Skip to main content
Coming soon: Crucible Leadership is becoming Beyond the Crucible. Stay tuned for updates!

LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES 2: Batman #123

Warwick Fairfax

July 14, 2022

We say often on the show that crucibles don’t happen to us, they happen for us. And in this second episode of our special summer series, LIGHTS, CAMERA, CRUCIBLES: What Our Favorite Movie Heroes Can Teach Us About Overcoming Setbacks and Failure, we examine that truth as played out in the story of Batman. It’s a powerful tale about how Bruce Wayne did not let the unimaginable trauma of seeing his parents murdered when he was a boy keep him from a life of significance. He found purpose in his pain by training his body and his mind to strike fear into the hearts of those who would prey on the innocent. And if you think he does it as a lone vigilante … well, you just might change your mind after listening.

Highlights

  • Warwick’s introduction to Batman (3:45)
  • Batman’s cinematic history (5:40)
  • Warwick’s perspective on Batman’s enduring popularity as a movie hero (10:15)
  • What makes Batman Batman? (14:34)
  • Why Batman embraced a bat as a symbol (19:56)
  • The lesson we can learn from Bruce Wayne about using our material resources to help others (25:15)
  • Batman’s uniqueness among superheroes (28:50)
  • What makes Batman different from The Joker? (32:07)
  • Batman doesn’t just train his body (41:03)
  • The Dark Knight’s team of fellow travelers (44:24)
  • His life of significance with Catwoman (50:08)
  • The importance of never giving up (54:59)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

 

Eddie:

I’m getting out of here, man.

 

Nick:

Hey, shut up, man. Listen to me. There ain’t no bat.

 

Eddie:

Yeah. Well, you shouldn’t have turned the gun on that kid, man. You shouldn’t have turned the gun on that-

 

Nick:

Hey, you want your cut of this money or not? Now, shut up, shut up.

 

Nick:

Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me, man. Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me, man.

 

Batman:

I’m not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.

 

Nick:

What are you?

 

Batman:

I’m Batman.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

We say often on the show that crucibles don’t happen to us, they happen for us. And in this second episode of our special summer series, Lights, Camera, Crucibles: What Our Favorite Movie Heroes Can Teach Us About Overcoming Setbacks and Failure, we examine that truth as played out in the story of Batman. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. There have been no shortage of films through the years about Gotham City’s Dark Knight. You might even say there have been a lot of bats in the cinematic belfry but Warwick and I spend most of our time this week discussing Batman 1989, starring Michael Keaton, who you just heard in that clip. It’s a powerful story about how Bruce Wayne did not let the unimaginable trauma of seeing his parents murdered when he was a boy, keep him from a life of significance. He found purpose in his pain by training his body and his mind to strike fear into the hearts of those who would prey on the innocent. And if you think he does it as a lone vigilante, well, keep listening. You might just change your mind.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I don’t know when you got into Batman first or became aware of Batman first, Warwick. For me, it was as a kid. I would come home from school and that old sixties TV show starring Adam West, which is a bit campy but fun for kids, that was always on television, and I watched that with religious fervor when I was a kid. In fact, last week, when we were talking about Captain America, you made reference to kind of your own love of heroes and how that came to be. I was such a superhero geek. I have pictures of me with a birthday cake when I’m like six months old, a year old with Batman on the cake. That’s what a geek I was.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

My brother, who’s 14 years older than me, my brother, Dean, still makes fun of me because I used to call the little toys I had of Batman, I used to call them bendy men because they had like bendable things on them. So he still will ask me, because he sees things like this guy right here, who doesn’t bend, but he’ll see things that I have in my superhero memorabilia collection and ask if they’re bendy men. So that’s where my bonafides to be part of this series and my excitement comes from, but what was your first introduction to Batman that you can remember?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s the same as for you. I mean, in Australia, we had three commercial networks, channel nine, seven and 10, and so, they were all looking for content. So, a lot of our programming was the same as the US. So we absolutely, in the sixties, had the Batman TV series and growing up in the sixties and seventies, like you, I loved it, and we’ll talk about this. In a sense, I could identify with Bruce Wayne growing up in this wealthy background, and yeah, I wasn’t exactly Batman at night or during the day or whatever, and I didn’t go into the layer of the Riddler or the Joker, and as you remember, whenever Adam West went in there, they always turned the camera like at a diagonal. So you had to-

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Turn your head left to sort of follow it. Every time he hit somebody, it would get like bam, pow, and there’d be like little cartoon animation, but I mean, I guess it was campy, but growing up then, you didn’t think about that as a kid. You’ve got this good guy who is fighting evil and he’s heroic and has Robin beside him and Commissioner Gordon and the whole thing. So yeah, I loved that TV series and have been a fan of Batman and his heroic deeds ever since.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

One of the things that is a touch point for a lot of folks of a certain age and even today, because it’s on reruns on some cable networks, that is a common reference point, that TV show from the sixties, of a lot of folks when it comes to the Batman character. But that wasn’t the first filmed entertainment of the Batman character. In fact, the first filmed entertainment was on the big screen, was on the movie screen and that was in 1943, just four years after the character was created in 1939 in Detective Comics, now called DC comics. They did those, if you remember, Warwick, those film serials that they would run. They would run them before the feature, not that you saw them because they were in the forties, but the concept is familiar.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

