Should We Wonder If Batman Has Psychological Problems?

Batman is unusual in many ways, and not only for his physical and intellectual abilities. He wears an odd costume (for decades, he wore underwear on the outside, over tights), puts his life on the line nightly, spends a significant part of his wealth to support his crime-fighting activities, and gives up any semblance of normal life. These actions lead us to wonder why he would do what he does—what motivates him, and is his motivation pathological? People ask the same questions about real-life superheroes—folks who don costumes and try to “do good” in various ways, such as helping the homeless or deterring crime.

People familiar with Batman’s history—as a young child he witnessed his parents’ murders—wonder about the ways this has affected him, about the psychological scars he bears. Batman is also a serious guy and sometimes his lack of spontaneity and humor can seem to border on depression. Which can lead people to wonder: Is Batman depressed? And if he’s not, why isn’t he, after facing such twisted villains and relentless crime? In wondering about Batman and trying to understand him, we are wondering about aspects of ourselves, our family and friends, our colleagues, and seeking to understand the human condition.

Robin Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist and the author of the new book What’s the Matter with Batman?.

Category: Q&A

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One Response

  1. I grew up in the glory years of the Batman, Superman, and Captain Marvel comic books. For a shy but mostly typical kid, they were all the perfect and thrilling fantasy. Even their funny clothes were a little like the little boys’ pajamas that I wore at night as I fantasized about flying and having magical or hi-tech powers. The point of helping people was, when I was small, so that others would admire you; you would be unequivocally good, and important. And since I would then be stronger and more admired than my parents, my parents would be–in effect–dead. All fine for a little boy, but all twisted in Colorado. Brock Haussamen–livingasmeaning.com

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