When Edward Nygma explains his invention to Wayne, he describes how it beams TV signals to the human brain, creating a fully immersive 3D experience. Suffice to say, Nygma is more than excited about his invention. He then poses a question that also stands as his thesis statement behind creating the device.
Nygma: Why be brutalized by an uncaring world?
As a shrimpy, nerdy scientist it’s easy to imagine little Eddie being bullied as a child and spending a great deal of time alone reading comic books, watching cartoons, and various other types of entertainment. It would then make sense for him to work all his adult life to develop a type of entertainment that damn near blocks out reality entirely.
And the Gotham City of Batman Forever is definitely portrayed as sprawling and overblown.
Goldman gives a description in the script: Glutted with neon signs and giant animated billboards.
This all adds up to a pretty common depiction of the modern or futuristic city that signals a decline in society: the new growing over and shadowing the old, dizzying and constant advertising and flashy lights, no sign of trees or nature anywhere. It’s as if Schumacher took Burton’s gothic landscape and infused it with the electricity of the LA from Blade Runner.
Later, after all of Gotham has a Box in their homes, they stare zombified into their TV’s while their mental energy is transferred right into the Riddler’s head, stored in his hot pink hairdo. Here he is sitting alone on his throne, mumbling to himself, staring off into space.
It is implied in the film and made even clearer in the screenplay that there is a comparison between Nygma’s Box and drug use or just addiction in general.
Aren’t those two of the most common distractions from our modern ‘uncaring world’? Watching some TV? Or partaking in some narcotics?
Or sweet sweet green mental energy?
Here’s a line from the script while the Riddler is laying out his plan for the Box.
Nygma: Yes, TV. Balm to the minds of the masses. The great deadener. If only it were more lively.
Funny how his invention makes TV both more lively in that it is more realistic looking but at the same time ‘deadens’ it’s viewers by sucking their brain juice.
In this same scene, after the Riddler demonstrates the electrode on Two-Face for the first time, he can’t wait to get another taste.
Goldman writes: Harvey eyes the electrode with an addict’s hungry eyes.
There’s a short scene from the script that takes place during the montage of Riddler and Two-Face on their robbing spree. It’s quite interesting.
They are in their getaway car with Sugar & Spice, passing the electrode back and forth. The two girls are fighting with each other trying to grab for it. As our two villains share the device they have what I would call a ‘high’ conversation, zonked out of their minds and pontificating about Jim Morrison and his music.
Comparing excessive, immersive entertainment (whether it be TV or movies) with drug use is a pretty bold move (and maybe a slightly hypocritical one) for a big Hollywood movie to make.
It’s also interesting that only the bad guys are associated with these drug use parallels.
But Bruce has his own addiction doesn’t he?
He’s addicted to ass kicking. And he has his reasons which we’ve talked about already.
There’s even a passage in the script where Bruce calls his obsession with crime fighting an addiction while talking to Dick to convince him to drop his whole plan for revenge.
Let’s take a look at the dialogue between Bruce and Dick in the Batcave after Dick takes the Batmobile out for the joyride and ends up fighting a whole gang of neon thugs.
All I can think about every second of the day is getting Two-Face. He took my whole life. And when I was out there tonight, I imagined it was him that I was fighting, even when I was fighting you. And all the pain went away. Do you understand?
Yes, I do.
Good, cause you gotta help me find him. And when we do, I’m the one who kills him.
So, you’re willing to take a life.
Long as it’s Two-Face.
Then it will happen this way: You make the kill, but your pain doesn’t die with Harvey, it grows. So you run out into the night to find another face, and another, and another, until one terrible morning you wake up and realize that revenge has become your whole life. And you won’t know why.
Now replace ‘revenge’ in that last part with ‘alcohol’ or ‘crack’ and what you have is a pretty spot on description of an addict’s life.
So what’s the message here? Whether it be drugs or pounding criminals into the ground, everyone, rich or poor, good or bad, has their addictions? That could be it. After all, Bruce’s story is that of conquering his addiction. Yes, he is still Batman… but not because he has to anymore.
Joel Schumacher has also been very upfront and honest about the fact that he had his fair share of drug days in the past. Maybe bad memories or watching other people around him deteriorate led him to include this cautionary tale in his film. Drugs are for the bad guys!
And too much TV is bad for you!
But not this movie…and certainly not the AWESOME action figures.