The Dark Symbol Rises

Hi everyone! This week’s theme is influential movies in pop culture!

Mead‘s (1937) theory of Symbolic Interactionism explains the process of interaction in the formation of meaning for individuals. This is one of the main reasons why the movie Batman has been so successful.  Not only is the Batman symbol recognized within the context of the movie, it also has become a brand for the audience as well. When the symbol is shown in the sky in the movie, it represents hope.  The audience that follows the Batman series recognizes the symbol as a part of their childhood.  Batman has been a huge part of pop culture due to its wide berth of media touched.  These include comics, cartoons, movies, and more recently, a new television series. By interacting with the Batman brand in a multitude of ways, viewers create meaning related to the image.

Marketing practices make or break a brand.  Due to the fact that Batman is able to be marketed to children, adolescents, adults, and parents, it has a wide range of influence. The meaning we attribute to things, according to the theory of Symbolic Interactionism, is a product of our social environment. By parents sharing what Batman means to them with their children, it formulates their perspective towards the brand.  The generational aspect of Batman along with continued popularity contribute to its meaning and explains why people view it in different ways depending on their experience.

batman3

However, since we live in an individualistic society, people, no matter what age, seem to create their own perceived meanings of objects and symbols in life. Through this perception, we carry out certain behaviors when we are faced or encountered by these objects or symbols. In this case, the behavior desired by those who create and promote Batman movies is that that people continue to want to see them and share them with others.

If the symbolic interactionism wasn’t so easily defined, do you think the Batman legacy would not have reached the degree that it has?

-Margaret Cafasso, Kierstin Geary, Connor Gold, Olivia Sadler, Hannah Zeskind

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12 thoughts on “The Dark Symbol Rises

  1. I think that the batman would have left a legacy regardless of symbolic interactionism. However, symbolic interactionism caused the legacy of batman to reach a much higher degree than it ever would have without it. I agree that symbolic interactionism magnified the brand of batman and carried it’s legacy to generations today. Everyone clings to a childhood movie that brought them hope, batman was hero that brought many kids hope. They will share that with others in their life which is a direct example of symbolic interactionism.

  2. I agree with Taylor, I think that the legacy would have been left with or without symbolic interactionism. I do also believe that it helped to create a more defined brand. I was telling a friend the other day that I don’t typically like superhero/fiction movies but that for whatever reason I love the Batman movies. I even recently started watching the prequel series, Gotham. I think what I love about Batman is that it draws in every crowd. There is love, drama, war, fear, and every other category. The story makes you feel empowered and wanting to do good in the world.

    • Taylor and Courtney,

      You make a very good point! Batman is a universal hero that is well known to people of all ages. Through symbolic interactionism the brand of Batman was created and allowed for such success in sales and the continuing of Batman sequels. Batman would have been remembered, but through symbolic interactionism his brand was magnified!

      -Margaret

  3. Great artifact! Be careful of “reification” which is confusing the theory with the thing. The popularity of Batman happened. Symbolic Interactionism can help us understand it, but it didn’t cause it. There are lots of concepts and theories that help us understand the popularity. Archetypal Metaphors for example (light and dark) are played with in Batman in ways that are universal. The iconicity of the bat image and the juxtaposition of something that we fear and associate with “bad” being “good” is a huge element. We all yearn for our badness to be turned to goodness it is part of a universal longing for what Kenneth Burke illuminates in his pollution-purification-redemption cycle of dramatism. My point is not to name drop but to show the many facets of Batman that can be illuminated by, but are not caused by, our theories and concepts. The question is would the series be as popular had it been anything other than a bat . . .. would Owlman work? Hawkman? Snakeman? They certainly don’t seem too. What I would find fascinating is what the various evolutions and adaptations of the bat symbol suggest about the state of our culture. Batman has gone from dark to campy to DARK. What does that say about us? The image has gone from clean to minimal to veiny and almost inkspot or viral. Again, what might that reveal? Rich, rich artifact!

    • Dr. Olsen,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You are right, Batman made a legacy himself, but through these theories we can understand it more. The only way I could see it possible for another animal/man to be as successful would for it to follow exactly how Batman started. First through a comic, then movies. Maybe the bat just became the symbol and if anything other animal embodied that it would have been successful because of the depth of the stories and movies. Like Courtney said above, Batman draws in every crowd because of the love, drama, war and fear that is in every movie. It is very interesting to think about how a simple bat is the reason for the success and legacy of Batman.

      -Margaret

  4. Symbolic Interactionism definitely plays a part here, but I personally think Batman would still be just a big as it is today even without the symbols. Batman was the action hero I grew up watching and wanting to be when I was really young. Batman was the character who would bring courage and hope to everyone who watched him. Without his bat signal there would most definitely be something missing, but even without I think the Batman legacy would have still carried on the way it did

  5. Taylor,

    I am glad that you connected with our post from your childhood! Yes, Batman would have still had a legacy but without the symbolic interactionism he might have faded away like other superhero’s have in the past!

    -Margaret

  6. I believe that the batman franchise would still be just as big today but also agree that symbolic interactionism could play a big part in that. I believe that the series had played a big part in creating a legacy for itself. What began as comics has developed into a series of movies for each generation that make different fans think of a different batman and bat mobile, and often differentiating between them using descriptions of the actor or the logo. However I don’t think that symbolic interactionism helped cause the legacy that batman has created for itself but does provide for a level of recognition that is easily translated and identified.

      • Gabrielle,

        Thank you for your comment! Through symbolic interactionism the bat symbol has become what it is today. Symbolic interactionism explains why the bat symbol is recognized with audiences of different ages and around the globe. Symbolic interactionism is not the only reason that the Batman movies are successful, but it plays a big part in it because it relates the symbols in the movie to people which helps to promote the brand and message of the movies.

        -Margaret

  7. There has to be a reason why the Batman logo has changed so many times since the creation of the comic phenomena. I too believe this reason is directed correlated with symbolic interactionism. The logo has to “keep up with the times,” which has elevated the consciousness of who Batman is in all age groups.

  8. I agree with this post that symbolic interactionism has kept the character of bat man popular over the years. This idea defiantly helps with how successful the movie is because when people see that bat man logo even though it has changed a little bit over the years, they know exactly what that is. I would say that for the most part if someone saw the bat man logo they would be able to tell you exactly what it represents. Thats why symbolic interactionism is so important for bat man. If people didn’t recognize the logo because of its simplicity and symbolic interactionism, i do not think the movie would be as reputable.

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