Monday, December 06, 2004

Knightfall 8: All Hands on Deck

The other day I was describing the whole cyber-bat-fantasy realm to a friend, and I compared it to the Holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm not a Trek watcher, let alone fan, but I think I have the basic idea of the Deck: a zone where people can go to live out their wildest fantasies in a (usually) safe environment, sometimes alone and sometimes with others.

I presume crew members can use this zone to work out issues in their "real" lives if they wish, or just get off for a while. That's certainly the case with batplay, online or off. And one of the things I'm getting to examine in my encounters with the Monk is the tremendous attraction that failure holds for me--the notion of coming as close to defeat as humanly possible and then rescuing myself at the last minute (or, most enticing of all, NOT rescuing myself). With defeat comes shame, and the shame fuels my rebound. I'm one of those habitually late people who pushes a deadline way past its expiration date (a habit which is really, really bad in a writer, by the way), then beats himself up about it, and then produces something pretty good (though never as good as it should or could be). I've long suspected that my little dance of procrastination, self-hatred, and triumph was linked to the cycle of deathtraps and last-minute escapes that so thrilled me as a young BatFan, and as I'm playing out the gradual unravelling of my batself at the hands of the Monk, I'm beginning to see just how incredibly powerful are my fantasies of utter defeat/shame/humiliation.

Ironically--or more likely not--I'm only starting to play seriously with all this stuff in batfantasy at the precise moment that my daylight life is probably healthier and happier than ever. As a man in my mid-40s I've naturally been thinking a lot about what constitutes "success" in my life, and I can honestly say I feel pretty okay with where I am. It's not where I thought I'd be as a kid, but then maybe those expectations were a bit unrealistic to begin with. (For one thing, many of those expectations were grounded in an upper-middle-class heterosexual married-with-kids-and-high-income-job model that just doesn't match my daily reality; come to think of it, I probably picked up a lot of that fantasy from 60s television programming, too--other than billionaire crimefighter Bruce Wayne, my role models once included architect Mr. Brady and psychologist Bob Newhart. Mamas, don't let your babies watch TV!)

With all that in mind, here's another update on my ongoing debasement as Ratman. I was telling the Monk the other day that my transformation is not going the way I'd expected. All along I was envisioning that being "broken" would happen quickly, in a flash, or at least that there would be a single decisive watershed moment. (As I've written here earlier, I thought I'd reached that moment already, but it eventually passed and I realized I had a lot more Bat left in me than I thought.) That might sometimes happen in face-to-face s/m scenes, but in my case what's happening instead is that it's a very, very slow process, as more and more of the batself fades from my being day by day by day. Which is actually way sexier to me, when you get right down to it: some of my darkest batfantasies involve being held prisoner for days, weeks, even months at a time, as I slowly wither away. (I think, too, of the climax of one of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, in which Moriarty captures our hero and begins to drain all the blood out of his body, one drop at a time. Mmmmmm!)

I mentioned all this to the Monk not long ago; here's part of his response:

I respect your gradual
submersion into the fact..I encourage
it...savor each and every sensation...the pangs of
confusion...the freedom of debasement..the sheer
eroticism of meeting your destiny at my cowled
control..we'll defeat each of those internal
villains..and create an even better one....

(The "internal villains" he refers to are an allusion to another part of my bat-backstory: in solo play, I have often confronted villainous impulses implanted in me by previous captors who have attempted to turn the Dark Knight over to the Dark Side.) As is the case a disturbing amount of the time, he's described the process with extraordinary precision--but then, that's why he's the master villain he is.

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