5 Ways ‘Batman Beyond’ Predicted the Future
What is Batman Beyond?
Batman Beyond was a Warner Bros./DC Animated television show that aired from 1999 to 2001. It was a futuristic, cyberpunk reimagining of the Batman legend. The story takes place 40 years in the future in Neo-Gotham, a dystopian, neon lit, post-industrial cityscape. Gotham is worse than ever before. There’s a general feeling of malaise hanging over much of Neo-Gotham’s citizens, and the rest are criminals and hooligans who represent a breakdown in the social order. The story follows Terry McGinnis, a Hamilton Hill High student who, with the help of an elderly but badass Bruce Wayne, carries on the Batman legacy.
Why is Batman Beyond important?
There’s quite a few reasons why Batman Beyond is an important show to so many people. First off, it introduced a new Batman outside of Bruce Wayne which hadn’t been done before. The show was always way ahead of its time (which the article will attest to) and, to put it simply, it was just a fantastic show. It mixed the gritty street level hero with science fiction and took millennial fears and viewed it through a sociological lense. The foundation laid down by this incredible series is just now getting its recognition (the whole series can be streamed on Netflix). For those not privy to the Batman Beyond universe, let me spell out for you dregs what has been obvious to fans for years: Batman Beyond predicted the future! (By the way, if you don’t know what a dreg is you should catch up on your Neo-Gotham slang before reading on, twip.)
Before you begin our list, check out one of the sickest (and wordiest) intros to any TV show ever:
1. Standardized testing scores
Here, in a little place I like to call the “real world”, there are these awful things called SATs that high school students take before they can enter college. The scores are out of 2400 possible points. However, before 2005 the scores used to have a max of 1600 points. It’s interesting, then, that Batman Beyond, a show that came out in 1999, had their version of the SAT (the GAT) with a max score of 2400, way before real standardized tests did. Coincidence? I think not.
2. Technological advancements
- Technological determinism – Neo-Gotham is an urban landscape ever-accommodating to modern advances in technology. This mirrors our own society, where technology advances at a rapidly increasing rate and the world around it adapts accordingly. Just like Neo-Gotham, the landscape of our own modern world is determined by technological advances.
- Laser guns – They’re shown extensively in the show and, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, they’re also here in the real world. Get stoked, folks. Lasers actually exist.
- Muting a room – A main villain in the show, Shriek, wears a suit with muting powers similar to advances in sound technology. The anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories, in Minneapolis, MN, is designed specifically for this purpose: to mute all sounds in the room. It absorbs 99.99% of noise and is considered the quietest room in the world! NASA uses anechoic chambers to prepare their astronauts for the absolute quiet of deep space. Apparently, not a lot of people can handle it. It is said that in a room that quiet, you begin to hear things like your own heartbeat, only much louder. And if you stay in long enough hallucinations set in. Holy mushrooms, Batman!
- Virtual reality (VR) – In season 2 episode 8, “Hooked Up”, villain Spellbinder preys on troubled teens by providing them with an escape from their real life problems. By offering them a VR experience kids agree to steal “creds” for him in return. Though the VR depicted in Batman Beyond seems quite seamless with reality, we aren’t quite there yet. Advances in VR technology have brought us closer, though. They are used by various groups in the Armed Forces for training exercises. Those military brats get all the cool toys!
3. The Recession
In Neo-Gotham we see a world where the economic structure is in shambles. Jobs are scarce and people wind up on the streets if they’re not careful. This is why so many Neo-Gothamites turn to crime – out of desperation. This is evident with Shriev, who becomes the armored villain Shriek in the series, a sound engineer who stopped receiving funding so he turned to a life of crime.
Batman Beyond, in a way, predicted the Great Recession of 2008. The show envisioned an economic system full of corruption that would fail the people, and that’s exactly what happened 6 years ago in the United States. Our current struggles within the U.S. economy and with job scarcity perfectly reflect the future envisioned in Batman Beyond 15 years ago.
In the world of Batman Beyond, there are no coins or paper money. There are just plastic cards that have “creds”, or “credits”, on them. Obviously equivalent to our credit card, the show predicted our reliance on plastic money.
5. An Increasingly Apathetic Society
The creators of the show must have been fans of social theory. Between the show’s views on capitalist economies, technological determinism and an increasingly disenchanted, apathetic society, I’d say it’s borderline Marxist. Good. I love shows with a philosophical bite.
The views of an increasingly apathetic society are demonstrated in Batman Beyond through the bystander effect (a situation where people stand by and do nothing in a time of crisis). When a young destructive gang, the Jokerz, attack an innocent man on the subway people are shown to be unfeeling and disconnected towards it. It’s no surprise then that apathy is one of Batman Beyond’s greatest themes. It’s one that’s rarely explored in television yet perfectly relates to our own society. To understand this connection one need only observe the online world of bullying, which gets little to no reprimanding from online communities as well as no tangible punishment. Any punishment there is can only be dealt to an online signifier and doesn’t carry weighty consequences in the real world.
Much like Neo-Gotham, we live in a world with few people willing to speak up when they witness a wrongdoing, and even fewer willing to do something about it.
After all this, it should go without saying that Batman Beyond is one schwayshow. Not only does it explore the themes I’ve previously mentioned (apathy and corruption) but also greed, family, addiction and genetic engineering. The show is full of thought-provoking social commentaries as well. As I’ve mentioned above, it even predicted the future in many respects. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s plenty of other seeds of ideas in Batman Beyond that still have yet to bear fruit. For all these reasons, Batman Beyond is a series that is deserving of your attention. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s time you start appreciating this highly underrated show. Even if you just want to “borrow” some plot threads and make wild predictions to your friends like you’re Nostradamus or something (we’re not judging).
I don’t know about you, but all this talk about cyberpunk dystopia and post-industrial futurism has me rightly slagged. Until next time, twips.