They would run these cliff hanger things. The Indiana Jones movies were kind of based off that, the rhythms of those old serials where there’d be like a self-contained half an hour and then the hero would be in danger at the end and you’d have to come back next week to see if he survived. But there were two of those, one in 1943 on Batman and Robin, and then they did another one in 1949. So, that was the cinematic birth, if you will, of Batman. But if you’ve been paying attention to the culture, listener, you know that one nor the sixties TV show were the last iterations of Batman that have made an impact on culture. You might say there’s been a lot of bats in the cinematic belfry when it comes to Batman because in 1989, and that’s going to be the focus of what we talk about mostly here is the 1989 film Batman starring Michael Keaton, which was kind of the birth of modern day superhero movies.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yes, I was a big fan of Superman back in 1978, but that was a little bit more … They had a little bit of camp to it, but there was humor involved. Lex Luthor, the bad guy played by gene Hackman, was a little funny and there wasn’t a lot of explosions and stunts and those kind of things going on in that movie. But Batman 1989 really brought that home. A film starring Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton, had a real cinematic flare to it and that really kicked off the modern superhero craze that we now see all the time where the top, any given year at the box office, right, seven of the top 10 movies are going to be superhero films. That’s just the way it’s been for the last couple of decades.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So, Michael Keaton plays Batman in two movies, in 89. He comes back in Batman Returns, nicely titled. Then he leaves the role. Val Kilmer takes it over for Batman Forever. And then George Clooney takes it over in Batman and Robin and those movies, the one we’re going to talk about today mostly is Batman, the original. Those movies got a little bit more campy as they went on and Michael Keaton left the role. Then there was a little bit of a pause for a while. And then Batman came back with Christian Bale playing Batman and some of the most acclaimed films in the Batman canon were Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Returns, all starting Christian Bale. Heath Ledger played the joker in the middle of one of those, The Dark Knight, and after he passed away, he won an Oscar for his portrayal. Fantastic, a lot grittier, but still captured the beats of Batman.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That wasn’t the end. Then just a couple years ago in 2016 and 2017, Ben Affleck shows up as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then in Justice League. And just this spring, in 2022, just a few months back, another Batman film premiered, came out, new Batman, sort of a new take on it, a new iteration. And that was The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, who was best known and made a lot of Batman fans kind of go, what, when he was cast because he was in the Twilight movies, those teen drama movies about a vampire and a werewolf vying for the affections of a young girl. So, I’ve seen all of those movies and what we’ll talk about here, we’re going to spend a lot of our time, most of our time focused on the 1989 Batman with Michael Keaton, but there are beats that run throughout all these movies that we’re going to draw on.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So with that, Warwick, what, as we are about to jump in to talk about Batman, you’ve seen all these films or most of these films, you’re aware of what they’re going on, why do you think, just, I haven’t asked you this question before, why do you think Batman shows up so often and gets rebooted so many times? We’ve seen it a lot with Spiderman on the other side, on the Marvel cinematic universe, but in the DC cinematic universe, Batman’s shown up even more than Superman on the big screen.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, I think starting with the 1989 version of Batman, Batman isn’t really a cartoon superhero. There’s some depth. He’s a troubled soul in a way in these versions is a darkness, in a sense, but, and we’ll talk about this obviously a fair bit, there’s a redemptive quality of being able to face his inner demons. It’s not easy. He’s haunted by them in various iterations, but he uses his pain to really focus on others, to help the world, help Gotham City, help the people, and so there’s this sense of he’s troubled, but not defeated. He’s down, but not out. And maybe there’s something about there’s darkness, but yet, there’s a purpose. It’s just a character that people are haunted by, in a good sense. He’s not this everything’s fine and it’s all good. It’s he’s faced challenges, but yet, he fights them and despite his challenges, he, in a sense, overcomes them and lives a life of significance, focused on others. I think that’s probably some of the reasons perhaps the people really resonate.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And if Crucible Leadership and Beyond the Crucible had a superhero mascot, Batman would be a pretty good example, wouldn’t he? I mean, all of them, that’s why we’re doing this series because superheroes and other movie heroes have had crucibles in their films and they overcome them. But what you just described, Batman seems like he could be kind of an emblem for … And I would endorse that if we wanted to make Batman the emblem of Crucible Leadership.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, here’s another … I mean, obviously, I don’t have a secret identity or at least if I do, I’m not telling anybody, but no, I don’t have a secret identity, and obviously, I didn’t go through what Bruce Wayne did in terms of his parents, but as listeners would know, I too grew up in a very wealthy background, and I didn’t want to be defined by privilege. Didn’t want that to be who I was known by. I’d like to think I lead a life with Crucible Leadership focused on helping others. I too had a Butler.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So when you grow up in a wealthy family, sometimes you do. These days not always, frankly, but when I grew up, my dad, who was in his late fifties when I was born, he grew up before World War I, believe it or not. So, he grew up in that Victorian era, and so we had a butler and a chauffeur and a few others. So, my butler was an English butler, Joe Welton, Mr. Welton. He’d be offended if we called him, Joe, Mr. Welton. So I didn’t have an Alfred, but I had a Mr. Welton and yeah, he didn’t exactly get me ready for missions and all, but yeah, so in that sense, I can identify with that side of Bruce Wayne, certainly.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Well, and that’s something that we really have to focus on as we go through this discussion. This is, of course, not my voice. This is me speaking through the armored Batman helmet that Ben Affleck wore in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So, I had to throw this in before we go into a more serious discussion of what we’re going to talk about here.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Oh, that is great. That is so good. That is channeling your inner Batman. So yeah, maybe we can come up with a Batman mask with Crucible Leadership on top. We’ll see if we can do that without breaking copyright.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, for sure. Where we want to kind of start talking about here is the idea of what makes Batman Batman. And I think there are key things, as I said, there are key things in all these different movie versions that sort of run through them all, but one of the chief ways that Batman fights crime, one of the chief ways that he defeats, whether it’s organized crime or it’s super villains, is through leveraging his outward appearance, his embracing of the bat persona to really strike fear into the hearts of those who would prey on others.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So that was a short clip, Warwick, but it was a very effective one of Michael Keaton’s Batman really kind of debuting in the sense of, he appears to these villains who kind of have heard rumors that there’s this guy, there’s this creature stalking the alleyways of Gotham City at night. Then he makes his appearance and he’s not going to kill him. He’s not about that. We’ll talk about that too. He wants to strike fear into their hearts, and he wants to do that by having them go tell their friends all about him, so that their friends know it’s not a rumor. There is a Batman stalking the streets of Gotham and protecting its citizenry from that evil element. Very effective scene and not just in terms of the film, but in setting up who Batman is, isn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely, Gary. I mean, Batman is somebody that strikes, as you say, fear in the heart of evil doers, because they never know where he is going to be lurking, what building he’s going to be looking down on them. At any moment, he could swoop down with his sort of … In his bat cape and intimidate them and yeah, just strike fear into their hearts. So, next time they rob somebody or worse, they’re going to be thinking, well, where’s Batman, he’s everywhere. And am I safe? Maybe I shouldn’t do that bad thing. So in this sense, striking fear into his enemies is a good thing, because it might make them think twice before doing something evil. So it’s very effective. Just his sheer persona and presence is effective.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. And the reason that we’re talking about Batman here on a show called Beyond the Crucible, about how you move beyond your crucibles, is because Batman and all the heroes that we’re going to be talking about in this series, from their crucible grows their life of significance, grows their heroism in some way, be that super heroism or sports heroism, or general kind of action heroism. It’s from crucibles that that’s birthed. And the crucible in the life of Batman begins when he’s young Bruce Wayne, he’s a boy and it’s depicted very effectively in the movie that we’re talking about here, Batman in 1989, but it’s depicted in every movie in one way or another. And that is, his parents are walking him home after a night at the theater and a bad guy, a robber, shows up on the scene, pulls a gun and kills Batman’s parents, who are rich, who have … Batman’s dad, very well known patron of the arts and businessman in Gotham City.