I watched the new Batman: Year One animated adaptation last night, and it’s striking how incredibly white Gotham City is. You can understand how this happened. The major canonical characters of the Batman universe are white, and they don’t want to make a racially charged movie about white Bruce Wayne beating up a bunch of black dudes. Then they really don’t want to make a movie in which the main characters and the criminals are all white, but faceless non-white innocent bystander types shuffle in the background. But the upshot is a kind of eerie lack of social realism. A city with Gotham’s attributes in the Year One 1980s time period would have experienced a couple decades’ worth of white flight, and Batman would be a Bernard Goetz-like figure.
Alternatively, you could imagine a modern day Batman as a kind of caped crusader of gentrification. Wayne Enterprises is a major real estate developer looking to put in shiny new condos once its CEO’s alter ego has scared away the criminal element. Media apologists like Yours Truly and Ryan Avent will try to explain that in the long run increasing the housing stock reduces rent pressures rather than increasing them, but the tendency to resort to vigilantism will only increase longtime residents’ concern that the anti-crime effort masks a more insidious agenda.