In a Gotham Before Batman

So I watched the trailer for the new Gotham series coming to Fox this fall and I must say, it was pretty sweet. Batman has always been my favorite. Found him in third grade and haven’t looked back. Ask my buddy Kevin, he’ll tell ya. Not even a close second, really, as far as comics go. But it’s always been about more than Batman. In truth, it was the Gotham mythos that hooked me, and it looks like the series might do it justice.

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The show follows the early career of one James Gordon, and his introduction into the corruption and criminality that plague Gotham on both sides of the law. We get to meet a young Bruce Wayne and witness the early stages of a whole slew of classic villains. It looks like a lot of fun, and as soon as it’s streaming and I can watch it on my own time, I’ll be checking it out.

But not long after viewing the trailer, and once the adolescent in me had quieted, the nagging voice of morality chimed in. It demanded to know how, just how I could watch such things. How I, of a peaceful disposition, could actively participate in the further glorification of violence.

I don’t know how the series will play it, but if the writers stay even remotely close to the source material then we’re talking about everything from alleyway beatings to torture and corporate wetwork—and that’s just on the government's side of things.

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But wait, you say, Gordon is the good guy. Gordon is there to clean up the police department, to lock up the dirty politicians. And yeah, okay. But, ignoring the fact that we know going in his battle is a losing one, what the series is asking us to endure is one aggression-laced scene after another in which our hero tries valiantly to save Gotham City through “the system.” And he doesn’t even have Batman to rely on here. Without the free radical that is the avenging Bruce Wayne, it’s down to good cops and tough politicians to change things from the inside. Make no mistake, folks. If the city is to be saved in this tale, then the saving will be done by the authorities.

But what is Gotham without Batman if not some gritty town in a hardboiled detective novel? Where the bad guys wear fancy clothes and drink whiskey from short glasses and the good guys—be they public or private—are on the right side of the law and packing heat?

The answer to the question of morality, with regard to Gotham City, is a simple one. How can I watch such things? Because they’re badass. That’s how.

I possess the ability to suspend reality for a brief time now and again, to indulge in my own creativity and imagination, and be entertained. It’s as simple as that. Some people can’t do this, however, or choose not to, and I get it. They’re not wrong, but neither am I for embracing what comes naturally.

But questions like these go far beyond make-believe. They cut to the core of what it means to be a fan. They force us to look hard when all we really want to do is watch. Or, in the case of one of my favorite bands, when all we really want to do is listen.

The aforementioned, who seem like perfectly decent guys, have monumentally horrendous politics. And they seem to believe themselves well-versed in that arena, which makes it all the more maddening. I disagree with these gentlemen so vehemently that, were I ever to meet them in a bar, I’m pretty sure they'd walk away with a genuine dislike for me.

But I’d still love their music, because they make a style of rock ‘n roll that speaks to me like few others have. Does this mean I’m unprincipled? Am I somehow lessened for judging artists solely by their art?

And let’s not forget that this is supposed to be entertainment. This is supposed to be a baggage-free zone. If there was ever a door at which to check our big, dusty, leather-bound code of ethics, then the door to escapism is it. I mean…right?

None of this is new ground, of course, but it’s ground I haven’t walked on for some time. Not that anything could change my initial reaction to the trailer, and that’s the point. I love Batman. I always have. Can’t see anything changing that. I love Commissioner Gordon, I love Alfred. Hell, I love Joker’s warped ass. I love the whole violent, seedy affair. And at some point in the relatively-near future, I’m pretty sure I’ll love Gotham as well.

I can allow myself to be entertained. Let he who is without sin or whatever.