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Bruce Wayne/Batman

by: Reynaldo Diaz

Biography:

Everyone has heard about or knows something about the Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight, and The World’s Greatest Detective, or his most popular name: Batman. However, for those that are not too familiar with this icon here is some basic information. Bruce Wayne grew up in a very wealthy family that was very influential in his city of Gotham. Bruce was an only child and his parents loved him dearly, but around the age of ten he witnessed the murder of both his parents right before his eyes. They were shot in an alley after a mugging as he was standing right next to them; this event took a hard toll on Bruce (Nolan, 2005). After that he made a decision to not let anything like this happen to anyone else and so he dedicated his life to try and stop the criminals that cause so many people pain. He spent years training his mind and body to peak performance, traveling the world gaining knowledge in all aspects to become a force to be reckoned with. Once Bruce returned home after this journey he began to fight crime in a costume to strike fear in the hearts of the criminals; to do this he chose to dress like a bat and from then on he was the Batman.

Humanistic & Existential Approach:

In this approach of assessing personality the questions about personal worth and meaning come into play. Existentialism is concerned with the meaning of existence and humanism deals with the importance of personal human value. These are both things that Batman has questioned and they make up key aspects of his personality. Existentialism is more of a philosophical approach to analyzing personality and part of it is using the phenomenological approach. Within this category the subjective realities of an individual are important; like with Bruce Wayne’s reality that there is too much evil in the world and that people always have the capacity to do harm to others. In Bruce’s mind no one can be trusted and everyone can be seen as a threat; this pessimistic attitude of his is only part of his personality but it allows him to be weary and never get too close to strangers. The only way he feels secure is if he has thoroughly inspected someone and knows that a person is not a threat. However, in reality everyone isn’t a threat. People in general are passive and non-threating to others. Batman sees everyone as a possible threat though because criminals are shifty and can seem like average people, so at least there is some reason for his obscure sense of reality in this case.
Now, with humanistic ideas in mind the personality of the Batman can be even more accurately analyzed. The Human Potential Movement tries to encourage individuals to realize their inner potentials and that is something that Bruce Wayne had succeeded in. In his years of traveling the world and learning as many different martial arts as possible and training his mind and body to peak performance Bruce Wayne was on his way to realizing his potential. He studied fighting styles and even attended an Ivy League school (Nolan). Bruce Wayne was making himself the best he could possibly be to make his mission of saving people possible. Carl Roger’s view on responsibility stated that people have an inherent tendency toward growth and maturation; and that is exactly what Bruce Wayne was doing. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop criminals strait out of high school or simply with his abundant cash. However, he took the time to learn as much as he possibly could in combat and in criminology so that when he was ready he would be able to be a powerful force in the fight against crime. He knew that the time may come when Batman may have to give up his life in order to save others and that was a choice he made, and that is his responsibility.
Another fascinating aspect of Humanism and Existentialism is the idea of anxiety and dread. Rollo May proposed that anxiety can be triggered by a threat to the core values existence and that when we feel anxious we search for meaning in our lives. Now this is rather interesting when talking about young Bruce Wayne because to a child of ten years the core values in life seem to be family and the love and care you receive from your parents. And in Bruce’s case his parents were taken away from him in a traumatic way, so that left him feeling powerless and feeling that he had no one left in the world to rely on and that he was pretty much alone. However, after some time he realized that nothing he can do will bring his parents back so instead he made the decision that he will try to make sure that no one will have to suffer what he has suffered. This kind on life decision is what Viktor Frankl was describing in his Logotherapy, which emphasized the importance of choosing to find a meaning in life. Bruce’s choice to stand up and fight crime to make sure other won’t come across harm was his choice and that choice gave meaning to his life. Frankl described this phenomenon as Tragedy to Triumph; this is when someone turns a tragedy (like losing their parents) into a personal triumph (dedicating life to saving other s and preventing pain). This kind of event changes a person’s attitude on life and in a way changes the individual’s self.
Another aspect to look at would be the idea of self-actualization, described by Abraham Maslow. To Maslow, a self-actualized person is someone who is spiritually fulfilled, comfortable with themselves, loving, ethical, creative and productive. The innate process by which an individual reaches self-actualization is organized into a hierarchy of needs and at the top is full self-actualization. Within Maslow’s hierarchy the step are: physiological needs, safety needs, Belongingness, esteem and then self-actualization. It seems as though Batman is trapped within the belongingness and esteem area. The reason for this is because he obviously can fulfill his natural needs; histraining has definitely made him feel secure but when it comes to belongingness and love needs the only people that he truly cares for is his sidekicks and his butler that has been around his whole life. So it seems that he may have this need only half fulfilled since he doesn’t take on any love interests for the long term, but it also seems that he definitely has his esteem needs checked since he does respect himself and feels confident. However, when it comes to being self- actualized he may have some aspects fulfilled but since he hasn’t successfully conquered the lower steps he isn’t actualized and that is to say he has flaws but that is also part of who he is. What makes Batman such a unique individual is his odd lifestyle choices and his non-perfect way of being a hero. And as a hero one would think that Batman may be a happy person because he has set out to do good and be good, but that is not the case. According to a humanistic view of personality it seems that Batman is very unhappy; although he has all the money he could ever need, money does not equal happiness. According to this approach happiness follows optimism and keeping positive achievements in mind but also suggests way to become happier. Some of the ones that Bruce Wayne has fulfilled are helping others, acknowledge accomplishments, setting long term goals; but despite these traits he is still a general unhappy person because he knows that no matter how much good he does or how many criminals he stops there will always be more later on and that he is fighting a losing battle. To say the least it seems that Bruce Wayne is content with his life knowing he is doing good despite the fact that a little good doesn’t conquer the monstrous amounts of evil out there.
So, in looking at Batman through the eyes of the philosophic humanistic and existential view a core aspect of his personality is that he has found a meaning for life after his tragic experience as a child. This sense of responsibility for protecting others is probably the biggest reason why Batman doesn’t necessarily need happiness because he knows that his place in the world is to protect others.

