Adult Fiction · Comics · Fantasy · TV & Movies

Batman, The Hobbit, and Modern Mythmaking (spoiler-free)

My friend Rose posted the other day about why LeVar Burton is awesome, and that reminded me I’d been meaning to write this post.

I’m sure this is weird coming from me, since I often don’t like adaptations and usually am not excited about them, but reimaginings, adaptations, remakes, sequels, and reiterations are how new myths are created. That’s how myths matter. They create meanings that speak in many ways to multiple people over time. They can be told again and again, so you can learn new things from the same story. It’s okay for it to mean different things to different people, that gives us examples in common to talk about important things.

Let’s talk about Batman for a minute. If anything is a modern myth, it’s Batman. We all know the general idea — he’s a man dressed as a bat, who beats up criminals in Gotham City with the help of Comissioner Gordon, Robin, and the faithful butler Alfred. He does all this because his parents were murdered in front of him when he was a child. We know about his battle with the Joker — at this point an ongoing legend with multiple iterations. We recognize references to the batmobile and the batsymbol, however it looks.

70_years_of_bats_by_thedolittle-d32wfse“70 Years of Bats” by TheDoLittle on DeviantArt

There are a lot of Batman movies, comics, TV shows, novels, toys, games, and who-knows-what, but they’re all Batman. Some of them may represent him better or more accurately, depending on how you see him, and any piece of media will have pros and cons, but at this point, none of these different versions are the “real” Batman. Some of them are “more” real, they relate to an ongoing storyline or to other characters from the DC Comics universe, while some of them are one-shot stories that allow us to explore possibilities. (One example is All Star Batman & Robin, which is famous and/or mocked for many reasons, but I find its portrayal of a sexual Batman to be an interesting contrast to normal/”real” Batman. It basically highlights the fact that Batman, for all his efforts to appear as a “billionaire playboy,” doesn’t care about sex. But maybe that’s a post of its own.)

Wrangling all the versions can be confusing and frustrating, especially when there are versions you don’t like, and I think there are still times when the character is written badly or acts “out of character.” However, having multiple versions is almost vital to our understanding of the character at this point, and in any comic or movie, there’s the potential for a revelation that, “Yes, this is Batman. This is something true about Batman that I never realized before.” That’s the kind of realization I had during The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

It’s the scene after the escape from the goblins and Gollum. The dwarves can’t find Bilbo, and Thorin says, “I’ll tell you what happened. Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it! He’s thought of nothing but his soft bed and his warm hearth since first he stepped out of his door! We will not be seeing our Hobbit again. He is long gone.” Bilbo actually had decided to leave earlier, and Thorin knew it, but Bilbo reappears. Thorin demands to know why he came back, and Bilbo says, “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back, because you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back, if I can.”

I’d never realized it before, but that’s something true about Bilbo and his relationship with the dwarves and the whole story, and it makes me love him. He loves his home, and he can realize that other people might love theirs too. He can see something of himself in others and take a stand for that, even though he’s not a warrior or a fighter. I think that would be a beautiful dynamic anywhere, not just in this one movie, but I never thought about it like that. Another thing I really liked was how Thorin is so royal, so princely. He’s going to get his frickin’ kingdom back, not taking a walk on a nice afternoon. I’d forgotten he was a prince, can you believe that? This movie reminded me.

I didn’t mention anything from Desolation of Smaug, because I haven’t seen it yet! Obviously it’s very popular, but many of my friends don’t like the kinds of changes that were made for this movie series, so I just wanted to get this post out of my system before I see it. I’m looking forward to seeing it and hope the good stuff will continue. I really feel that The Hobbit was a huge classic already, but reimaginings like this are necessary for it to be elevated to the status of “myth.”

Have you ever noticed something in an adaptation that you hadn’t realized before? What was it, and why was it important?

Hobbit quotes came from this fan transcript:

22 thoughts on “Batman, The Hobbit, and Modern Mythmaking (spoiler-free)

  1. Hi again 🙂 I’ve been busy and haven’t had a chance to stop by lately. Just thought you might like to know we’re debuting a weekly comic post tomorrow. The first few installments are about Batman, and the one tomorrow talks specifically about Batman as a modern myth. I thought you might be genuinely interested, given the content of this post and all. Here’s the teaser, the post will hit between 10 and 11 a.m. Central Time tomorrow.

    I hope you had a fabulous New Year. See ya’ around.


  2. I think that considering the fictional universes you mention as myths makes a lot of sense. Given how books/movies/TV shows/comics/video games (i.e. media franchises/universes) have a crucial place in the contemporary landscape (which goes back to a good few decades by now), it is normal that they become “our” myths.

    One reason why I don’t mind stories that have “classical” narratives, as long as it has well fleshed characters, great dynamics, and are overall well executed, is that every story has already been told centuries ago. When you read the old myths, you can only see that we’ve kept telling the same stories, just we tell them under different guises.

    I like the ability to discover new things in those fictional universes as you read or watch more/again. I know it’s happened to me on many occasions even though my brain draws a blank for examples right now.

    I also remarked that many of those universes that have a myth dimension are Fantasy/Science Fiction/Superhero in terms of genre. It does make sense though because of how ancient myths (and also fairy/folk tales, legends) had this supernatural and epic, bigger than life one themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gilgamesh is basically my favorite story ever, and it’s what, the oldest known narrative in the world? I made a whole speech once at school about how it’s just like a superhero novel or a high fantasy novel. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It definitely is one of the oldest stories! Did you ever read the Masks of God book series by Joseph Campbell. The four volumes are Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, and Creative Mythology. They are great reads. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve been meaning to read Joseph Campbell for years, read a lot of excerpts, but still haven’t gotten around to actually reading and studying his books on a serious level. Might make it a project for next summer, depending on how many classes I take.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I hope you get the chance (and time!) to read and study his books. He is one of my favorite authors. I am very excited for the latest of his writings which was released last month about Goddesses. I’d love to know what you think about his actual books!

            Liked by 1 person


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