(spoilers for The Batman ahead)
I’m back from seeing The Batman and it’s a very good movie, absolutely deserving of all the hype. Excellent deconstruction of Bats and his supporting cast. But there’s one character I want to single out specifically…
As the founder of the Dead Fictional Mothers Club (it contains one member, me) I’ve always been quite interested in how Martha Wayne is used in Batman stories. I recollect the Nolan movies barely acknowledged her as anything other than an afterthought, and I admit it, I have quite a lot of goodwill towards Batman vs Superman and that scene simply because it didn’t do the same thing.
Now we have The Batman and Martha gets a new backstory, or I gather a mostly new one anyway: after witnessing a horrible tragedy as a child she suffered serious mental health issues and was sent to an institution. This information was used by a journalist to blackmail Thomas Wayne and it led to not only his and Martha’s deaths but also the various increasingly horrific things we see taking place throughout the movie. And I walked out of the theater thinking, “WAIT A MINUTE. Could a lot of this have potentially been prevented if a woman’s mental illness hadn’t been treated like a shameful thing?!”
Unfortunately the movie doesn’t go much into this, which is fair in many ways, it’s got a lot going on. But I do think – and bear in mind I’m not thrilled about the portrayal of the Riddler here either – that the Batman franchise in general has A LOT of heavy lifting to do when it comes to mental health stigma. So I really wish they’d taken the opportunity to delve into Martha’s backstory here. Hell, her thoughts, even. There’s lots of talk right now about potential Batman spinoffs, well, I want a Martha Wayne one.
By the way, that picture up there is seen for a couple of seconds in the film, but is also found on the secret tie-in website built for the movie. You can find it here! But I wonder what that image is meant to invoke when the audience sees it. Fear? Revulsion? I hope not.