Trait & Skill Approach:

This perspective in analyzing personality is based more in factor analysis than philosophy; in this approach data that has been collected from many people is used to draw conclusions about others. Gordon Allport had an idea of the proprium, which is the core of someone’s personality or self. To find someone’s self it is possible to use idiographic methods that take into account each person’s uniqueness; one aspect of each person’s uniqueness is their personal dispositions. These dispositions orientate an individual’s goals, motives or style; in the case of Batman he would have what is called a cardinal disposition. In a cardinal disposition a person is governed by a ruling passion that heavily influences personality, and for Batman it can easily be said that he is heavily influenced by a passion. His passion is for stopping crime in order to save and protect others; this passion has so heavily impacted his life that when he is at work as Bruce Wayne he just waits for the sun to go down so that he can start his real job as the Dark Knight (Schumacher, 1995).
One key approach in this perspective is to look at someone with the Big Five in mind; the five traits that are included are: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Now, when observing Batman’s extension of these traits an idea of his personality can come out; when it comes to extroversion it is clear that as Batman and Bruce Wayne he is very high in this category. As Batman his extroversion comes out in his dominance over the weak criminals and his assertiveness allows him to keep them in their place; and as Bruce Wayne he is also extroverted in his high sociability with other wealthy people and in his business life. However, Bruce’s extraversion is just to put on a public face so that it seems he has a lot of things to do in life and to keep any suspicions about him being Batman at bay. When it comes to agreeableness Bruce Wayne is very altruistic in giving to many charities with his insane amount of money, and he is also a very friendly guy to most people when he is in public. Batman is very conscientious in his persistence to fight crime and also very dependable to save the day in many instances. However, Bruce Wayne is not so dependable because his priorities are to save people and perform his nightly duties so if a friend needed Bruce’s help after hours it is most likely that Bruce will be nowhere to be found but Batman will be out saving the day. Now with neuroticism Batman is a very cool tempered man that usually doesn’t let emotions get ahold of him but sometimes his villains know how to push his buttons and when it comes to a person’s life Batman can be very hostile. So, on this trait Batman is mostly calm and collected but can be pushed to instability when innocent people are in danger and he is powerless to save everyone he can get hostile. And with the simple act of openness Batman is like a closed book, and doesn’t let anybody into his ‘world’. However, Bruce Wayne wasn’t always like this, at a time when he was still a student he was very open to learning all he could and wanted to be ready for any situation so he had to try many new experience. So, in the end he is probably a three out of five if five is being really open because of his past and present it seems safe to say he falls in the middle.
Within the trait and skill approach an important aspect is the idea of motives, the internal forces that help form behavior patterns. Henry Murray came up with four main needs that seem to drive people: the need for achievement, affiliation, power, and exhibition. Batman seems to have a need for three out of the four needs; first his need for achievement that drove him to travel the world and gain all sorts of knowledge to make him the man he is known to be today ( a successful smart business man and one of the world’s greatest superheroes). His need for power goes hand in hand with his achievement because his achievements has made him a powerful man in both of his lives, one as a wealthy businessman and the other as a brutish vigilante that puts fear in thugs. And his need for exhibition is what allows his power to be expressed since he wanted to strike fear into criminals he had to show off himself in a way to scare others, that is how a bat was chosen. Plus, as Batman he shows off with his Bat Signal in the sky to let everyone know that he is ready to be anywhere he is needed and that he is watching (Nolan, 2008). These needs are a strong force in his personality because they drive his behavior towards his chosen path of solitude in his battle against the criminal underworld.
This approach lets Batman be seen in a way that demonstrates that his personality is simply a result of his traits and motives that cause his behaviors. Based on his traits Batman is a dominant man that has powerful dispositions that govern his actions.

Discussion:

When looking through the existential & humanistic perspective and the trait & skill perspective Batman’s personality seems to be based on his motives, past experiences, and his merging of his two personas. His past filled with dread and worldly experiences gives Batman the sense of right and wrong and gave him a basis to form his ideas upon. His decision to protect others motivates him to be persistent in his fight against crime and not let the small things like a lack of loved ones or the stress of living two lives bring him down into a depression. The merging of both Bruce Wayne and Batman allows one man to have different aspects of his personality be shown in different lights; as Bruce Wayne he can be more sociable and easy going but as Batman he is cold, powerful and doesn’t take any crap. This pretty much allows him to have two selves and helps him cover many traits that either of the two sides of himself would not be able to cover on their own. But the biggest aspect of Batman’s personality that makes Batman himself is Frankl’s idea of tragedy to triumph. The tragedy of losing both parents at once as a young child is the thing that made Bruce Wayne become Batman, so it is definitely a sure thing to say that the core of his personality revolves around his mission to fight crime, protect others and to ensure that what happened to him never happens to anyone ever again.

References:

Nolan, C. (Director). (2005). Batman Begins [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Home Video.
Nolan, C. (Director). (2008). The Dark Knight [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Home Video.
Schumacher, J. (Director). (1995). Batman Forever [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Home Video