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Bad guy comes in, in this movie, 1989’s Batman with Michael Keaton, it’s a guy named Jack Napier who shoots Bruce Wayne’s parents, and he’s orphaned at a young age. They don’t say exactly how old he is, but he’s probably … He looks like he’s about eight, nine years old. His parents are murdered right before him. When it comes to crucibles that superheroes go through, I can’t think of one that’s probably as emotionally devastating as that. That would be a … That’s a tough one to get over. And all the Batman movies do a good job of showing the struggles that Bruce Wayne has as he moves on.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when you’re a young boy and we don’t know his exact age, but he looks like his younger than 10, so I don’t know if it’s 7, 8, 9, he’s a young kid, to see your parents murdered in front of you by this evil villain, that is going to give you nightmares. That’s going to traumatize you. Frankly, that’s going to screw you up. I mean, it’s hard not to be screwed up by something so horrific at a young age. And so, the test he’s going to face throughout his life is, am I going to be defined by this crucible? Am I going to let it defeat me and destroy me? Yes, it’s probably going to haunt me for the rest of my life in a sense, but am I going to try and channel this pain that I feel for something good, something that’s beneficial?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so, it’s a horrendous experience. It traumatizes him. It clearly damages him. And really, the arc of the Batman movies is what does he do with his damage and trauma? Does he let it define him or does he channel it in a way that’s more beneficial?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. In one of the movie series that we’ve talked about, the Christian Bale version of Batman, adds another beat on top of his parents being killed. And that is why he embraced a bat as his symbol. In Batman Begins, the first Christian Bale movie, before his parents are killed, Bruce falls through a well on the family property, and he ends up in this bat cave well under the ground. And he’s very afraid because bats are milling about, he’s very young and he’s frightened of bats. And what ends up happening after his parents are killed is he’s trying to find a way to avenge their deaths and to keep Gotham City safe. He adopts … He learns to overcome his fear of bats.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And he says this, Christian Bale’s Batman says this about why he chose the bat as his identity. He said, “People need dramatic symbols to shake them out of their apathy. And I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a symbol, I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” So that is a little bit of a shading on why he picks bats that both allows him to shake up the populace to have something to believe in, while at the same time doing what we talked about earlier, striking fear into the hearts of the underworld in Gotham City and the villains of Gotham City, because let’s face it, nobody really likes bats. They’re scary, but he learns to master that fear. Again, one of the principles of bouncing back from your crucible is mastering fear. He uses that to master his fear. He then leverages the symbol of the bat to strike fear into the hearts of villains.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And really, I mean, the way that this is a perfect crucible leadership story is that out of his crucible of losing his parents, Bruce Wayne commits himself to protecting others from having to go through similar crucibles. We talk all the time about a life of significance. Bruce Wayne lives a double life of significance in the sense that he has a secret identity. Bruce Wayne is his secret identity. And as Batman, his life of significance is striking fear into the hearts of those who want to strike fear into other people. He becomes the thing that can challenge those forces that murdered his parents.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That is, again, when you talk about a life of significance, when you talk about learning the lessons of your crucible, not staying in your crucible, but moving beyond it to live a life of significance to serve others, this is, while nobody we’ve had on the show, as far as I know, is a superhero with a secret identity, a lot of the emotional beats of what they’ve gone through, our guests have gone through, what you’ve gone through, what I’ve gone through, similar to what Bruce Wayne goes through in his arc to becoming Batman. In all seriousness, true?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely. You go through pain and suffering and in this iteration, Bruce Wayne embraces the trauma that he’s gone through, the fear of bats and he uses that fear in channeling it in a good sense. That double life, sort of that second persona, allows him to be this figure that he probably couldn’t have been with Bruce Wayne. It’s just as I’m reflecting, I think of another sixties TV show, Zorro, in which you had Diego de la Vega, who was this sort of aristocratic noble in the then Spanish held California in, I don’t know, 1830s or whatever it was, 1820s, and by day, he’s this dilatant playboy guy, but at night, he’s the Fox, Zorro, saving the people. The sort of, even for me being an English history fan, there was an early iteration, The Scarlet Pimpernel, in which there’s been a lot of movies made on that in which you had an English noble dressed up as all sorts of disguises in the French Revolution to come over from England to France, to help rescue poor aristocratic … Well, poor in spirit aristocratic French Nobles that are going to be killed.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Now, obviously, how good were they? I don’t know, but in the English telling of it, they’re poor, persecuted aristocrats that need to be saved. So this sense of double life, there’s a long history in that. Zorro is obviously very familiar with folks. So, there’s something about that that enables Batman to do what he couldn’t do as Bruce Wayne. Maybe he’s a Playboy and a bit of philanthropist, but if Bruce Wayne went around saying, I’m here to help you. It’s like, I’m sorry, Bruce who? You? It just kind of wouldn’t fly. He needed a persona to, in a sense, fully be the person he needed to be to help people, to save people.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. And the other thing that I hadn’t really thought in depth about until I watched Batman ’89 with Michael Keaton to prep for this show is there’s another aspect to Bruce Wayne/Batman’s life of significance. And that’s this, he’s … As we said, his dad was an industrialist, had a lot of money. He lives in this big mansion where he, in the movie, Batman ’89, he says at one point, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in this room,” right? He has all these rooms in the house he doesn’t know anything about. He’s sort of disconnected from some of that part of his life, but that’s part of his commitment to serving others, right? As we say, a life of significance, a life lived on purpose dedicated to serving others. He’s got all this money, depending on what time you’re plugging into. In the sixties, he was a millionaire. Now, he’s a billionaire, but he does not use that money for his own advancement.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He uses that money to build Batmobiles, to build the Batwing, the Batplane, Batboat, his Batarangs and his grappling guns. He uses the money to build crime fighting tools. There’s a funny throwaway scene in the movie, Justice League, that goes back to Ben Affleck’s Batman in 2017, and The Flash, who’s one of the other heroes on the Justice League, asks Bruce Wayne, who’s not in costume, he’s just Bruce Wayne at the time, he says, “What’s your superpower again?” And Bruce Wayne says, very, very humorously, but very, very poignantly, I think, too, he says, “I’m rich.” His superpower is that he’s rich. And that’s part of what his superpower is because of the way he uses that wealth, to build up crime fighting tools that again, scare, put fear into the hearts of those who would put fear into the hearts of the populace, but also to help him win the battles that he wins against, we’ll see in a minute here, he wins against people who are much more super-powered than he is.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I mean, that’s very true. I mean, obviously, growing up in a wealthy family, I relate to this, but he doesn’t want to be defined by his money. He doesn’t want to think, oh, just because I have money, I’m better than other people. He more sees the money he has as a way of helping other people. But certainly, in the ’89 movie and probably others, he doesn’t feel completely comfortable when Vicki Vale, who’s his love interest in the ’89 movie, asks him, is this really you? This whole Wayne Manor? He says, well, yeah, in a sense. But in a sense, it’s not. They have dinner at this big long table where you’ve got to yell to hear the person at the other end of the table, which in reality, people really don’t eat like that, even wealthy folks, but it makes for a humorous movie, and she says, are you comfortable like this? He says, actually no. So, they go eat with Alfred in the kitchen at just a smaller table.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So, in one sense, he’s not really that comfortable with this whole money image persona, but he uses what he has to help others. He does not let the wealth define him. He uses money in a way that helps to help define what he believes he wants to put his life to, which is helping people and saving people.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. I mean, he absolutely leverages that to further his life of significance. It’s a piece that allows him to get there. One of the most fascinating things I’ve always found about Batman is that he’s unique among superheroes in that he has no superpowers, right? Gamma radiation did not make him strong like it did the Hulk. A radioactive spider did not bite him and give him the power to climb up walls with just his fingertips. He’s not an alien from another planet who can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes like Superman. He is, in many ways, an average everyday man, aside from the money. He has to work for, he has to cultivate his advantages over the villains he encounters. And as we think about this in the context of crucible leadership, you say it all the time, Warwick, you have to learn the lessons from your crucible and apply them.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

