Saturday, July 26, 2008

Did Teddy Roosevelt Help to Inspire Batman?

I was watching the History Channel tonight. The program was Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight. As I just watched The Dark Knight yesterday, I thought this would be a fun show to watch. Much to my surprise, a former American President came up!

In the program, director Chris Nolan is reported to have said, “Bruce Wayne is Teddy Roosevelt.”

My quick note taking skills were tested. Here are the parallels that the program brought up:

1. Both Bruce Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt were from wealthy, urban families that were active in philanthropy.

2. Both Bruce and Teddy had strong fathers that both admired. Teddy himself noted of his father, ""My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness." (Quote from Roosevelt, Theodore (1913). Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, Chapter I, p. 13.)

3. Both Bruce and Teddy suffered a tragic loss on a single day. Bruce's parents were murdered in one night while Teddy lost both his wife and mother on the same day.

4. Both men went into exile for a time. Bruce disappeared and then trained in the martial arts while Teddy lived in the Montana Badlands for a few years.

5. Both Bruce and Teddy turned their grief info a force for good. Bruce became Batman while Teddy fought the spoils system as a member of the United States Civil Service Commission and served a commissioner of the New York City Police which he then helped to reform. Later of course, Teddy used his zeal to make many positive changes as President.

My wife also volunteered to me that Teddy Roosevelt was frail as a youth. Also, Bruce Wayne is shown as being hapless and powerless when his parents were murdered. My wife also noted that Batman was ultimately disappointed that his hoped for successor (Harvey Dent) was not up to the task just as President Roosevelt's successor (Taft) was a disappointment for Teddy.

It is nice to think that Batman (or at the least the current film version of him) was directly inspired by President Teddy Roosevelt.


Jennie W said...

We saw this as well as my husband had to watch it (I think Batman is a guy thing...) and it was fascinating about TR!

Geoff Elliott said...

Perhaps, perhaps not. I'm both a presidential history nut AND a collector of classic comics (including Batman) and I've never before read anything about Theodore Roosevelt being an inspiration for the fictional Batman. I think it's a serious stretch to find that Teddy was the "real" Batman.

Additionally, TR gets all the credit for busting trusts and the like, but his successor William Howard Taft actually broke up more trusts than did TR.

Still, it's all interesting to contemplate.

Geoff Elliott

Anonymous said...

The Washington Pugilist blog adds a few more similarities, and a couple of fake ones as well, to the list.

Anonymous said...

Dakota Badlands, not Montana.

Anonymous said...

And THEODORE, not "Teddy." As TR said, he tolerated it, but anyone who uses that nickname "it's a sign he doesn't know me."

If you read up on TR's time as a deputy in the Dakotas, you'll also find some real Batman-type badassery.