Editor’s preface: While watching Birds of Prey, I felt that its vision of Gotham might be our future. America is rapidly falling into decadence. Our progressive elites are transforming our cities. St. Louis has the 15th highest murder rate in the world. Baltimore is #23, Detroit is #46, New Orleans is #50. No other developed nations are even on the list. What might America look like after the collapse of all values? For one answer, Ian Michael gives us a tour of Harley Quinn’s Gotham City. This is black humor like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, not light humor like Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Welcome to Gotham. I’m your tour guide.
Joker and Birds of Prey show the new Gotham.
Though the two productions weren’t related, Joker and Birds of Prey are grounded in the same comic book canon. While Joker reinvented the Clown Prince of Crime’s legend to the point it was almost non-canon, Birds maintained the more traditional kooky atmosphere of her comics.
Despite all that, Birds is the sequel to the Joker. Harley Quinn’s film occurs many years afterward. The Joker is the most feared crime lord in Gotham, although he stays off-screen. Batman is presumably in the mix as well, though for some reason he chooses not to intervene in all the mayhem that transpires. Maybe because most of the movie’s astonishingly violent orgies of splintered limbs and crushed skulls happen in daylight, and it’s against the rules for him to go out.
Commissioner Gordon is noticeably absent as well, along with almost every firearm in Gotham. Somebody also forgot the combination to the police force’s vault with their arsenal of automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols, grenade launchers, tear gas, and all other tactical gear. This is fortunate for Harley, because her weapons would be impractical against an enemy armed with anything deadlier than a butter knife.
A Brief History of Gotham
In Joker, Gotham collapsed into a war zone. It didn’t get better in the years that followed. It got worse. Much worse.
Crime is so awful that the crime lords themselves got into a deadly “survival of the fittest” fight to the death. A handful survived, but the war was so traumatizing they were left permanently, violently insane. After years of horror – wearing ear necklaces of slain enemies and weeping for the deaths of fallen comrades – the surviving criminals know only war. They don’t even remember what crime is. They forgot what money is. They no longer steal anything. They just like cutting people’s faces off and torturing patrons in their bars. It’s not clear if drinks at bars cost anything. You pay by being tortured.
Harley explains key events of this crime war in flashbacks. In one case, two crime families fought to the death with hundreds of casualties on both sides over a diamond. The winner just walks around with the diamond in his pocket and doesn’t do anything with it. He stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back at him. Sometimes he looks into the diamond, closes his eyes, and can hear the agonizing cries of his men, his comrades, his friends, dying under relentless machine gunfire. He won, but at a terrible cost. It broke him. Now the crime lord sees the cruel irony of his life. He sacrificed almost everyone he ever loved for this prize. All he has left to remember them is the prize. He cannot part with it. Whenever someone suggests that he have the diamond appraised, or at least turned into something useful like a necklace or desk ornament, he screams “Medic!” and dives under a table.
While it is a fictional universe and it is impossible to know what happened between the two movies, the result is clear.
Life in Gotham.
Crime is rampant in the streets. It is impossible to walk more than ten feet without seeing at least several murders, beatings, and robberies. Harley routinely shops and rolls her cart out without paying. Only fools pay. Crime has gotten so bad that people walk by without blinking. Gotham’s residents have resigned themselves to living in Hell and have become desensitized to the destruction happening all around them as they work or shop.
Yet Gotham’s economy is strangely unaffected. Business owners don’t mind operating in a city worse than Mogadishu. Everyone has a job and a place to live. Though people are murdered for no reason in almost every frame of the movie, the only citizens in poverty seen are at near the end of the film. Three hobos warm themselves by a fire under a bridge, watching yet another group of cars blowing up. To be fair, these men might not have been homeless and were just campers. That spot under the bridge might also be the only place in Gotham safe enough to stand in for more than a few seconds without getting shot, stabbed, or bombed.
The people of Gotham have lost the will to live. A Korean restaurant owner openly admits to Harley that he betrayed her. It’s not that he doesn’t care if she kills him. He wants her to kill him and end his nightmarish existence. Harley is too smart to fall for that trick and spares him, knowing that to continued life in Gotham is worse than any torture she can imagine.
At one point in the movie, Harley goes to buy a breakfast burrito but doesn’t have enough cash to pay for it. She’s astonished, as this is the first time in at least several years she’s been asked for money. Normally, a burrito in Gotham costs a broken finger.
One of Harley’s friends is a singer for a crime lord. He promotes her to be his personal driver. She doesn’t ask if it pays more. There is no pay. You’re paid by being tortured less.
Two men get Harley drunk so they can assault her in an alley. She’s strangely okay with this. Her singer friend then beats up the men, who are also strangely okay with it. That’s because nobody in this situation had done anything illegal or even odd. This is how people usually have sex in Gotham.
A nonprofit victim’s advocacy group visited the city but gave up after an hour because they couldn’t get anyone to understand what “rape” means. People just stared blankly and asked “How else are you supposed to do it?” The volunteers packed up their van, pulled out of the parking lot, and were immediately killed at random by a suicide bomber.