You have to grow, you have to move forward, take one small step, right? Batman didn’t just go from his parents being killed to running in and fighting bad guys. In Batman Begins with Christian Bale, he gets trained in martial arts. He learns. He has to train his body and then train his mind to become a good detective, his body to become a good fighter, his mind to become a good detective. He has to create himself in a sense. And in that way, I think he’s one of the most identifiable superheroes for us because none of us are going to be Superman, but any of us could be Batman. Seems fair, doesn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s such a good point, Gary. I mean, even Captain America that was a regular guy, but he received serum and grows a few inches and a lot of muscles and pounds, but in a sense, Batman is a self-made man. He makes him physically, you see in various iterations him working out and just honing his body, but just mentally, in terms of his character, he hones those aspects so that he’s committed to fighting for people and saving people. And he uses technology in a way that will do it. So, it’s all part of the plan: body, mind, spirit, character.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so in that sense, you’re right to a degree. I mean, absent of money, not everybody has millions of dollars, so that’s a bit different, but other than that, anybody can become fitter, physically fitter and certainly more mentally, spiritually agile, strength of character. I mean, really, so often the superpowers that we see in some of these characters, certainly Captain America, his superpower wasn’t such his strength, it was his character, and I think that’s true of Batman is that strength of character, the ability to turn dire circumstances into something that helps people, that’s really a sense of strength of character that I think we can all aspire to and have the opportunity to emulate.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, he’s a hero because of the choices he makes. He chooses to overcome, to work through. Even though he is, as is made clear in Batman 1989 with the Joker played by Jack Nicholson, that they have a lot of similar things in their personalities. Both of them have been met with dark forces. Batman chooses to follow light, not darkness though. He’s damaged, as you pointed out in a lot of these movies and certainly in this one. He has suffered damage, but he doesn’t live there. He doesn’t allow himself to wallow there, right? We talk about that all the time. We talk about crucibles, not so that we can commiserate, but so that we can elevate.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He is a character who elevates whereas the Joker is a character who denigrates, who devolves, and he embraces the darkness that he comes in contact with. Batman doesn’t do that. He makes the choice not to do that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think that’s worth just for listeners to pause and consider what Gary’s just been talking about. Because at its extreme, we all have a choice. And this is making a point by stating the extreme. We have a choice. Do we want to be Batman or the Joker? That might seem like, oh, well, what are you talking about? Well, there is this phrase, hurt people hurt people, and so left to its own devices, if you’ve been damaged, I mean, some people have faced physical crucibles, abuse, lost loved ones at an early age, lost businesses. There’re all sorts of traumas that people go through.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

