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The Batman Hierarchy of Needs

Interrogated and explained

Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images. Banner Society Illustration.

Just like this study’s namesake, we’re leading with the blunt end. This construction consists of seven layers, rather than the traditional five, because Batman’s a complicated guy. Just ask him.

Batman’s hierarchy of needs, from the bottom up, reads as follows:

Level 1. A complete lack of accountability. An orphan of unfathomable wealth, reared by a man paid to cater to his every whim? Sure, that tracks. I also think we forget a lot that Bruce Thomas Wayne is a dude with three first names. So he was always going to be kind of a serial killer? (Bind, Torture, Whinge.)

Level 2. A level of privacy that is in no way reciprocal. Bruce Wayne has lived his whole life in the public eye. The deaths of his parents, the machinations of the company that share his name, his absence from public life for a time, and his return to a billionaire playboy lifestyle all generate constant media attention and scrutiny. Professional athletes and movie stars use pseudonyms at hotels regularly, and what’s “Batman” other than a very confusing name to give a Courtyard by Marriott front desk manager?

Wayne would tell you he needs secrecy for reasons that don’t hold up under closer examination: symbolism and safety. The criminal underbelly of Gotham’s worried about getting punched in the neck by Batman the Dude, not Batman the Metaphor of Inevitable Justice. And who is there to protect in Bruce Wayne’s life? Alfred’s old as shit already and everyone else he knows ends up working as his costumed sidekick. They’re not gonna dig up your parents and shoot them again, dude.

This also manifests in codependent relationships with employees. Batman has no friends. He’s got a butler, who professes to love him like family but has always been an employee of the Wayne family. He’s got wards, who are basically interns. He’s got Lucius Fox, who creates all kinds of cool gadgets for him – though, again, he does so as part of his employment at Wayne Enterprises.

Level 3. Gear. Batman is, at heart, a real basic bitch. If a Brookstone black card exists, he’s got one. He’s got more money than sense, and more of either than taste. When in widespread popular culture do we see him happiest? When he is having Me Time, taking his girlfriend (whom he met at work) to the sunny Riviera (wow, real original) for a spot of espresso (groundbreaking stuff, Bruce). One of his several first names, lest we forget, is Bruce, and that tells the discerning student of the mind one thing: If he ever had occasion to attend any event where free t-shirts with logos of credit card companies on them were handed out, this is all Bruce Wayne would wear.

There comes a point, in every scholar’s journey into the dark heart of the Dark Knight, where one pauses to beseech the gods, “Are we really just asking what if Elon Musk were conventionally handsome? And coordinated, like at all, since we’ve never seen Elon Musk successfully whip a batarang into someone’s dick, like we’ve seen Batman do?” Because Batman is the last word in hypercapitalist consumerism: “I need to buy this Lamborghini, you see, to cover up for the secret Lamborghini I had to buy.” He started out as this DIY Ninja, and now he’s just this heaving sulking scold weighed down with entirely too much Gear.

Level 4. Caffeinated buffalo jerky. At this point, self-explanatory.

Level 5. Unnecessarily elaborate infrastructure. All of the aforementioned Gear is part of a secret life that Wayne covers up with traceable purchases, lavish lifestyle choices, and other forms of conspicuous consumption. Batman is kind of a hoarder, when you think about it, a man trapped in an ever-thickening sarcophagus wall of his own surveillance equipment, vehicles, and weaponry.

In every single version of Batman’s story, Wayne Manor is decorated somewhere on the spectrum of “Design Within Reach, but make it baroque mausoleum.” There are flat cats in Wayne Manor. There have to be, because there is only one person working there. This also implies the possibility of whole wings of Wayne Manor being overrun with feral hogs. Because Bruce Wayne is an idiot techboy capitalist, he has cameras to watch them, but no ability to control them. Batman watches them at night and broods about it as a metaphor, because as someone who can pay any number of people to set foot anywhere near and subsequently be chewed on by feral hogs, he has this luxury. You can hear him, can’t you? These hogs. They’re like the criminals of Gotham. Loose.

Level 6. Sleep. Batman has to sleep most of the day, and is barely part of diurnal humanity as a result. More like Cat-man, if you ask me. (Level 4a is Vitamin D supplements.)

Level 7. Beating the shit out of petty criminals and the mentally ill. Batman’s third first name, Wayne, is where all the shitkicking comes from. Martha’s people are clearly from Pennsylvania somewhere. But so are Thomas’s, you get me? Batman’s initials are BTW, which stands for By The Wayside, which is where all concerns about actual solutions to serious societal problems fall once he gets a belly full of Mountain Dew Code Red and a full head of steam going.