Ever since watching The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon’s closing remarks on Batman’s heroism have been echoing my head, and I can’t seem to get them out.
When referring to Batman, Gordon states, “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs.”
Although I was still in dumb wonder from Batman’s grandiose heroism and Joker’s diabolic genius, I felt the gears in my head faintly begin to turn. What did he mean by the “hero that Gotham deserves”? Don’t “deserve” and “need” essentially mean the same thing? How does this justify the fact that all of the citizens can despise the man who saved their lives?
Feeling my brain heating up from the stress, I took to my feet and went for a walk. In spite of the cool breeze and the tranquility of my surroundings, the infuriating quote would not leave my mind.
“Hero it deserves…not the one it needs? But…how?” I angrily muttered under my breath. To my neighbors I must have looked like a crazed hermit, searching for some great existential truth.
But after an hour-or-so of frantic pacing, note-taking, and aggravating mental blocks, I think I’ve finally got it.
Let’s start from the beginning. “Batman is the hero Gotham deserves.” Well, what does that mean? The term, “deserve” implies some form of entitlement. It insinuates that the citizens of Gotham, as human beings, are entitled to some form of protection against the numerous criminal elements that plague the city. As mothers, fathers, friends, sons, daughters, coworkers, and citizens, the people of Gotham require a powerful agent of justice who can promise them some degree of safety. This is why Gotham technically “deserves” a hero like Batman, who can quell citizens’ fears of social unrest, madness, and chaos and instill hope, order, and reason in their place.
Yet in spite of his various virtues, Batman still falls short of what Gotham needs. As the morally depraved, criminal-infested symbol of Western decadence that it is, Gotham needs a hero that is invulnerable, bright, and glorious. It needs a hero who can stand in the spotlight, with his cape billowing in the breeze. It needs a hero who can prevent all civilian deaths and injuries within an instant. It needs a hero who won’t cost them billions of dollars in property damage while saving the city (a.k.a not Batman). In essence, Gotham needs a white knight in shining armor, someone like Harvey Dent (before his scarring experience) or Superman.
Instead, it has Batman, a mortal and imperfect keeper of social order and justice. Why do I say imperfect? He is a mere man, having no superpowers aside from his immense ninja skill. Yes, he is quite wealthy, and thus can design and purchase various tools of justice, but none that allow him to fly for prolonged periods of time (Batman can glide, not fly). None that allow him to be in more than one place at single instant. None that endow him super strength. Indeed, I say that Batman is imperfect because he is unable to save the countless lives that the Joker takes in his frenzied path of destruction and madness. Whereas Superman could do all of this easily, preventing all potential damage without a single civilian casualty.
So why doesn’t Gotham deserve the hero that it needs? Why isn’t Gotham worthy of a white knight in shining armor? Why doesn’t Gotham deserve a better, more perfect enforcer of social justice and order? Why can’t Gotham have Superman? Essentially, Gotham doesn’t deserve a better hero because its citizens are corrupt and grossly misguided themselves. Even if Batman were a more glorious hero, he would never be able to eradicate the treacherous monsters that reside within men. This is why Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs.