Ethics Expert Argues in Favor of Batman Killing the Joker, Fails to Understand Batman’s Purpose

This was an interesting piece of reading and I thought I’d share it with all you guys and gals. Tauriq Moosa over at Big Think wrote an interesting (though somewhat narrow sighted article) on Batman’s “no kill” philosophy, particulary in reference to the Joker. Tauriq argues that Batman’s morality causes more harm than good. It’s a pretty common position among many; because the Joker has proven to be an unstoppable force for evil, one that cannot be rehabilitated, then his continued existence is counter-intuitive to the Dark Knight’s mission to prevent crime in the first place.

I say it’s common because he’s not the first person (real or fictional) to make this argument. In Under the Red Hood, Jason Todd argues against Bruce’s “no kill” position vehemently. Granted, he had personal reasons. The Joker once beat him within an inch of his life and then blew him up. Thankfully, cosmic shenanigans brought him back to life and gave us one of the best Batman stories ever in recent memory. Where Tauriq goes wrong is in a few basic assumptions. First, that Batman sees himself as a superhero. Second, that Batman is image conscious, and third for assuming the real reasons behind Batman’s position on his “no kill” philosophy is one of morality in the first place.

Superheroes have high moral codes, and are exemplary models of human conduct. Superman is a superhero. He’s a symbol of hope for a better tomorrow. So is Captain America, Wonder Woman, the Flash…you get my point. Batman is not a superhero. Batman’s code is not about morality. It’s about results. His decisions have alienated him from his peers in the past. Brother Eye and his JLA hit files are two examples of a fundamental flaw in his “heroic” character. He doesn’t trust anyone. He doesn’t see himself as a hero.

His friends are heroes; he is necessary.

Tauriq goes on to say that Batman should just kill the Joker and make it look like an accident, thus maintaining the image of a hero. This assumption, that Batman cares about his outward perception, is flawed. The only image Batman cares about presenting is one of fear. He has built an image, both physically and theatrically, that is designed to instill fear. Heroes are concerned with an image that will inspire those they are trying to protect. Batman isn’t as concerned with those he saves as he is those he’s trying to stop. In fact, if he manages to instill a little fear in the hearts of rescuees, he’d call that a win. It will ensure that they stay honest down the road, lest they face the wrath of the Batman.

If the image of fear is all Batman cares about, then why doesn’t he just off the Joker anyway? Nothing keeps people in line like the fear of death, am I right?  The real reason Batman doesn’t kill isn’t a position of moral high ground. That’s just something he tells to young wards when they go to bed at night. It goes back to the fundamental reason Batman is a vigilante in the first place: he’s necessary. If he were to kill, it would put him at odds with his allies, and damage the very large crime fighting network that he’s built, ultimately interfering with the mission.

It’s not that Batman doesn’t want to kill the Joker, but the quick solution would only lead to worse problems later on. Killing Joker would destroy the mission entirely. So would killing the Joker save lives? Sure, but the fallout would destroy Batman’s mission all together.

[Source] Big Think

8 thoughts on “Ethics Expert Argues in Favor of Batman Killing the Joker, Fails to Understand Batman’s Purpose

  1. You keep talking about Batman’s ‘Mission.’ What is his mission, exactly?

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  3. I find this position unconvincing and not supported in this entry. You assert Batman is necessary, but fail to demonstrate why (and tacitly you assert that everyone except Batman is unnecessary). Why is Batman necessary? Why is it necessary to have a terrorist 1%er running around dressed like a bat, conscripting children into his crusade?

    • I think you kind of missed the implied ‘in his own eyes’ there.

    • Exactly, Xauri’EL. Andrew, you misunderstand. I personally didn’t imply Batman was necessary, I said he viewed HIMSELF as necessary. To him crime fighting is a war, and he’s spent years building an army to fight that war in ways that Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and pretty much everyone in the DCU don’t ever consider. They look to inspire society. All he’s concerned with is protecting it, and he’ll do almost anything to protect it (as long as it doesn’t damage his mission, which is why killing is out.)

      It’s unfair to call him a terrorist, as he’s not out to terrorize anything other than criminality; the death penalty is supposed to do the same thing really: scare people into not committing violent crime. That obviously doesn’t work so Batman is an escalation of that. But you do make a point: he chooses accolades that, like himself, were profoundly effected by crime (save Tim Drake who sought him out for more idealistic reasons). This is similar to how terrorists and cult leaders seek out their followers. He possesses the intelligence and charisma of these archetypes, but he doesn’t fit their profile entirely.

      Thank you both for your comments; it’s always great to get a dialogue going!

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