Rachel) as was the character Mary in It's a Wonderful Life).


Let's look deeper into these names:

Dr. Crane/Scarecrow

Cranes wading in shallow water in India.[​21]

Cranes can symbolize clumsiness and stupidity as they wade awkwardly on one leg in shallow water.

In India, cranes are associated with the crane-headed goddess, Balgalamukhi, who is a deceiver, sadistic, and destructive.

Celts viewed cranes as beings one should be careful with. On the other hand, in Japan it is the symbol of longevity, good luck, authority, and thought to live a thousand years. 

Now about Dr. Crane’s self-chosen Other, the Scarecrow: Although the Scarecrow is NOT a Jungian Archetype, it is related to the Trickster Archetype, an element no one can control and he is clown-like. Clowns help us not only have fun but also question why things are the way they are.

In Wizard of Oz (1939) there is a famous example! A Scarecrow who is looking for a brain, so he is not too smart and can’t even do his job well of scaring off the crows.

But he can sing and dance and becomes an important ALLY to Dorothy and her dog Toto:


And in the film Nosferatu (1922) you can see an actual Scarecrow in a field which is symbolically related to the concept of Scapegoat.

Individuals are termed “scapegoats” when they are charged with the crimes of others without being able to appeal to justice, offer anything in their defense or be lawfully condemned.

This “scapegoat” tradition is worldwide and stands for the deep-seated human tendency to project one’s own guilt upon someone else, thus appeasing one’s own conscience which always requires some victim to bear responsibility and punishment.


Jim Gordon/Dog

Interestingly, “Gordon” is a word related to dogs, specifically the Gordon Setter that is a large long-haired Sporting dog, that is, they help humans hunt game birds that sit immobile in front of a dog trying to hide rather than fly away.  

Note: Jim Gordon, being associated with dogs, is linked angels, and he strongly rejects  the likes of Flass saying to him: “I'm no RAT!”


RAT

​Department of Public Health Rat Poster, Alberta, Canada.[22]

A nocturnal TRICKSTER.

Frightening, infernal and chthonian , it digs in the Earth's bowels so it is associated with serpents, moles and wealth.

It steals and hides food and is the image itself of avarice, thieves, and sinister, shady activities.

But Rats are also associated with supernatural power:

Apollo Smintheus as a mouse-harvest-god can start a plague during harvest but can grant protection too. And in India there is the god Ganesha who is associated to the rat. Both gods symbolize the soil's healing powers.


Detective Flass

According to Urban Dictionary, Flass means:

  • An idiotic or lazy person who has not lived up to expectations.
  • Some guy who is a disappointment.
  • Originating from “flaccid.”


Rachel Dawes

Dawes is a boy's name meaning "son of David", a variation of Dawson (Old English).

Discussion 12: Batman Begins

What is the origin of the name RACHEL? Do you think it was a good name for the principal female character in "Batman Begins"?


SUMMARY OF PRINCIPAL SYMBOLS IN 'BATMAN BEGINS':

BAT: Hybrid animal that symbolizes blocked spiritual development, a spiritual failure.

BEAR (Teddy Bears): Related to instincts and elemental force. Given its strength, Jung considers it the symbol of the dangerous aspects of the unconscious. The bear can be brutal and blood-thirsty but also can be tamed and loves honey. The dangerous bear can become our sweet Teddy Bears!

BIRDS: There are several characters in Batman Begins named after birds (Crane, Falcon, Finch, etc).

BLUE: Expresses detachment from worldly things. Bruce is sent by Ducard to find a blue flower.

DOG: Intermediaries between worlds of the living and dead as Jim Gordon and Bruce's father.

FOX: Independent, yet liking company; busy, inventive, yet destructive too; bold but cowardly; alert and cunning but equally careless.

HAND: Expresses ideas of action, as well as of power and dominion; an emblem of royalty plus the hand differentiates humans from animals and serves to differentiate the objects which it touches or shapes. Bruce Wayne “dies” for 3 minutes in the film at the end of ACT 2, then as he “resurrects” at the start of ACT 3, we first see his HANDS.

HORSE: Animal with mysterious powers that takes over at the point where human strength fails, at the gates of death. In Batman Begins, the Joker-Trickster-Archetype that is carried by a Horse!

INTOXICATION: The “intoxication” that takes place in Batman Begins is not spiritual or sacred, but very down to earth and deadly and ironically, carried by water.

NIGHT: Symbolizes a return to an indeterminate state, a state of limbo, and intermingle with nightmares, monsters, and dark thoughts.

MONSTER: Stimulates effort, mastery of fear and heroism, so “monsters” show up in rites of initiation in which the candidate has to prove his/her capabilities and worthiness.

RABBIT (Toy Bunnies): Creature of ambivalent meaning for the spirit as it is playful but also represents excess and can move with the speed of Shadows. (NOTE: Drugs are hidden in Bunnies.)

TRAIN: Related to serpents, dragons and monsters, humans use its strength to attain our own ends.

WATER: In a reversal of the life-giving and cleaning symbolism of water, in Batman Begins, Ducard wants to use water to bring chaos and death to Gotham.

WINGS: In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne makes wings (although the hybrid wings of bats) for himself and learns to fly/live (at least partly) again! 


“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counter-action to those that tend to tie it back.
In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid.
We remain fixated to the un-exorcised images of our infancy, and hence dis-inclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood.”
“The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another."
Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces
​ Macedonians attacked by the dent-tyrant or Odontotyrrannus (14th C.). [23]
Discussion 13: Batman Begins

Would you now consider 'Batman Begins' a philosophical super hero story? What is your favorite super hero or heroine story or film?


Image Credits

[1] Image by Ramsey Isler under CC BY-SA 4.0.

[2] Image by United States Armed Forces under Public Domain.

[4] Image by Unknown under Public Domain.

[5] Image by Elpidio Latorilla under CC BY-SA 3.0.

[7] Image by Jan-moro under Public Domain.

[8] Image by Edward Coley Burne-Jones in Public Domain.

[10] Image by Will Eisner (pencils) and Lou Fine (inks) under Public Domain.

[11] Image by Livioandronico2013 under CC BY-SA 4.0.

[12] Image by Jarekt under CC BY 4.0.

[13] Image by Unknown under Public Domain.

[15] Image by MGM under Public Domain.

[16] Image by Zach Noterman under Public Domain.

[17] Image by Toby Hudson under CC BY-SA 3.0.

[18] Image by Lithograph by Dickman, Jones & Hettrich under Public Domain.

[19] Image by Kārlis Dambrāns  under CC BY 2.0.

[20] Image by Tanakawho under CC BY 2.0.

[21] Image by J.M.Garg under CC BY-SA 3.0.

[22] Image by Provincial Archives of Alberta under Public Domain.

[23] Image by Anonymous, London, England 14th C. under Public Domain.


Book and Magacine Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library, 2008.

 Conway, Gerry and Paul Levitz. "Nightmare in Crimson." Batman, Vol. 1, no. 350, August, 1982.

An individual who is protected and trained by a person of experience and influence.
A person who is a blend, a composite, of two or more different cultures or traditions.
Popular myth of ancient or recent origin.
belonging to the earth