To go off my capitalism post I’d like to talk about the consumer society surrounding Batman. Bob Canes concept first appeared in 1939 in DC’s detective comics #27 (Batman). Since then Batman has become a cultural icon, the concept has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media including television programs, stage shows, film and radio but it does not stop there. You can own Batman in more ways then that, come on this is a consumer society we live in remember? You can also have Batman in a wide variety of merchandise. Such as figurines, toys, video games, plushies, posters, costumes and clothing! You would not believe the clothing (or maybe you would) but as someone who works in retail, I can tell you that manufacturers took very little time between the release of each Nolan Batman movie, to come out with products that have Batman’s face on it. I’m talking everywhere from slippers to pajamas to t-shirts to hats. One could literally be head to toe Batman without wearing the costume, because wearing a costume every day isn’t socially acceptable, but this is… right?
“When Marx undertook his critique of the capitalistic mode of production, this mode was in its infancy. Marx directed his efforts in such a way as to give them prognostic value. He went back to the basic conditions underlying capitalistic production and through his presentation showed what could be expected of capitalism in the future. The result was that one could expect it not only to exploit the proletariat with increasing intensity…” (Benjamin).
The sales of Batman product rely on the fact that someone is selling and reselling product for gain and media is the weapon deployed by society in order to have gain. Almost anything these days that becomes a hit or a fad is blown completely out of proportion by the media. When was it ever cool to be a nerd? Was it not the nerd that got picked on all these years, was the nerd not a classic victim of the bully? I believed this to be the case. Yet suddenly it is cool to read comics and watch Batman. Being a comic nerd can be cool, even sexy! So how did this happen? Via the media. The media decided to buy into the idea of Batman and in turn society and the proletariat bought into it as well.
“In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain” (Benjamin).
Every remake of Batman has been precisely that, in the pursuit of gain. Allow me to show you a brief history of The Batman. When Bob Kane’s version of Batman was running dry in 1964 DC was going to kill of Batman all together. That was until Julius Schwartz stepped in and decided to reinvent Batman in order to keep him alive. Fallowing this, in 1966 a television series starring Adam West was released and the success increased sales throughout the comic book industry and Batman reached sales close to 900, 000 copies (Batman). But as Julius Schwartz noted, “When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books” (Batman). Fallowing Julius Schwartz’s lead was varies artists including Frank Miller who brought back the dark side of Batman in 1986’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In 1988, DC comics utilized the media to get the public involved doing a call in and vote for as to whether or not Jason aka Robin should be killed off (Batman). 1989 was the release of Tim Burton‘s Batman which brought back the public attention and brought in millions of dollars at the box office, and millions more in merchandising (Batman).All leading up to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy starting in 2005 and ending in 2012.
People want to believe in the Batman, they want him to be real and the media preys on these people. They create this merchandise so that you can have and hold Batman, dress like Batman BE Batman. The idea is to make him as real as possible “…the desire of contemporary masses to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality and accepting its reproduction” (Benjamin).
If this wasn’t true, if media is not deploying a weapon to rake in some money then why was Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns redesigned in 2002 for resale? Why did Christopher Nolan dedicate a decade toward redoing Batman in film? Why do I see children who have never read a comic, or even been allowed to watch a Christopher Nolan Batman movie (due to the obvious rating) wearing Batman logo’s and dressing up for Halloween as super heroes? It is because the media has made Batman something bigger, Batman has become a possibility because he isn’t “super” he has no powers, he is a man with money and knowledge, and technically this is possible. And he is popular and being popular means making money, right? Fact is we are a consumer society, capitalism is in full swing and it all happens subconsciously, everyone buys into this often without even realizing, or if they do without caring.
OH and if that is not enough proof for you, please take a brief moment and click here, and you will get another glimpse at the kind of people who are helping keep the gears of this consumer society a-turnin’.
- “Batman,” Wikipedia. 2012.
- Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
- Miller, Frank. Batman: the Dark Knight returns. New York, N.Y.: DC Comics, 2002. Print.
- The Dark Knight Rises. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway. Warner Bros., 2012. DVD.