Thoughts on Batman: Arkham Asylum

What jury wouldn't vote to kill this man?Back to the regularly scheduled program of reviewing things that aren't new. I'm not so much interested in reviewing this game as in reflecting on it.

I've really enjoyed Christopher Nolan's Batman movies so far. For me, this has been the first movie that takes the source material seriously without attempting to simply ape it, or satirize it.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is more of an homage to the comic. This is a good thing. However, what I found myself reflecting on whilst playing the game is the absurdity of it all.

I understand why Batman chooses not to kill the men he hunts. He wouldn't be who he is otherwise. From a comic book perspective, you need the storyline to go on. Reboots can only happen so often in order to be effective. Yet for all that, why would any state maintain a revolving door of the world's most dangerous men? Yet that is precisely what we find in the institution Arkham Asylum. We lock up the Joker, even though we know he's just going to escape again and again.

Much has been made of the update to the Catholic Catechism's teaching on the death penalty in the 2nd edition. It was updated based on Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae, to say:

2267    Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. (2306)

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

It is pretty common to hear that the Catholic Church teaches the death penalty is wrong. This is clearly incorrect. What has been done is to make it's use dependent on contingent social factors, rather than immutable principles. The scope of use has actually been increased, but this is obfuscated because the teaching serves to limit the application of the death penalty in orderly, just, First World nations in the early twenty-first century.

Gotham is not peaceful, orderly, or just. I would guess Arkham Asylum features the corpses of at least 50 dead guards, orderlies, or doctors as part of the game's landscape. Why wouldn't you shoot the Joker dead the first time you caught him? Or if not then, how about the second time? No state could long survive the level of disorder you see in the game. Sheer political desparation would drive any jury to the death penalty in short order.

Hannibal Lecter put it best. "Any rational society would either kill me, or give me my books."