While caped-crusaders are certainly the norm of much contemporary media, there’s clearly something special about Batman. Whether the nocturnal lunatic is inspiring real-life imitation crazies from around the world, or drawing out the murder in us all because someone other than ourselves was cast for the B-Man’s role, there’s a quality in modern Batman which exceeds reverement. And while Batman is indeed beloved by old and young, there are certain qualities about the lonely moralist that exclusively speak to the Millennial generation, albeit less to them as he is for them.
1. Injustice in the Internet Era
The relevance of internet in defining why Millennials are unique is unparalleled, and nowhere does this become more clear than what independent news coverage has done to this generation. There’s an incredibly sharp distance between what was believed by the generation prior and Millennials, and nowhere is this more clear than in the loss of trust Millennials view the greater sum of worldly institutions by.
Millennials know, and I do mean know, that politics, both politicians and the system itself, are corruptible, that the police are greatly flawed, and that wealthy people do not abide by nor face the same penalty of laws that most people do. Millennials know that things are not operating the way they were taught to believe they were, and they learned these contradictions on their own through the internet, whether from objective news sources or the immediate proof of injustices through cellphone recordings and live-steaming.
That said, Millennials are inhabiting a world still ruled by generations prior, generations which continue to propel the same illusions while ignoring the exposed problems at hand. Millennials feel isolated because of this; they know that there are cruel and unfair things modeling their lives, but haven’t earned a substantial enough platform yet to disarm them.
Enter Batman. He’s mortal, hasn’t superpowers, and is driven exclusively by the frustration he feels about his world. Batman is defined by his understanding that what is wrong is not being addressed, and his exclusive status as Gotham’s hero speaks to the Millennial who is likewise isolated in their fury at what is ailing not solely themselves, but also their communities. Both Batman and the Millennial risk much when they confront the public about the issues of their worlds, whether that’s punching an arbiter of corruption into submission or publically sharing a sensitive news article on social media, and both face an aggressive reaction regardless the sincerity of their effort. For the Millennial, Batman alone expresses the burden of the modern vigilante, and for this is awarded the highest respect.
2. The Importance of Self, not Wealth
While Millennials are majorly defined by the things their generation uniquely had growing up, whether internet, cellphones, etc., equally important to the Millennial definition are the things the generation uniquely doesn’t have now that they are grown up.
With student debt at $1.31 trillion in 2016, an increasing dependence on low-wage work despite college education, and a minimum-wage which doesn’t afford rent anywhere in the country, financial certainty for Millennials is, at best, distant.
Batman, though, is rich. Debt interest, rent rises, and gas prices are not his concern. There will never be a point where Batman has to break a banana off from the bunch, or scribble math on a napkin to figure out the 15% tip (and feel bad about not being able to do 20%).
Batman’s rich, but he’s the kind of rich person Millennials need (and deserve, too).
As I’ve broke the quote-seal now here’s another one: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” (Batman Begins) As a rich person, the moral certainty in Batman’s actions stand as a distinct emblem of righteousness when contrasted with the real-world wealthy. It’s a fact that the much of the limited economic growth which Millennials face can be traced to the 2008 Financial Crisis, and the lack of convictions against the wealthy criminals responsible for the upset has only increased the distance Millennials feel between the heavy expectations weighed against themselves, and those gently laid against the rich.
Batman, though, is accountable. He will not be tempted by, nor exploit for, further wealth. He has a lot of money, sure, but he does good things with it. And Millennial’s, more than any other generation, appreciate the remarkable in this.
3. Parents or No Parents, You’re on your Own
At first glance this characteristic might seem a contradiction. Batman is shaped by his parents having been murdered while he was a child, whereas 40% of Millennials are still living with their parents (or other relatives) at an adult age. How is it then that Batman’s loss of parents and Millennials dependence on theirs respond to each other?
Parents or not, the methods of yesteryear aren’t much help anymore.
The world which Millennials face is significantly altered from the one the previous generation had, and the severe difference between what worked before and now isn’t going to be cleaved by any amount of elbow grease. Although Dad might have been able to acquire that job he wasn’t qualified for by yanking at his bootstraps hard enough, or Mom could afford moving out by climbing back on the bicycle or horse or whatever, Millennials haven’t the option of radically altering their lives the way their parents did.
The division between generations largely stems from differences between economies. For one, the rise in cost of things across the board is extreme. Two, the value of a four-year degree has diminished and today provides only the minimum accesses which a highschool diploma used to. And three, employers are increasingly relying on temporary and freelance work which not only skirts providing permanent employment, but other necessities, such as healthcare and pensions, as well.
The reality is that Millennials are facing a world entirely separated from the one their parents grew up in, and are largely confronting this new world orphaned and without guidance. Alike the young Batman, Millennials too are facing the fearful obstacles of the modern world alone, and are attempting to make sense of and overcome them in their isolated position as best they can.
4. The ‘Dark’ in the Dark Knight
Millennials have presented more cases of Depression than any other generation, and stress has been an increasing problem among the group as well. There is something missing for Millennials, something which isn’t adding up, and this is coming out in the form of serious mental health problems.
Millennials feel alone; they might have multiple social media profiles and are still living with their parents, but clearly the greater weight of their worries are falling exclusively upon their individual shoulders. Like Batman, they have been abandoned in an aggressive world, and the means for carving their place in society is dependent upon their fortitude as they engage alone a pattern of trial-and-error.
However embarrassing in reflection, Millennials are the generation responsible for the Emo sub-culture, and this is as important in recognizing the interests of the generation as it is when reviewing Hippies during the 60’s or Punks in the 70’s. Millennials are a group who in their formative years responded most keenly to a narrative of loneliness, loss, and self-destruction. However melodramatic or exaggerated the media of this sub-culture may have been, the reality is that in their youth Millennials were already alarmed by and expecting a grim, unfair future.
It’s no wonder then that Batman, a hero whose origin is built upon pain and loneliness, and whose philosophy has been shaped from such grim legacy, stands as the figure most proximate to the Millennial generation, and whose haunted being reflects strongest the struggles which Millennials everywhere are attempting to address. As Millennials simultaneously resist and adapt to a world which denies not only its inherent problems but also the antidotes Millennials are ready to apply, their path of amalgamation doesn’t stray far from the brutal and unforgiving one Batman himself cut for his own arduous, confused, and fearful ascent to adulthood.
Sources Catalogued (in Order of Appearance)
[REJECTED] is a column where writings denied publication are given a place to be read.
This article originally submitted to Cracked for consideration.