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Movies: Gotham Doesn’t Need Batman. Gotham Needs Social Workers.

Posted July 20, 2012 by Kev McLean in Ramp Reviews

WARNING: this contains many, many comic book spoilers.

In the past fortnight, about thirty trade paperbacks have been read, both of the Arkham Games have been replayed, a handful of animated films have been watched and, of course, we’ve performed the obligatory rewatch of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Over-prepared is not the term.

In the run up to The Dark Knight Rises, every website flaunting an ill-considered right to an opinion (we’re looking at you Daily Mail) is throwing together the most haphazard ‘Top 5’ lists based on whatever ramshackle knowledge its writers can glean from a cursory glance at Wikipedia. Not us. We are going in a decidedly ‘Lois Lane’ direction.


We should all know the story now. A young Bruce Wayne is out with his parents watching whatever thematically appropriate opera/movie/play the writers wish to convey a message through. They decide to make a quick exit to a lovely place known as Crime Alley (okay, it was named that after the Wayne murders; however it may well have been known as Petty Theft alley, or Angry Drunk alley… it wasn’t bloody safe, basically). What follows is what, of course, shapes our young petrified boy into the equivalent of Hercule Poirot mixed with Zorro.

And we have the first victim of Gotham’s Hatred Of Parents.

In the original stories, Bruce is raised by his uncle Phil.

But for the purpose of what we’re discussing we will follow the modern stories, as laid out by Mr Frank Miller – there is no Uncle Philip Wayne, and instead Bruce is raised by his butler.

It is bemusing that the city was so comfortable with giving custody of this child to an employee of the Wayne family. Yes, Alfred is shown to be a loving and caring father figure to the young Master Bruce and treats him by the standards of any loving parent by letting Bruce train abroad by himself in Martial Arts and ‘Manhunting’ since he was THIRTEEN.

Yes, excellent work there. That in no way created a one-track vengeance monster with family issues. No siree!

At what point did the Gotham Department of Social Services intervene?

Hello Mr Pennyworth. We would like to talk about Bruce’s five year absence from school.

Well, we guess we could excuse one slipup of the system. It’s not like this kind of thing occurs often…

Oh. Wait. Have you ever heard of Robin?

If you answered ‘Yes’, then good.

If you answered ‘No’, then bugger off.

If you answered ‘Which one?’, marry me*.

There have been, to date, five different people who have worn the Robin mask and each one is more damaged by parental issues than the last. The most famous, Dick Grayson, watched his parents die at the hands of a mob boss. It is at this point we must note that criminals in Gotham love creating orphans almost as much as Bruce Wayne loves collecting them.

The third Robin managed to take up the Robin mantle with both parents alive. They, rather fortunately, were cured of that nasty affliction in a short space of time.

The second Robin, Jason Todd, had a much worse time of it. As the son of a petty crook father and drug addicted mother he is abandoned by said father and eventually left alone when his mother dies of an overdose. After he is taken in by Bruce Wayne, Todd discovers that the mother he lost to drugs actually wasn’t his mother after all when discovers his true biological mother. Yay for happiness, this trope we are discussing is finished. End article.

That is until the horrendously grisly scene in which The Joker brutally beats Robin within an inch of death with a crowbar, making Heath Ledger’s portrayal look frightfully Julie-Andrews-esque. The Joker then detonates a bomb, killing Robin and his biological mother instantly.

Moot point! you scream. He can’t be a hero with parental issues if he is dead!


That’s because he isn’t dead anymore.

What a perfect segue into the villainous aspect of this piece. Jason Todd as the Red Hood is but the first of our villains who should have been sent straight to a loving Kansas farming foster couple rather than staying with a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist.

We all know Harvey Dent and his lovely big arse-chinned face. We also know that depending on what continuity you follow, he was delivered into a life of crime based on the fact that Julia Roberts’ brother threw acid into his face while Patrick Verona murdered his one true love.

You would be wrong. You may have noticed throughout The Dark Knight this coin that kept popping up. This coin is symbolic of the obsession Harvey has with dualism, or anything of a two-choice nature. This is pretty much down to the fact that his father was an abusive drunk and beat him nightly (under the pretence of a false choice), driving young Harvey to  suffer from a mixture of the comic-book explanation of the bipolar and split-personality disorders.


This theme runs through a lot of the more famous of the Batman villains.

  • Scarecrow: Raised by an abusive aunt.
  • The Riddler: Absent mother, abusive father.
  • Mr Freeze: Freaked the hell out of his parents until they abandoned him in a boarding school.
  • Bane: Abandoned by his father in a prison as a surrogate to serve out his father’s prison sentence.
  • Catwoman: orphan.

That last one is pretty interesting. As Catwoman is usually depicted as an anti-hero, then we can assume that if your parents die in Gotham, you become a hero of sorts. Add abuse to the equation, and you have a villain. Unless you are a villain called Hush, in which case you murder your parents then surgically alter your appearance to look exactly like Bruce Wayne. This anomaly in the system unfortunately cannot be helped.

So we are left to ask the question: does Gotham City even have a Social Services department? Is it the modus operandi of the city to give all orphans to a billionaire? And all abused children to the streets?

It is in this author’s opinion that if Thomas Wayne just spent his money on increasing awareness of foster care in Gotham, instead of a monorail, we would have seen a sharp decline in supervillainy.

We can only assume he was sold on his monorail idea by this guy.

In the Nolan films we have an excellent example of an innocent kid – suffering in what sounds like an abusive home – who, with special attention from social workers, may just grow up alright.

Instead, he meets Batman:

I rest my case.

*Men need not apply.

Kev McLean is an aspiring writer from Belfast who fails due an inability to stick to the subject at hand. He has written seven novels, which at this point have served as excellent kindling on those lonely cold nights. Kev on Twitter / Kev on tumblr

About the Author

Kev McLean

Kev enjoys having heartfelt discussions about comics and books with his cat, Husker, whom at this point has yet to offer an opinion; this can only mean Kev is always right.

  • frecklor

    HAHA this was excellent!! cant believe (as a student social worker) i have never made that observation given the plethora of social ills in Gotham Doh! Good work sur! :D

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    The last two images KILLED me.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura C

    The lesson here is that it sucks to live in Gotham. You wonder why people don’t just move

    Loved the article, Sir 

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