I follow Hollywood news about as much as I follow what’s going on in the NFL (There was some sort important game this past weekend, wasn’t there?), so I have no clue on the ins and outs of studios and gossip. But I have seen headlines indicating that Ben Affleck no longer wishes to play Bruce Wayne / Batman.
So the studio controlling that particular franchise has to cast about looking for a replacement actor to wear the Batsuit. No doubt they will be considering the fees a new actor will demand, plus what the box office take can be expected to be given the new lead. Sure, some actors will be cheaper, but those are also likely to be the ones with less “pull” at the box office. It’s a standard thing called “return on investment”.
Speaking of which – and this is a really clumsy way to get to the main subject – what crimefighting results does Bruce Wayne get out of being Batman? How effective is being the Caped Crusader in reducing crime in Gotham?
How can he improve the return on his investment?
As superpowered as he is (which is not very, really – he’s just really physically fit and able, and has a bunch of prototype military toys), there’s only one Batman. What if he has to take a sick day? Or if he’s in East Gotham, and something’s going down in West Gotham? What if the Batmobile is in the shop for repairs? That thing takes a lot of pounding! And he’s got to sleep sometime! He really ought to get more people on his side, actively helping.
Let’s start off the bat with three reasonable assumptions:
1. Corruption in the Gotham City government and police force is too endemic for one man to solve, or for an easy solution. If it were, someone would have done it by now. Right?
2. Although wealthy, Bruce Wayne isn’t made of cash like Tony Stark. One estimate I’ve read puts his personal wealth at a maximum of around $10 billion, and most of that is undoubtedly tied up in property and businesses. It’s not all liquid assets. Let’s say he can easily get his hands on – at most – $10 million.
3. Bruce Wayne has a psychological need to be Batman. It’s probably something a good psychologist could help him with, but so far it seems to be something that he, and the citizens of Gotham, can deal with.
With all that in mind, what can Bruce Wayne do with his money to help him in his quest as the Dark Knight?
First, Gotham does not (indeed it cannot) exist in isolation. There’s a state and federal government that can get involved. Get the state Attorney General or a Federal district attorney to notice what’s going on in Gotham. They can bring in resources and people that the local crime rings would find it very hard to touch. No doubt he’s already hobnobbing with them – or people who can finagle him an introduction – at all those charity fundraisers he’s always attending. And given how influential and important the Wayne name is in Gotham, they are going to return his calls. It’s also pretty clear that Wayne Industries does a good deal of work for the Department of Defense. It shouldn’t be to hard for him to make a few phone calls and get the Department of Justice or the FBI to take a look. This will take very little of his time and money.
Speaking of state oversight, there’s got to be an agency that oversees mental hospitals in the state, right? Why not call their attention to the terrible conditions at Arkham Asylum? Inmates / patients have seemingly no trouble escaping. And treatment appears to be nonexistent. How about the Wayne Foundation put up a grant to bring in some experts to do a complete overhaul of the place? Maybe hire some new staff or a new director? Someone from outside Gotham, obviously. The cost? Current salaries for Executive Directors in Mental Health seem to run around $100,000. Figure getting top talent and staff could run Bruce Wayne around $1 million to start things moving. He might even be able to pull in matching funds through one of those charity functions.
Matching funds can be a great way to handle another problem in Gotham. From what I’ve seen of the place, it’s a dump. Given the corruption in the government, things like public works maintenance are likely to be given short shrift in the budget, and then whatever funds do get allocated probably easily wind up in someone’s pockets and not put to the public benefit. So Bruce can announce that the Wayne Foundation is setting up a “matching funds” program for civic beautification projects. Turn empty lots into community gardens, playgrounds, or mini-parks. Plant flowers in median strips on the major avenues, or in containers on the sidewalks in shopping districts. Create the neighborhood or business associations to design and oversee the projects, and that will get the citizens themselves involved in making Gotham great again. And with so many people involved, it will be too hard for organized crime to interfere with it. When people have an active interest in their neighborhood, the petty little crimes like vandalism go down. And when those go down, they’ll start noticing the bigger ones…. Cost to Bruce Wayne? Depends on how much he wants to contribute as matching funds. Including marketing the program, maybe $2 million.
He’s probably too busy running Wayne Industries and being Batman to run for office, but there’s nothing stopping him from creating a political action committee like Michael Bloomberg. Give it an anti-corruption platform, and promote candidates at the state and local levels who will commit to fighting organized crime – and not just in Gotham. I have no idea how much it will cost to start one of these, but again, once it’s up and running, donations should start coming in to keep it rolling. I suppose that after he gets the other programs off the ground, he’ll have maybe $5 million to bankroll this.
There’s one other thing he can do that’s more of a business venture than outright spending money, so it’s kind of hard to put a price tag on it. He could buy a newspaper. Or at least get controlling interest in one. As the owner, he gets to choose the overall editorial policy. Which, of course, will be exposing corruption in the government and the doings of organized crime. Attempts by the targets to stop it will happen, of course, but Freedom of the Press is taken very seriously. Being able to expose corruption is one of the main reasons they have that freedom. If the Gotham Gazette (or whatever they call the local daily) is too expensive for him to purchase, there are always smaller weekly papers around. There are a couple of them in my area. They are usually little “vanity” publications, but they can still get under the skin of the local government. Or, he can just by ad space in the papers and publish an “advertorial” where he can write whatever he wants.
As far as his need to actually be Batman? None of these require so much attention on his part that he couldn’t keep doing his personal crimefighting. The Gotham Beautification Project and the PAC will even need advertising promoting them – no reason he couldn’t do that as Batman. If he buys a paper, he can easily publish letters and op-eds under the Batman byline.
If he does all of these, he will have brought in serious outside assistance to fight crime and corruption, gotten the citizens of Gotham themselves involved, and all for what to him is basically pocket change.
And he still gets to be Batman.