How Human is Too Human?
After a conversation with Bryce Waller, also known as Blonde Ambition or the Senator, we got to thinking about how far human traits should be lent to characters who are otherwise idols and heroes to us.
Do flaws make the character? Or is it the lack of flaws that make us what to aspire to be more like them? With certain fans preferring to have an untouchable legend as their icon, others tend to gravitate more toward the flawed and corporeal aspect. So how human should these characters be? Is there a character rooted similarly to all their fans?
Read more to find out secrets to the universe!
Everybody likes Bond or Batman. We’re practically bound to them in one way or another, right? The ultimate in self-made masculinity, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody repulsed by one of them, much less both. I’m not the biggest fan of either, but both are appreciated in my vast mental catalog of characters I could never be like aside from also being white.
And what is it about these guys that makes everybody love them so much? This isn’t the first time Bond and Batman have been mentioned together as the ultimate symbols of coolness. Bond is classy and sophisticated while able to rip into action as soon as he’s done wooing the villain’s top assassin, Hottie Tightpants while Batman wears the cover of sophistication and laziness to hide his genius intellect, perfect physique and permanently brooding mental state.
But while Daniel Craig’s Bond is brutish, cool, and even a little rude, Connery’s Bond is hip and relaxed, treating his missions like he’s on vacation. The newer Bond, played by Craig, gets beaten regularly, has doubts about himself, and hasn’t always saved the day. It’s a far cry from the original onscreen Bond that, if a “girlfriend” dies, it’s met with a shrug before he moves on and nothing really seems to get him down. Which is preferred? The “realistic” Bond or the “Iconic” Bond?
And it’s not just Batman and Bond. Plenty of characters go through such changes depending on who’s at the helm of the project, be they literature, movies, TV. Different writers have different ideas of what characters should be, but it’s only over time can we see how vastly different some of these personalities are while still somehow capturing a fan-base that still recognizes it all as what they love.
A question that can’t help but be raised from this- is there anyone like these guys in real life? And if so, would they be recognized as such? Do we like the characters because we see ourselves in them or do we like them because we want to be them? Do you like them because, given the right circumstances, you could do what they do? Or do you like them because nobody could ever be like them and that’s the whole point of taking part in fiction; to escape.
Sure it’s the exploits in either scenario. You wouldn’t care to read or watch these characters if they weren’t doing anything amazing. That’s what Keeping Up with the Kardashians and all those MTV “reality” shows were created for; unrealistic portrayals of humanity doing mundane things with no point.
And yes, you’ve got to examine the fact that people watch different things for different reasons. Some people hate characters like Superman because he’s “too perfect” while others might see Spider-Man as “too lame.”
But I’m not talking about what specific characters you like, the Top Dog or the Underdog, but the specific character themselves. Going back to Batman (Why not?), The Dark Knight Batman is denounced by many Batman fans that see it as wrong to portray the character in a “realistic” light. This includes comic book writer/artist veteran Frank Miller, whose work includes several stories that have been adapted in film, notably 300 and Sin City. In this interview, Miller gives some insight into what he thinks studios are doing wrong.
“When people come out with movies about characters I’ve worked on, I always hate them. I have my own ideas about what the characters are like. I mean, I can’t watch a Batman movie. I’ve seen pieces of them, but I generally think, No, that’s not him. And I walk out of the theater before it’s over.”
He goes onto say that he likes the “goofiness” of comic books and that the Marvel studios movies are good because they’re just “a bunch of crazy, mixed-up kids just like the readers.”
Take that last part how you will but the point remains the same in that people prefer different sides to a character. The opposition to this being of course, people who can’t stand the Marvel movies and love films like The Dark Knight and those with a similar tone. The Dark Knight Batman needs help, is relatively easily hurt, and doesn’t even seem to be a mastermind of anything, much less his own idea of what Batman should be.
The comic book Batman (as well as others) often depict the character as a lone genius, who invents most of his gadgets in his spare time. He’s hardly got anyone questioning his motives, as he’s been around for so long that even the police trust him in their precinct, talking to their prisoners. He is a living legend while The Dark Knight Batman had to “die” to go from glorified vigilante to Savior of Gotham.
But the differences don’t have to be so sparse between childlike wonderment and grim practicality. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) seems to be a show renowned for its portrayal of the character that just seems to hit the right note for fans of all ages.
It’s possible those who prefer a Dark Knight type of Batman need a dose of reality to relate to an otherwise fantastical character and the fans of the less-than-realistic Batman are looking to escape to a world where knowing the right ancient martial art can allow the average man to kick a tree in half. It’s not about relating to the character because you can’t, you simply want to be a part of something that will just never be.
It seems with most characters we’ll get different facets to their character, only to have fans argue over the years without recognizing that different incarnations of the character have led to different interpretations of the character. Then an adaption into a different medium comes out that “isn’t faithful” to the source when really, the brains behind it all were just going by how they viewed the material.
It’s a little difficult to say that the Batman in The Dark Knight films “isn’t” the character due to the shifts in realism but with the characters and their goals and motives remain intact. However to pretend the absurdities that can take place in fiction have no place in…well, fiction, that’s just taking it all too seriously. “But that’s not realistic!” is a complaint I’ve heard from fans who don’t like the more comical stuff. As if anything involving a superhero could be labeled as realistic without using the word loosely. There’s a tone and a message for every story told, even if its with the same characters. Different writers express different things with the same characters.
So what do you normally do? Do you wish to bring the character down to a level of reality? Or do you figuratively reach to the skies hoping the character will bring you up?