One path is to be bitter and angry, at yourself, at others, and just be filled with so much anger that, you know what, I’ve been hurt so much. The world is corrupt. It’s evil and you know what? I’m not going to play. I’m not going to be a pawn anymore. I’m going to go out there and just look out for number one and hey, I was hurt, so I’m going to hurt others. Who cares? What’s the point of it all? There’s no hope. There’s no God. There’s no good. Let’s just do whatever it takes to win. If that means hurting people, hey, I was hurt. That’s just life. Let’s go.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s almost a Joker kind of mentality. We don’t know his full backstory in terms of why he grew up the way he did, but probably had his own traumas, but he’s so hurt and damaged, he just wants to kill and hurt as many people as possible. So he chose the path of darkness. Again, you look at like the force in Star Wars and Darth Vader, you can choose the dark side or you can choose the light in the case of Star Wars, the force. So, Batman also was pretty screwed up with what he saw with his parents being killed. He could have gone down that Joker route and used his money to hurt people. That was an option, but he chose a redemptive act, to use his pain to help people.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So at its extreme, we have a choice. And really, when you go through pain, it tends to be a binary choice. You either use your pain for a purpose to help others, or your pain will tend to devour you and destroy you. And frankly, if you are destroyed and full of pain, there’s a very good chance whether you want to or not, you will start hurting other people. You may not want to, but as I said, why is it so true that people who were abused as kids typically abuse their kids? That’s the norm. I can’t fathom how that could be possible, but psychologists will tell you that’s the norm or very common. So don’t fool yourself into thinking, oh, I could never be the Joker. Well, at its extreme, if you don’t learn the lessons of your crucible and use your pain to help others, there’s another choice, the dark side, that will tend to consume you and probably others. So, it’s more real than I think we realize.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’m going to jump ahead in our notes a little bit, just because what you just said is a great place to make this point. And that is Batman, especially in this 1989 movie, is not a vigilante. In more recent iterations of the character, there is a vigilantism about him, and people think of him in those terms. But in this movie, key scene when the Joker becomes the Joker. He is Jack Napier, just kind of a mob enforcer. He’s in this chemical plant. He’s been sold out by his boss because he’s sleeping with his boss’ girlfriend. Batman shows up and he’s fighting with Jack Napier, and they’re over a vat of chemicals. Batman’s got him by the wrist as he’s hanging over the vat of chemicals. And he falls into the vat of chemicals, Jack Napier does, and he becomes the Joker.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I watched the movie again, and I was like, did he drop him on purpose or did it slip? And I actually went to the script, the actual final script of the movie, to get my answer because that’s important. If he drops him, he’s made a darker choice. He’s more like the Joker than he probably wants to be, but he doesn’t drop him on purpose. According to the script, it describes the action as this: Batman reaches, gets a poor grip. He stares, perplexed, at the stricken expression in Jack Napier’s eyes. Jack’s sliding out of Batman’s grip. Jack looks up at him in terror and slips away.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

