John Green Made Some Profound Social Commentary About Batman

November 16th 2014

Matthew Segal

John Green made a video about comic book heroes, and his rant about Batman contains some pretty sharp wisdom about crime. 

Crime in Gotham, he says "is not actually caused by evil, it's caused by systemic disenfranchisement and poverty and lack of access to job opportunities and education. And yet Batman continues on not funding police departments or schools or building low income housing, but tearing up the infrastructure of the city he claims to love while fighting villains who are only powerful because that city is already so blighted and dysfunctional."

Yes, Batman does fend off villains repeatedly, but he never fundamentally improves the quality of life for people in Gotham, says Green.

The parable, interestingly enough, holds true for the policies of many U.S. cities.

Time and time again, we've seen mayors and politicians implement "tough on crime" measures without a regard for the root causes of such wrongdoings.

Take "Stop and Frisk" in New York City, for instance. Before a judge rendered the policy unconstitutional in 2013, the NYPD searched hundreds of thousands of young black men-- so many, in fact, that the number of young black men stopped by the NYPD exceeded the number of young black men living in all of New York City.

And putting aside a torrent of controversy about whether or not "Stop and Frisk" may have reduced or deterred crime, it's pretty clear the policy never truly addressed the inequities that spur it.

Poverty, in New York City, was actually on the rise during "Stop and Frisk:" in 2010, the rate was 20.1%; in 2012, it was 21.2%.

According to the New York Times in 2013, "Manhattan retained the dubious distinction of having the biggest income gap of any big county in the country. The mean income of the lowest fifth was $9,635, compared with $389,007 for the top fifth and $799,969 for the top 5 percent — more than an eightyfold difference between bottom and top."

In essence, Batman's goal of fighting crime is hardly ignoble. But there is smart way and a stupid way. And it seems like John Green is onto something...