File Number 0002:
Sub cat: BATGIRL:
For Batman, the risk involved in acclimating new recruits to his team is enormous. And yet he does take on new partners, with what by now can be called some degree of regularity. The newest one, the female, has the potential to be as much a liability as an asset. In addition to not being able to speak, she repeatedly demonstrates a willingness to lay down her own life. An admirable quality if based on altruism… but perilous if rooted in self-loathing. Having the Dark Knight willing to defend you is useless if you’re intent on taking yourself down.
The line between self-sacrifice and self-destruction is a fine one, even in an ordinary line of work. For a vigilante, the distinction springs chiefly from motive. Do you risk your life to relieve the suffering of others - - or do you lay down your life to allay your own?
It’s a good tonic, altruism. Nothing helps one put problems in perspective like allegiance to a higher cause. For most people, a few hours of dedicated charity work can be as enlightening - - and uplifting - - as the most indulgent furlough. But there are a few people who look at all the good they can achieve in the world - - and think of nothing so much as their inherent capacity for evil.
It’s the same with violence. For many, knowing they can inflict harm is a source of great confidence. It’s a self-defence strategy, a card up the sleeve, a reassuring theoretical. For others, the ability to hurt, to kill, isn’t theoretical at all. It’s a memory.
This new “Batgirl” has a genuine respect for life and genuine compassion. She has master-level martial arts skills and remarkable courage. But she also has memories. Her ability to inflict harm is not theoretical. Nor is the evil of which she is inherently capable. She has vividly experienced her own capacity for violence, and this puts her at acute risk. In addition to being less aware of the degree to which evil is inherent in us all - - her experience of being trained almost from birth as an assassin leaves her less than fully able to acknowledge her own capacity for good. Not for doing good. But for being good.
The Detective is aware of all this - - has been especially mindful of it since he took on the girl. He knows all of his partners, sometimes better than he knows himself. He knows, for instance, that if Dick - Nightwing - had disobeyed his order to come back to the ship, it would have been because of his need to be useful - - and because of his unabating desire to demonstrate his filial loyalty. He knows that if - Tim – Robin – had come back, it would have been because of his empathy, his inability to leave someone else in harm’s way. Jason, the one he lost – he was headstrong and disregarded orders as a matter of rebellious individuation.
Batman doesn’t want to lose another one, which is why he wishes he didn’t so well understand what brings this one back. He knows all to well that it is possible to have memories that you literally cannot bear. The event that took his parents from him - - changed him, literally, from a child into an orphan - - that’s a memory now. Just as her life as a trained assassin – it is not something she does, not something she is, not even something she has to be - - it’s something she remembers. And the need to swim through that again, to transform what she believes it means about her - - that is her albatross. That is what brings her back to sinking ships. And that is why he has to leave her there.
He tells himself he would never put her at risk. There are twelve - - fourteen different ways to save her, if it comes to that. Ways to save her body, but the truth is - - only she can save her soul. If he’s honest with himself, he might acknowledge that his own motive in letting her test herself might not have been purely unselfish. He knows better than anyone that to skilfully fight back the world’s demons - - you must first conquer your own. The Detective would never actually say that such a voyage of self-discovery was a prerequisite for joining him in this war… but then, he does seem to be quite good at finding trusted acolytes who would never ask.
Close file 0002