They did a novelization of that movie, of this movie, Batman, in 1989, and it says that’s based on the fourth draft of the script. And this is what it says in that novelization: Jack lost the pipe, but the Batman held him. His grip wasn’t firm. Jack could feel the Bat’s cloth covered fingers slipping away. That’s important to point out on the heels of what you said about he had to make a choice, and he has to make a choice pretty much every day, like all of us do when it comes to coming back from a crucible. It’s not a one and done, as you’ve said, scores of times. Batman has to make a choice every day. Is he going to be for light or is he going to be for darkness? Because every day finds him in a position where he has the capabilities because of the way he’s trained his body and because of the weapons that his money allows him to buy, he has the ability to end life like that. But that’s not the way he operates in the most, for me, resonant iterations of the character.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. It’s such a good point, Gary. I mean, basically, the point is you don’t fight evil by becoming evil. And Batman makes that choice. It’s like, look, I don’t know that he realizes at that point who the Joker is, Jack Napier, in the sense of, well, who Jack Napier was before in the sense of the one who killed his parents. But the point is, he knew he was a bad guy, a mobster. He could have said like, one less mobster, let the guy die.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But yet, he didn’t. He was never about killing even bad guys. He was about protecting and saving people. His focus was on saving lives, saving humans, not so much on killing bad guys. In fact, Batman doesn’t have guns. He has grappling hooks. He has tools. He doesn’t run around killing people. I mean, that’s sort of an interesting superhero, but yeah, he’s all about protecting people. He’s all about trying to live his values. He is not going to become the Joker in order to defeat the Joker. That’s a choice he makes time and time again.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. And in fact, in the movie, Batman v Superman, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as Superman, the reason that they’re versus each other is that Batman is so upset that in an earlier battle, Superman, in fighting a villain, Zod, they just destroyed huge parts of Metropolis in their fight, and Batman was angry with Superman because he saw this unchecked power, not caring about the safety of the populace. He didn’t value life from Batman’s perspective. And that’s why they’re at odds with each other in that movie. Another beat, Warwick, that’s interesting about Batman is that he didn’t just train his body. Yeah, he’s good with his feet and his fists, but he’s also good with his mind.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Key scene in the 1989 Batman movie is the Joker has, because he had a chemistry background, he was good at chemistry in high school his file indicates and he has rigged up these colognes and makeup and hairspray to when you use them all together, it’s poison and it kills people and it leaves them with big smiles on their faces like he is left with, this immovable rictus on his face because he fell into the vat of chemicals. He creates this and Batman doesn’t defeat it through might, at least not might of his body. He defeats it through the might of his mind. He has, in addition to training his body, he’s trained his mind to become a true detective.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that’s one of the things that makes Batman stand out is that in this movie is a great example of it, he finds a way to examine the chemicals that are at play, what’s killed these people, and he brings a detective’s moxie and insight into letting the people of Gotham know, don’t use this in concert with this and this product in concert with that, and he saves the day, not through his power of his fists, of his feet, of his fancy weapons, but through the power of his mind that he’s developed. Again, one of those things that the character of Batman constantly getting better, constantly training both mind and body to meet the challenges, to keep peace in Gotham City.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. He uses his mind and analytical ability to figure out, okay, you can’t use hairspray with shampoo or lipstick or whatever the combination of cosmetics are. And I think the wider point is often our greatest superpower is our mind, is how we think about things. Are we going to look at what happened to us as a life determining defeat? Are we going to look at it as something that provides an opportunity to help people channel what we’ve been through in a positive sense? So really, guarding our mind and how we think, making sure that it’s focused on positive items of gratitude rather than negative items of retribution, grievance and anger, guiding our minds, our hearts, how we think is often the battle for our lives and which way it turns out is typically a battle within. It’s our mind, our heart, our character, but it really starts with how we think, how we think determines the course of our lives.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Batman was constantly using his mind, his thoughts, in a positive way, channeled in a positive direction. The Joker, he used his intellect to “how can I think of creative ways to kill people and terrorize them?”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

