I had to take a bathroom break this afternoon (big lunch) so I did what I always do: I grabbed a comic book out of my extensive collection on my desk to bring with me.
A lot of people use that 10-15 minutes of quiet time to disconnect from the real world and just dick around on their phone, distracting themselves from the fact that they’re at work, but not me. I value every moment of my day. I believe that I should be learning something and educating myself on each and every problem in society, at all times. 15 minutes not spent at my desk working should be 15 minutes spent improving myself by expanding my knowledge of the world we live in and the issues that we face; not just me, but society as a whole.
Which is why I have the comic books. Because you can’t play video games at work, all day long, every day, on a live stream, which is how I normally consume my social awareness. So I turn to the next best source of dialogue and discussion.
Today it was Batman, which was lucky, because he’s my favorite superhero, especially today. I won’t name names but let’s just say I’m pretty cold on a certain police supporting, crime fighting, cop-a-ganda clownshow who flies around all day from building to building (except when he gets to an American flag, where he kneels) in a childish little red latex suit. A man so selfish he can’t even be bothered to consider the optics and the broader effects of taking dangerous criminals and super villains off the streets alongside the same people who surveilled a phone that one time. Didn’t stop for one second to think about those 3 or 4 bad guys out of like 40,000 who did bad stuff. Superhero? Only super power he seems to have is super indifference.
Anyway the comic I grabbed is one of my favorites: Arkham Asylum. Couldn’t have been more topical. With the current mental health crisis in this country, I would love to be a more active participant in the push for insurance reform to lower the costs for low-income individuals suffering from anxiety disorders and seeking help. I’ve been feeling pretty down in the dumps lately as well, with everyone being mean to me all the time and the FDA threatening to take away my Juul. Just yesterday my therapist suggested that, as a detail oriented “Thinker” personality-type with control issues, it might help brighten my mood to really dig in and try to understand the roots of psychological well-being in an increasingly stressful world.
So, as I said, perfectly timed. Only thing that could have possibly been any timelier would be if I had grabbed the Mad Love book which explores the toxic masculinity of The Joker reflected by his abusive treatment of Harley Quinn in the midst of #MeToo.
I pulled my pants down and flipped to page 1, ready to gain the sort of insight into complex issues that I always turn to comic books for.
Wait a minute.
It’s the end.
I read the whole thing. It was just a bunch of color pictures with sentences scribbled over them and little bubbles in the corners saying things like “BAM!” and “POW!”
Where was the exploration of the theory that our early adolescence, as far back as our time in the womb, is the number one factor in shaping your mental health as an adult?
Where was the analysis of Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory detailing the eight stages of how we change throughout life based on our social interaction and conflict, and how that focus on experience differentiates it from Freud’s sexual-based theory of unconscious desires?
Grant Morrison himself said that he based the asylum on the influences of psychoanalytic theory and Jungian archetypes and used the Hypostatic model of personality to shape the story – what the hell’s a Jungian?
Are my commitment issues due to repressed emotions surrounding some unknown event that occurred subconsciously during my Concrete Operational stage?
I guess I’ll never know. Batman was too busy playing hide and seek with The Joker and Clayface.
I turned to a fantasy world of imaginary characters as a way of understanding the complicated issues of society, as I always do, and instead of comprehension, I got a guy in his mother’s wedding dress using shock therapy to kill the guy who raped and murdered his wife and daughter. Jesus. You thought I was depressed before? I just got a full recap of this dude Arkham cutting his mother’s throat to end her suffering from being haunted by a ghost, in graphic detail – literally.
So suffice it to say that my belief in multi-billion dollar make-believe franchises targeted at 12 year old boys as a means for understanding political crisis and social issues was shaken.
I will say this however: the progressiveness of Gotham in their attempted treatment of mentally unfit criminals instead of just throwing them into Blackgate Penitentiary gen pop is admirable. I mean they have a pretty bad recidivism rate and even worse security considering The Joker pretty much just comes and goes as he pleases, not to mention the founder, director, and like 4 staff members all became mentally ill while working at a treatment center for the mentally ill, but still. At least they tried.
So that’s a lesson we can take from this, at least. Spiderman may disregard the feelings of disenfranchised communities by spinning criminals up in spider webs alongside the police officers they see as their tormentors, and Batman may think playing peekaboo with The Scarecrow is more important than trying to help an increasingly anxious society turning to alcohol and pill bottles to cope. But Gotham at least acknowledged the need for a psychiatric hospital.
Also I’m pretty sure The Joker is gay for Batman in this. Like dead serious. Actually a homosexual. And Amadeus Arkham is a cross dresser. So we may not have gotten much on mental health but at least the LGBTTQQIAAP community can leave happy.