Clever Criminals: Why do so many Batman Villains have Degrees?

Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, the Riddler, Manbat, Two Face. What do all these Batman villains have in common? An advanced university degree! Prior to her love affair with the Joker, Harley Quinn was a registered psychiatrist. Before her poisonous transformation, Poison Ivy was a botanist. What a surprise! But why did so many clever academics turn to a life of crime? While fictional, this provides for some delicious philosophical food for thought.

Why so Serious Smart?

The first question we should ask ourselves perhaps is ‘why are so many of Batman’s villains so intelligent; smart enough to get degrees in the first place?’ Surely, Gotham isn’t the most likely place to gain an elite education. To answer this question, we need to first look at Batman himself as a character. Bruce Wayne is a very clever, analytical mastermind, so it makes sense that his villains need to match his intelligence or beat it in order for them to pose a worthy threat (and if we think in terms of the creators of Batman’s storylines, sellable and worth the watch). Further, we need to think that ‘sure, brute strength and a criminal intent do qualify a villain to pose a threat, but surely the police can handle that’. The villains of Batman primarily require smarts in order to be worthy of facing him, as Batman is inherently a man of major intellect.

The Nature of Academia + Accidents

When someone has a brilliant university education, they can develop a certain frustration with the world, and hell, even go a bit crazy! This is exaggerated to the point of criminality with Batman’s rogues gallery. Two-Face, for example, is a Lawyer on the wrong side of the law. He makes his decisions – often life or death decisions – based on the literal flip of a coin. How did an academic turn non-sensical and nefarious? First, the very nature of academia probably contributed. An academic’s intellect can make them feel disenfranchised with the world and motivate them to change it. Secondly, there of course, was a terrible originating accident. Most, if not all, super-villains have some accident or incident that transforms them from passionate nerd to passionate criminal. In Two-Face’s case, it was an oil fire that burnt one side of his face. For Mr Freeze, it was a freezing accident in the lab that sent him to subzero. Others, such as Poison Ivy, (botanist) and Harley Quinn (Criminal Psychologist) suffered a form of death and rebirth in most of the Batman mythos.

Clever Criminals: The Conclusion

Perhaps it’s simply a fluke but it seems, as we have explored, there are some logical reasons as to why so many of Gotham’s criminals hold degrees.

The Importance of ‘Fun Philosophy’

While discussing popular culture and fiction, this article demonstrates the importance of ‘fun philosophy’. It opens our minds to deep and analytical thinking, helping us to also enjoy things on a more complex level (and it also makes for enjoyable, speculative reading hopefully).