Study Guide

Batman Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton)

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Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton)

Who Is That Masked Man?

In our world, ask anyone if they know who Batman is, and they will. He's probably more famous than the president, the Pope, or Kanye. Anyone who knows Batman probably knows his not-so-secret alter ego as Bruce Wayne, eccentric billionaire. But within the world of Tim Burton's Batman, no one knows who—or what—Batman is, and a few people wouldn't even know Bruce Wayne if he ran over them in his Batmobile.

Bruce Wayne makes his first appearance a full eighteen minutes in the movie. When Vicki Vale asks him if he knows where to find Bruce Wayne, he toys with her and says no. He doesn't confirm his identity until a few minutes later, which means that a full fifth of the movie has gone by before we even see our main character. Keeping himself in the shadows, Bruce Wayne contributes to the veil of mystery that surrounds him.

Even once he reveals himself, we learn very little about Wayne during the course of the movie. He's socially awkward, sleeps hanging upside down, and is devoted to solving crime. But why? Knox has a hypothesis, telling Vicki,

KNOX: The rich... You know why they're so odd? Because they can afford to be.

But that's Knox's superficial judgment. Later, Vicki learns that Bruce has devoted his life to solving crime not because he's rich and bored, but because he's rich and wants to avenge the murder of his parents…while also making sure no other family has to go through what he did.

Forget Bill Gates donating billions to charity. Bruce Wayne takes philanthropy to a whole new level.

Dueling Identities

Batman is Bruce Wayne when he's in costume, but Bruce Wayne is still Batman, in some aspects, even when he's out of the rubber bat suit.

Batman tries to trick people into thinking he's a giant crime fighting bat, striking fear into the hearts of criminals, even though he gets shot and falls over so many times in this movie we lost count. But Bruce Wayne also has to use lies and deceit to trick people into thinking he's not Batman.

His need to put distance between himself and others makes him the weird loner type, and provides us with a reason for his awkward social skills. He doesn't have practice dealing with people—and money can't buy a personality.

When he lets Vicki get close, he lies to her the next morning to keep her away. Perhaps other women have taken the hint, never showing their face again after a walk of shame from Wayne Manor, but not Vicki Vale. She lets him know what she thinks.

VICKI: You hurt me. […] I called you and I called you. And you lied! You lied to me about leaving town.

Bruce puts his identity as Batman—and as a result the safety of Gotham City—above his personal life. He risks losing Vicki to make sure he can keep the city safe. A conversation they have later proves that this will always be Bruce Wayne's priority.

VICKI: It doesn't have to be a perfect world. I just gotta know, are we going to try to love each other?

BRUCE: I'd like to. But he's out there right now, and I gotta go to work.

Unlike Fifth Harmony, Bruce can't work from home. His office is the streets of Gotham, his boss is public safety, and there's no time for romance. No wonder we never see Vicki Vale in any of the sequels.


Another way Batman bleeds into Bruce's day life is his fearlessness.

Bruce doesn't gain confidence when he puts on the batsuit—he has that on lockdown even in his human skin. When Joker's mob of mimes shoots up City Hall, Bruce wanders into the middle of the gunfight as if he's wearing Batman's bulletproof breastplate. Later, when Joker pays an unwelcome visit to Vicki's apartment, Bruce out-crazies Joker.

BRUCE: Now you wanna get nuts! Come on! Let's get nuts!

In that moment, he appears to be channeling the ghost with the most, Beetlejuice (another Michael Keaton role). He might be fearless and impenetrable, but this outburst shows us that Bruce isn't the most stable person. Anyone who puts on a giant bat suit to fight crime can't exactly be sane, can he?

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