Bruce Wayne is just a mask and Batman is the real person. DONE!
Joking. That wouldn’t be much of an analysis. But it is the general idea people have regarding Batman and his identity. I also believed in it for quite some time, since those day’s I have done a lot of reading and today I have to kinda laugh at this simple explanation we all agreed on. But before I talk about why this explanation of the dual identity of Batman and Bruce Wayne is wrong in my opinion and before I talk about how the idea of the „real „ identity of a person is almost impossible to define. I have to explain why we accepted this simple explanation and how Batman specifically the Nolan Batman, tricked not only the people of Gotham City but also the viewers of the movie.
Bruce Wayne Is Just a Mask
A big part of the Nolan Trilogy focused on the fact that Bruce Wayne the playboy was a mask to hide the real person, Batman. The idea is that the real person is the mask. This explanation follows a sentiment of one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde;
„Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.“ – Oscar Wilde
The idea is that when a person can hide behind a mask they will show you their true feelings and emotions. The hesitations of a person are gone when their identity is hidden. It’s similar to when you get drunk you’re your “true self” because your hesitations are gone. A mask made out of alcohol and future regrets. For a long time I agreed with this but now I’m not that sure anymore. And here is why;
Batman Is Just Another Mask
Batman is not the true Bruce Wayne. Batman is just another mask constructed by Bruce Wayne to scare criminals. In most versions, Batman doesn’t enjoy making criminals pee their pants. It’s just a necessity for his goal, just like the Playboy disguise. In Under the Red Hood, he stated that he wants to kill the Joker but he keeps himself from it because it would destroy what Batman stands for.
What brings us to two points. In the theory that Oscar Wilde presents regardings masks, Bruce Wayne should be capable of killing Joker because a mask should strip away his hesitation of killing the Joker and the repercussions. The idea of hesitation is also an important part of our personality. Everyone has a different level of what they think should be said and what not. Deciding what we don’t say is also a big part of our personality, so saying the true personality of a person is behind a mask that strips us off our hesitations can be quite effectively argued against. The second point is that Batman can’t be the true person because he is not just a person, how Bruce said;
„People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.“ – Bruce Wayne
The Answer Is Between The Masks
But who is the person behind all these masks? Who is the real person? Well there is no definitive answer and I will get to that but if we have to point at one identity as his truest personality, it can be found between him and Alfred.
The reason I say specifically Alfred is because Alfred knows Bruce in a way most of his closest friends don’t. He has seen him at his best and worst. Before and after his parents died. That is something very unique because most of the other characters that are close enough to him to know who he is, have only known him after his parents’ death. Bruce shares his true feelings, when at all, with Alfred. Now many will ask what about the rest of the Batfamily?
The Idea Of a Fixed Identity Is a Messy JOKE!
Who are we? It is a question we all have thought about and something that has created this generation of Tumblr users who need a term for every aspect of their personality. Thinking of the age of the general comic reader I would guess most people reading this are somewhere in their puberty, in which we are all tortured by who we are and try to find our identity because we are old enough to question the idea of an identity but too young to even attempt to understand it. I think the idea of who we are and how we are perceived changes from person to person. How Frank from House of Cards put it;
„After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal. What I am to Claire is not what I am to Zoe, just as Zoe is not to me what she is to her father.“ -Frank Underwood
Who Bruce is to Dick Grayson (a father figure) is different to Alfred (a son) and again different to Catwoman (a lover) or the public (a playboy). Added to this comes the Bruce who forgot his past and Alfred claimed he was the real Bruce Wayne. But is he? Or is he just one aspect of Bruce Wayne. Bruce shows different sides of him to each person he meets just like we do. So to a degree, all these identities are real because others have acknowledged them as real. All are part of who Bruce Wayne is. We are who we decide to reveal because we are who others see.
Final Thoughts And My Own Thoughts On Reality
It goes back to the idea that we can only be sure that we ourself exist but at the same time we only exist because others acknowledge our existence. What we call reality is for each person different because each person’s reality is an illusion build from our feelings and perception. That is how two people living in the same neighborhood can have very different opinions on their neighborhood. We all exist in our own reality and all these realities exist in what we would call the main reality that we can not complete see because our own reality is like a bubble around us, it changes the way we perceive the main reality, in which we all live, resulting in different views of our shared reality. It’s how we can all look at the same painting and see completely different things because we don’t have all access to the same memories/experiences and knowledge that forms our feelings and opinions on a matter and make out our reality.