As we see in the end of the movie with these big balloons full of poisonous gas. I mean, yeah, he had some creativity and intelligence, the Joker did, but he used it to kill people.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So how we use our mind and how we train it is critical.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That’s a great pivot point for us to talk about something else that is in the story of Batman that’s critical to what we talk about here at Beyond the Crucible, and that is Batman can be easily painted as a loner, right? He takes on crucibles and crime all by himself. He lost his parents as a boy, but in very real ways, he was not orphaned. And all the movies do a pretty good job of showing this because it’s through the butler that you talked about earlier, Alfred the butler, that Batman has not just a compatriot who’s behind him, who knows his identity and assists him, and in some of the more recent movies, Alfred’s a bit of like an ex-British commando who’s got a lot of military insights and ability. In this movie, Batman ’89, and certainly in the TV show, he was just a kindly butler who offered love and encouragement to Bruce Wayne, who becomes a surrogate father to him when his parents are murdered.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

There’s a scene in Batman ’89 when Vicki Vale, who you mentioned was Batman’s love interest, Bruce Wayne’s love interest, comes over for dinner and they’re sitting around, Bruce Wayne, Alfred and Vicki Vale, and they’re talking and Alfred leaves to go do something for Bruce or to go to bed, and Vicki just looks at Bruce and says, “he really loves you a lot”. And that is a spotlight on a truth, isn’t it, Warwick, about crucible leadership that don’t go it alone, surround yourself with those who believe in you, who can help pick you up when tough times come and show you the way forward. That’s who Alfred is for Bruce Wayne/Batman, isn’t he?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely. I mean, being orphaned like that, it can really screw you up, I’m sure. But Alfred does become this father figure, this figure that yes, he serves him in a sense, but he loves Bruce Wayne and wants to protect him. He always has his best interest at heart. He encourages Bruce to tell Vicki Vale who he is, to take the risk, and as we see in the movie, eventually he can’t quite get it done. He gets interrupted at different times, once by the Joker, but eventually, Alfred brings Vicki Vale into the Batcave. I don’t think he asks Bruce Wayne. He just does it.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

No.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it’s like, you know what? I’m going to take matters into my own hands here. Vicki Vale is a nice woman, nice girl and there’s something there. And so, Alfred always has Bruce Wayne/Batman’s best interest at heart, and by the end of the movie, not only does Bruce Wayne have Alfred, he has Vicki Vale that knows who he is and believes in him. Having people that know us warts and all, in this case, he, Bruce, has two people that know everything about him, things that many people don’t, but that know who you are, know in this sense that he’s a tortured soul, Bruce Wayne, but yet love him and believe in him anyway, having unconditional love from friends and family is absolutely critical to us being able to get beyond our crucible, and in fact, being able to turn it into a positive life to help others. So, it begs the question, could Bruce Wayne have become Batman without Alfred? I think not, it’s hard to really conceive of that happening. So, it’s critical to have people that believe in you in your life.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. I mean, that is a … And again, that’s a story that we hear all the time on the show, people who have, and you talk about it in your book, have a team of fellow travelers, have some people who understand who you are, ask people what your gifts and talents are, so that you can get an idea of what that next act is going to look like as you move beyond your crucible. It’s critical. And so often, Batman’s sort of pegged as this lone figure, but even in the current movies, Batman’s the one in Justice League who convenes the team. Batman sees that he can’t do it all by himself if he’s going to stamp out the evil that’s going on. He needs other people with different gifts and talents than he has to take the battle to the bad guy. And that’s not loner behavior on his part at all.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

He’s the guy, he’s the agent who’s bringing all of those folks together. You mentioned this idea of people who know you, people who can identify with you, and I’m going to jump ahead just a little bit again, I mentioned earlier that my love of Batman began when I was a kid, and it was from the TV show. And one of the things I loved about that TV show was the campy, sort of silly flirtations that Batman had with Catwoman, played by Julie Newmar. The relationship that they had was cute and it was playful and it was fun, even for me as a kid who still thought girls had germs when I was like eight or nine or however old I was, but in The Dark Knight Rises, which is the third of the Christian Bale movies, that movie ends in a place that figures Alfred into the equation, as well as this idea of being known by someone.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Batman and Catwoman know each other because they are also similar in some ways, some bad times in life, some broken … Catwoman is a villain, but she’s kind of got a good heart most of the time, and she’s more of an anti-hero kind of villain in some ways, and there’s attraction between them, but they know each other because they’re both similar in the sense that they have secret identities. They have these things that they do to kind of beat back the demons that they had growing up. And there’s a really sweet scene at the end of The Dark Knight Rises that made my little boy’s heart leap with joy because Bruce Wayne/Batman disappears as that movie ends. Alfred, who’s played in the Christian Bale movies by Michael Kane, an excellent actor, he goes to this cafe, I think it’s in Paris. He looks at a table out in front, and there’s Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle/Catwoman having a laugh and having a meal. And they put the camera on Alfred, and he smiles because he sees here’s his surrogate son, here’s the boy he raised happy.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Talk about a life of significance. He’s given, he’s given, he’s given, he’s given. He’s always been about what he could give, not what he could receive, and he has received, now, love because he’s let someone in who understands him, knows who he is, both in the literal sense as he’s Batman and Bruce Wayne, but also knows who he is in his heart. And that is that life of significance that pleases the people around us when they see us happy.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Alfred’s smile says everything about how much he loves Bruce Wayne and how much that story arc has sort of ended in a place where he’s left … He can leave what we talk about all the time, a grand legacy. Who knows what happens to them after that, Batman and Catwoman, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle? Do they get married? Do they have kids? Do they go on to continue to make the world a better place? It’s a beautiful ending, but it speaks to that idea of those who know you, those who love you will come alongside you, and that becomes part of your life of significance to pair up with them if that is the way that it’s been laid out for you.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. It’s such a good point, Gary. In the 1989 Batman movie with Bruce Wayne, getting together with Vicki Vale, and then in the Christian Bale version of the Batman trilogy, getting linked up with Selina Kyle as Catwoman, one of the challenges when you’ve been broken and damaged as Bruce Wayne/Batman was, is feeling that you are worthy of loving. Sometimes we can feel that we’re so broken that almost like we feel that we’re like a leper in biblical times, unclean, stay away. Anybody that gets near me will be damaged. I’m not worth it. I’m not worth loving. And so part of healing and getting beyond your crucible is being able to receive love, because it can be this notion, if you really knew me, if you really knew what I’ve done, who I am, you would hate me. You would run. You couldn’t love me.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Sadly, there’s many people out there that think that, but in both iterations, whether it’s Batman, whether it’s the Michael Keaton or the Christian Bale version, not easily, but he lets people in. Alfred, but then, a love interest, be it Vicki Vale, or in this case, Selina Kyle as Catwoman. So, I think for all of us, we’ve got to believe that we are worth loving. Yes, we have faults and flaws, but there are going to be people out there that will accept us and love us because of who we are, and frankly, as we’re able to move beyond our crucibles and help others, that, in a sense, helps. You’re not very attractive if you’re just a narcissist that’s griping and complaining and wants to damage people. Forgetting ethics and morality, that’s not attractive.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Somebody that knows who they are and are just trying to use their pain to help others, people are more going to want to be with somebody like that. And so it’s no wonder that Vicky Vale and Selina Kyle as Catwoman see the good in Bruce Wayne and Batman and want to be with him. That’s an important lesson. We are worth loving and we want to be the kind of person in terms of what we do with our lives that people will want to love, if you will. It’s about that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah, yeah. That’s an excellent point. And oh, I see the Bat-Signal up in the sky, which indicates it’s almost time for us to have to run out and save Gotham City. But before we do, let’s make one last point, I think, which is a good place to kind of land the plane as I normally say, when I’m not talking about superheroes, when it’s about time to end the show and that’s this idea that there’s a key part in Batman, the 1989 version, and key to Batman in that movie is that he just doesn’t give up, right? He just does not give up, even though it’s hard. When Vicki Vale asks him late in the movie, why he keeps putting his life on the line for a city that doesn’t always deserve it and rarely appreciates it in some cases, he says, very simply, it’s what I have to do because nobody else can.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