While Gotham is a very violent society, it has traditional customs that many moviegoers misinterpret as acts of aggression. Near the beginning of the film, a woman in a car starts shooting at Harley. People incorrectly perceive this as an attack. She was using her turn signal. Some viewers are confused by the scene in which a man at a bar yells at Harley to take her clothes off – and she breaks his legs. This is a Gotham courtship ritual. She appreciated the man’s compliment and helped pay his tab for the drinks. In another common misconception, people believe the policewoman is being rebellious by wearing an “I shaved my balls for this” t-shirt at the station. This is a standard detective’s uniform in the Gotham Police Department.
At the climax of the movie, Harley and her friends go to an amusement park and fight a large group of men armed with axes and hammers. The winner of the fight gets to chop up a little girl for a diamond in her intestines. This is a normal thing to do at an amusement park in Gotham.
Law enforcement in Gotham.
Crime lords are impervious to prosecution. The police won’t touch them. Why bother? Criminals kill each other by thousands every day. People wonder why Gotham has any criminals left alive. Does Gotham have any citizens who aren’t criminals? Anyone even slightly sane would have left by now. Batman and Gordon might be absent from the movie because they’re planning a trip to the Bahamas together to celebrate their coming unemployment.
Though they do nothing about the crime lords, Gotham’s police are very dedicated to their jobs. They’ll respond to a 911 call with great urgency, no matter how trivial it might be. They’re so dedicated to responding to citizens’ complaints of petty crime that they’ll drive past a group of internationally famous mass murderers standing outside the headquarters of the worst human being since Hitler – to arrest a ten-year-old girl for shoplifting.
The world sees Gotham.
National Geographic interviewed a group of Iraqi civilians who survived the Battle of Fallujah. The Iraqis admitted that it was bad to starve for weeks while fearing sudden death by an airstrike, but they would repeat the experience ten times over before they would spend a single day in Gotham.
A group of Syrians was rescued from a mass execution by ISIS and granted asylum in the United States. When officials told the Syrians that Gotham was their new home, they begged to be sent back. When the local ISIS commander heard of this incident, he ruled that “I will spare these apostates; going to Gotham is punishment enough for any mortals.”
A recent survey conducted in 203 countries asked participants what they consider to be the greatest threat to world peace. 100% voted Gotham. 17% of participants handwrote in “Please ask Trump to nuke them.”
The Roman Catholic Church has officially renounced the existence of Hell. The Pope stated that “There can be no place worse than Gotham.” A few clergy suggested that perhaps only sinners are sent to Gotham. After a brief discussion, everyone agreed that nobody – no matter what crimes they committed – could have sins that deserve a sentence to Gotham.
When comparing international crime statistics, the UN voted unanimously that the United States should leave out Gotham. There are so many deaths in a single day that nobody understands why anyone in Gotham is still alive. The prevailing theory is that Gotham’s population remains stable because people repeatedly rape each other in alleys. When humanitarian groups measure international sexual assault statistics, they leave out Gotham because it skews the number because 98% of all rapes worldwide occur in Gotham. Abortion is impractical, as are all other hospital procedures, because no one with a medical degree is insane enough to live in Gotham.
Protecting America from Gotham.
President Trump signed an executive order stating that anyone caught illegally entering the country would be bussed to Gotham. Illegal immigration dropped to zero. Funds for the border wall were then re-allocated to building a two-hundred-foot-tall barrier around Gotham with minefields, flame thrower turrets, and artillery batteries. Soldiers assigned to guard the wall are given hazardous duty pay for having to stand within five miles of Gotham. The newly created U.S. Space Force will build a network of laser satellites to incinerate anyone that steps outside the Gotham city limits.
A secret about Batman.
On an unrelated note, Batman, Alfred, and the Gordon family are the only people in Gotham who don’t drink the tap water. There is no known reason for this. Gotham is not a clandestine CIA experiment to drive an entire city mad with hallucinogens and see how long it takes for them to kill each other.
For more about the dark side of the DC universe
See the films!
- Batman Begins.
- Man of Steel. Locke Peterseim’s review – A new Man of Steel for 21st century America: a warrior superman.
- Justice League. My review: Justice League is the film we need, not the one we deserve.
- Joker. My review: Joker is a film of our time, but not the film we need.
See my posts!
About the author
Ian Michael served 5 years in the US Marine Corps. He did two tours patrolling in Helmand Province (Afghanistan) and one in Kuwait. He is now a Staff Sergeant in the US Army Reserve. He lives in Iowa. See some of his other articles …
- Generals read “Ender’s Game” and see their vision of the future Marine Corps.
- Pain and misery build discipline! Or so we’re told.
- The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics.
- Alita, the Battle Angel, fights her feminist critics.
- Plato and Diogenes warn us about hubris – Here is a fun short story, historical fiction about one of the clashes between two of the larger-than-life people of the ancient world.
- Military science fiction about our future: Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.
For More Information
Ideas! For some holiday shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
- Our choice of heroes reveals much about America – It’s gotten worse since I wrote this in 2013.
- We like superheroes because we’re weak. Let’s use other myths to become strong.
- Our biggest films reveal dark truths about us.
- Hollywood’s Hero Deficit – both a cause and symptom of our weakness.
- The sad reason we love superheroes, and the cure.