You’ve probably seen numerous versions of this picture, as it’s become one of the more ubiquitous internet memes of late. Robin starts saying something stupid, and Batman slaps him halfway through and stops him with some cutting retort. Generally, its used to show how dumb a particular thought getting traction in the world at the time the meme is created is. Robin says something dumb about how vaccines are dangerous or voting doesn’t matter or how racism doesn’t really exist anymore, and Batman interrupts him halfway through the sentence with the slap and tells him why he’s wrong.
I understand the appeal. When some dangerously dumb idea is getting repeated over and over again, I get how satisfying it is to see the speaker of that idea getting slapped down, literally and figuratively. But it’s also a meme about an adult hitting a kid.
Not just any kid, but his ward- the teenager he’s adopted, is responsible for, and has trained to be his partner/assistant. One doesn’t have to look hard to find the ways in which that slap is problematic. Nor is it just Batman being Batman, or something we can write off by saying, “Well, Batman would never do it today, but hey that comic is old, they had different ideas back then.” The original panel comes from a 1965 comic about an alternative reality, in which Batman believes Superman killed his parents and has become obsessed with the idea of punishing Superman, to the point where he’s not being entirely reasonable. Robin is trying to talk Batman down and so Batman slaps him, and then later abandons Robin back to the orphanage after wiping his memory. While I’m no comics expert, its hard to believe anyone but Zach Snyder could see this as standard Bat operating procedure.
By point here isn’t to defend the Caped Crusader, but simply to ask this- can we find a better way to point out that an argument is stupid? I’ve got nothing against pointing out stupidity, and having a good laugh about it along the way. Nor do I want us to always be nice when we do so- this is hardly a tone argument. But surely there’s a better way to do it than with an adult smacking his ward.