Gotham's Mirror Reflects American Views of the City

On the eve of the premiere of the most highly anticipated blockbuster of the summer - "The Dark Night Rises" - Adam Rogers probes the "deeply dysfunctional love story" between Batman and Gotham.
July 19, 2012, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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While other caped crusaders may use cities as their playgrounds, and their ills as their raison d'être, none is so deeply connected to his hometown, and no city is as carefully constructed, as Batman's Gotham.  

Through its evolution since the beginning of the series, Gotham has served as "a darkly inflected version of the real-world American 20th century metropolis," writes Rogers. "All the things anyone has ever been afraid of about cities-a criminal underclass, monsters in the sewers, toxic pollution, corrupt politicians, broken infrastructure-are things Batman fights. He's the fantasy of scared city kids who wish that a disintegrating urban fabric had a superhero to stitch it back together."

In its current iteration, The Dark Knight Rises, Gotham is "an urban amalgam," observes Rogers. "In Nolan's first two Batman movies it was a computer-enhanced Chicago-a modernist glass-and-steel counterpoint to Burton's version, as the architect Charles Holland wrote on his blog, Fantastic Journal. But in the third movie...Nolan's luxurious establishing shots show a CG-modified New York, several chase sequences take place along the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and other street-level scenes were shot in Pittsburgh. It's like [current Batman writer Scott] Snyder said: Locatable but nowhere. Gotham isn't just any city; it's every city."

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Published on Thursday, July 19, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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