The Psychology of Batman: Bruce Wayne Became a Vigilante Because He Idolized Zorro

Friday, 23 January 2015 - 10:45AM
DC Comics
Batman
Friday, 23 January 2015 - 10:45AM
The Psychology of Batman: Bruce Wayne Became a Vigilante Because He Idolized Zorro

Everyone knows Batman's origin story by now. He's a rich, happy child whose parents are killed in front of him while they're leaving the theater. He then becomes a masked vigilante in order to fight the kinds of criminals who killed his parents, choosing to dress up as a bat because he finds them to be frightening creatures, and he wanted to "strike terror into [criminals'] hearts." But according to the Youtube series Pop Psych! by Wisecrack, this explanation is missing a major factor in Bruce's psychological transformation: his idolization of the masked vigilante from The Mask of Zorro.

 

 

"So why did Bruce choose to become Batman?" the Pop Psych! host asks. "Well, he'd tell you it was because of that time a bat flew through his window and he imprinted on it like a badass baby duckling. But that's not true. It's because of a movie."

 

She cites psychologist Albert Bandura, specifically his Social Learning Theory, to support her analysis. Social Learning Theory states that behavior can be learned by modeling after the behavior of others simply by observing them, as opposed to other theories that require some kind of reinforcement for those behaviors. "It goes like this: Bruce associates his parents' murder and the movie closely. The image of Zorro was powerfully etched in his mind as the way to respond to aggression and trauma. Bruce trained the rest of his life to become Zorro. And being his own Zorro is pretty useful when it comes to making meth addicts pee their pants."

 

She goes on to explain the psychological effects of Bruce's parents' murder through Freudian theories of consciousness: "Freud thought of consciousness like an iceberg: the Ego, our conscious mind, being the 10% that's out of water, the Superego and the Id lying underneath where we think they can't bother us. Until, of course, anxiety starts to bubble up and the feelings of the Id start to become conscious. Say the anxiety of, oh I don't know, having your parents shot to death in front of your 7-year-old face."

 

 

Some have been complaining that Freud's theories have been disproven, and therefore shouldn't be cited in her psychoanalysis of Bruce Wayne. Many of Freud's theories have been discredited over the years, but the basic idea she cites- that we have unconscious impulses that manifest consciously in unexpected ways- is still considered by many to be the foundation of psychoanalysis, so this seems reasonable.

 

She then diagnoses him with PTSD, which is not only unoriginal, but probably not correct. Batman is certainly shaped by his parents' murder, and it does cause him to be violent, but he seems to make a conscious choice to become a vigilante, which may be slightly subversive, but doesn't really count as "violent outbursts." And it's difficult to argue that he engages in any "avoidant" behaviors, and if he does experience flashbacks, they don't seem to be debilitating. I'm not a psychologist, but it doesn't really seem like he fits the criteria.

 

"I recommend Bruce engages in Prolonged Exposure Therapy, which promotes processing of the trauma memory to reduce distress and avoidance evoked by the trauma reminders. Also, he should probably avoid the whole Bat-nipples thing." 

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