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A Man Under the Mask

By Vivian Pham

The street was littered in old newspapers and dirt, kicked around by hooded figures swaggering bar to bar. He crouches silently on the rooftop, blending into the blanketing night sky. A muffled argument broke the silence, pulling him away from his stoop. His dark, nimble figure flies from roof to roof, eyes focused and intense through his black mask as he approaches the two burly men throwing punches. He jumps down, his dark wings spread as if he was ready to engulf the now fearful attackers. The young, scrawny man limps away as mysterious man wrapped his attackers in rope for the police to find. The Batman came to Gotham City when they needed him most. Crime was rampant and businesses were declining lower and lower. Corruptness pervaded nearly every level of government as the gap between rich and poor become wider. Under the mask, he was Bruce Wayne, one of Gotham's biggest billionaires, living the life of fame and riches. Bruce was known to be "bumbling, ingenuous, rich and seemingly 'coddled'...anything but a hero" (Harris, 1997). On the outside, it seems that crime and poverty had no affect on him, but he is more than just money. Bruce was a young boy when he and his parents spent a night out at a play. On their walk home, an armed man confronted them, demanding money and jewelry. Despite complying with the robber's demands, Bruce's parents were shot and died at the scene, leaving him an orphan. Comforted and inspired by a simple man's kind words and warm jacket, Bruce held on to his anger and cultivated his vengeance against crime, swearing to protect the people of Gotham.

As a young adult, Bruce was recruited by R'as al Ghul to join The League of Shadows which specialized in "serving true justice" (Nolan, 2005). Rigorously trained in the Bhutanese mountains, Bruce became one of the most prominent recruits. However, as he began to realize that the League's definition of justice did not mind the death of innocents, Bruce's vengeance turned toward the League, marking R'as al Ghul as one of his most hated enemies. Returning to Gotham City, Bruce Wayne became Batman, setting out to stop the League which had been supporting a biological warfare on the city. As Batman, he sacrifices his body and his life as he pushes himself to his limits and fought crime. He does not have any supernatural powers; instead the Batman is human, a man with only his extraordinary sense of justice and his undying anger towards crime. While maintaining his real, public persona, Bruce must also patrol the city every night, following crime from the smallest burglary to the biggest gang meetings. As Bruce Wayne, he poured money into funding the defensive gadgets and safety measures for his endeavors to fight crime. He developed and expanded technologies through Wayne Enterprises' Applied Sciences with tools such as the BatComputer and the BatMobile. To fight the biological warfare, he called on his team for development of antidotes so that citizens would be prepared and protected from harmful chemicals. Bruce Wayne was a huge supporter of the sciences. Not only does he provide the monetary support, he is also an innovator, proposing ideas that he found needed in his line of work. Everything was for his city, his community: he bought and used his gadgets to protect and improve the city. He funded through his company a nuclear fusion reactor to create a more

"green" energy source. Science, to Bruce Wayne, was about the people and his spendings reflected his belief. Playing hero was never about the fame. To Wayne, it was about spreading a message and inspiring confidence in the good people of Gotham. When corruptness took over, those who had the will and ability to fight shrunk back, allowing the bad to rise to power. As Batman, he wanted to be a symbol for the destruction of crime and poverty, not a hero. Wayne stated, "As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting" (Nolan, 2005). With his state-of-the-art scientific and technological tools and his iconic symbol, the Batman was able to give back to his society. His status as billionaire socialite balanced with his vigilante duties. Wayne stood in the corner, witnessing the massive crowd in the sparkling ballroom. Wine glasses clinked and the laughter and chatter of Gotham's finest could be heard over the violins. Silk dresses and stiff suits twirled around the room as he made his way to the stage. In the center of attention, Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist, held his facade as he played another part, putting on his mask so that his inner dark knight would not be revealed.

References:
Harris, A. C. (1997). TRICKSTER IN AMERICAN POP CULTURE: A semio-discursive analysis of batman and the joker in the hollywood batman film. The American Journal of Semiotics, 14(1-4), 57-78. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213748489?accountid=29001

Nolan, C. (Director), & Franco, L. (Producer). (2005). Batman Begins [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Nolan, C. (Director & Producer). (2008). The Dark Knight [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. and DC Comics. Nolan, C. (Director & Producer). (2012). The Dark Knight Rises [DVD]. United States: Warner Bros. and DC Comics.