This is a man, Batman is an example we can follow of accepting responsibility for the calling we’ve been given, moving in that calling that we’ve been given and doing it even when it’s hard, right? Warwick, you talk all the time about when crucibles happen, you can lie in bed and pull your head under the covers and just hope it goes away or you can get up and you can take one small step forward. Batman truly is a good example, a great example, as hard as it is, of continuing to put one foot in front of the other and taking small steps, because it’s what I have to do. Nobody else can.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Think about that, listener, in your own crucible experiences when you’re looking at your calling. You are uniquely called to your calling. Nobody else can do it the way that you do it. Your calling is your calling for a reason. So, this idea that it’s what I have to do, nobody else can do it, add onto the sentence, the way that I can do it, is true for Batman and it’s true in a very, very real non-goofy superhero sense for all of us when it comes to our calling. No one’s going to do that. If we feel called to something, no one’s going to be able to do that exactly like we are. And that’s why we have to find the fortitude to keep moving forward, isn’t it?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, that’s such a good point. Calling is a great word. What is our calling? It will often come out of the pain, the suffering, even the darkness that we face, but that sense of calling, which we define as a life of significance, a life on purpose, dedicated to serving others, when you truly believe, I mean, Bruce Wayne feels like there’s nobody else that can do what I can do. He’s there to help people, save people. When you feel like I have the unique ability in my own area, neighborhood, in my own way to help people, that sense of calling tends to enhance your sense of perseverance. This is not about me. I need to keep going. There are people depending on me. It could be my family. It could be friends, people at work, people that we want to help with, organizations we volunteer with, the sense of it’s more than just me, it’s not about me, it helps you give a sense of perseverance to prevail.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I know we’re sort of summing up here. There’s sort of maybe one other point I’d like maybe to leave listeners with is that, we’ve talked a lot in this episode about choice. Do you hide under the covers? Do you let the trauma that you went through or the mistakes you made define you, or are you going to seek to overcome them and using your pain for purpose to help others? And at its extreme, in which movies often give us the extreme version to help bring clarity, in Batman in the 1989 version and others, there is a choice. Do you want to be a redemptive figure like Batman that uses his pain to help others? Or do you want to be a narcissist devoted to inflicting pain on others like the Joker?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it sounds awfully extreme, redemption versus narcissism, or let’s say redemption versus pain, hurt people, hurt others. If you’re not set on a path of redemption to helping others, I don’t see how you’ll … It’ll be very difficult to avoid being on a path in which not only do you hurt yourself, but you’ll hurt others. Redemption versus a path of self destruction to yourself and to others. It sounds awfully extreme, but I think there’s some truth in that analogy. And so, it just sounds awfully comic book-like to say who would you rather be, Batman or the Joker, but it’s more true than we would think, that binary choice. It’s clearly an extreme version in this movie, but there is some truth behind that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And that, listener, is a perfect place for us to land the Batplane, to land the Batwing. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this discussion of Batman as it pertains to crucible leadership and moving beyond your crucible. I said it before, I say it all the time on the show that the experiences that we’ve been through, that you and I and Warwick have been through, not the same as what Bruce Wayne/Batman has been through, but the emotional feelings and the emotional needs moving forward are indeed the same.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So, we hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Lights, Camera, Crucibles. And next week, if you want to do your homework, I don’t want to call it homework because then you won’t want to do it, if you want to do the preparation work, next week, Warwick and I are going to unpack one of our favorite films and that’s The Natural, in which Robert Redford plays arguably the greatest baseball player of all time. It’s a wonderful kind of allegorical mythical story of what being great really is. Spoiler alert, it’s not all about what’s on the field.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Until that next time that we’re together, do remember this, listener, that we understand your crucibles are difficult. We understand they’re tough. We understand that they can lead you to feel that you’re in a dark place, but they are not the end of your story. If you learn the lesson of your crucible and you move beyond it by applying that lesson to the next step you take, and the next step you take, and the next step you take as you pursue your life of significance, your story’s not over at all. It’s just getting started because where it leads to, as I said, is the best destination you can ever imagine, and that is a life of significance.