Am I the only person who was totally creeped out by the Batkid event in San Francisco on Friday? On the surface it was a good thing: kid plays a game, world briefly remembers what it’s like to feel emotions, The End. But if you look any deeper, it was profoundly unsettling.
First, no one seemed to care that the event was one giant commercial. The Batman oeuvre is owned by Time Warner. To the extent that Time Warner endorsed the Batkid event, it was a marketing ploy. To the extent that they didn’t, it was even more icky—did a whole city just volunteer to promote a corporate product? We might as well have been celebrating one adorable little boy’s overwhelming love of Pine-Sol.
Who’s to say that five-year-old Miles Scott is the best judge of what will make him happy, anyway? We had virtually unlimited resources at our disposal. We could have arranged for Miles to swim with dolphins, or fly an airplane, or bounce on an endless field of trampolines in the midday sun, stopping to meet his friends and guzzle ice cream along the way. Instead we let a colossal operation be guided by the limited imagination of a kid who isn’t even capable of making an informed decision about what to eat for dinner. As a result, we used this magnificent opportunity to draw the world’s attention on a multi-billion dollar commercial franchise instead of, say, the joys of exploring and preserving our planet.
We should be skeptical of any movement that silences its critics, and the approving mob that followed this story (via absurdly glowing reports like “20 Batkid Instagram Photos That Will Make You Whole Again”) carried pitchforks as well as smiley faces. One San Francisco official was forced to publicly apologize after wondering how many foodstamps the Batkid event would have paid for. Attacking him in a piece called “Supervisor Eric Mar Tries to Ruin Batkid Merriment for Everyone,” SFist.com thoughtfully declared, “Like, we get it, Eric. But come on, man. Such a buzzkill.”
That’s the real lesson of Batkid—that we feel entitled to vicariously enjoy one little boy’s corporate-sponsored fantasy about doing good deeds, and we will punish anyone who harshes our vibe by mentioning a real civic problem. Make a wish, indeed. Just like the tightly scripted caper that Batkid went on, this whole spectacle was about indulging the fantasy of being a do-gooder, and making it a crime to talk about what “doing good” really means.
– Brian Hurley