We here at Law and the Multiverse generally try to avoid policy discussions implicated by superheros and comic book stories generally, but there’s a really interesting conversation about the role of Batman in civil society and his usurpation on the state’s monopoly on violence going on right now.
The Dark Knight’s central thesis is that social norms don’t break down in the absence of governmentally-imposed order. But this isn’t a happy revelation. The fact that one man can demolish governmental authority in Gotham and strain social order to the breaking point illustrates just how illusionary the foundation of order society — and our comfortable lives — rest on actually is.
The central thesis, as I see it, is that Batman would be unnecessary if good people not wearing masks would actually stand up and recapture their own self-determination. A vigilante is not necessary for this at all. Batman is the option of last resort.
Jamelle Bouie continues, disagreeing with Marvin’s assessment of Bruce Wayne’s motivations:
Bruce wants a better Gotham, which is why he’s willing to endure the hatred of his home if that’s what it takes to build the city into something durable.
[F]or several reasons I think there’s a compelling case to be made for situating Batman not only within civil society, but as the fullest expression of it. The principle of handing over one’s individual claim to violence to the state, when taken to its logical conclusion, results in a police state. And that is in many ways what Batman symbolizes: a regime in which decisions are made unilaterally and enforced to their fullest extent.
Again, this isn’t a strictly legal discussion, but it’s a great discussion about some of the core questions that superheroes in general and Batman in particular wrestle with a lot of the time. Don’t miss it.