where the writers are
Batman, PTSD and Holden Caulfield


Bruce and Holden both suffer obvious symptoms of PTST. Forgetting for the moment that both are fictional characters, what  should be glaringly obvious to a mental health professional such as Robin Rosenberg (see above link), author of What's the Matter With Batman?, is that the childhood trauma Bruce Wayne suffered witnessing his parents' murders, resulted in adult rage, directed in his case against criminals. I disagree with Rosenberg's conclusion: "Rosenberg argues that there's nothing really worng with Batman--or, rather, with the man inside the suit. Her verdict? 'Bruce Wayne is a really clever man who has both high intelligence and high EQ, emotional quotient.'"

What do shrinks know, anyway?

Holden Caulfield had the makings of a future Batman for a similar reason--he witnessed the death of both is brother, Aliee, and a schoolmate, James Castle, who committed suicide wearing the sweater Holden loaned him. Holden's neurotic reaction to these traumatic deathes was a compelling urge to protect innocent children from harm, expressed in his fantasy of catching them before they could fall over a cliff. The book ends before we can find out what kind of an adult he turns into, but the urge to protect is well established in his fantasy.

What Rosenberg fails to confront is the basic and well proven fact that many of our leaders and superstars are merely overcompensating for some childhood deprivation or trauma. Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in World War II, dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support the family after his father abandoned them. After James Dean's mother died, his father left him for is grandparents to raise and had little to do with him. Tolstoy and William Saroyan were orphans. Hitler, Sadam Husein and Stalin were beaten as children. Ted Turner's been overcompensating for bipolar disorder all his life. The list goes on. Bruce Wayne and Holden are no different from these examples.

What Rosenberg left unanswered is why for some people a rough childhood leads to a life of crime while others use it as a springboard for success. Answer that one and you've got something to write about.

Rosenberg almost gets there, but not quite: "'In essence,' Rosenberg says, 'superheroes are gifted people, so we can probably figure out a lot about them based on what we know from the science of giftedness.'

Perhaps the problem, she suggests, "doesn't lie in the gifted Bruce Wayne, but in the people who assume something has to be wrong with him in the first place. Perhaps we're just not accustomed to his kind of self-sacrifice. 'People who are truly selfless,' she says, 'who have given so much of themselves, are confusing to most of us. And I think some of us, in cynical moments, say, 'There must be something the matter with someone who would do that.'"

I don't think it's that complicated. I think superstars are just overcompensating.


7/20/12: Oddly enough, there's an example in the news just this morning about a shooting by a disturbed you young man, James Holmes, in Colorado at a screening of Batman. 

Perhaps if English teachers taught CATCHER from a mental health angle, there would be fewer instances of this: