I’m sure I speak for a lot of you when I say that the story of “Batkid” is one of the most-heartwarming of the year. Today in San Francisco, a large portion of the city is participating in a coordinated event put together by the Make-a-Wish Foundation and aimed at fulfilling the fantasy a five-year-old cancer patient named Miles. Miles has always wanted to be his favorite super-hero, Batman, and so across San Francisco people have set-up crimes for him to solve, plots from arch-villains for him to foil, and of course damsels in distress for him to rescue. I live in San Francisco myself and would love nothing more than to participate in making Miles’s boyhood dream come true. Unfortunately, I can’t in good conscience, and the reason why has to do with something I just mentioned. The sexual politics of Miles’s Make-a-Wish fantasy are, I’m sorry to say, deeply problematic.
While Miles may only be five, it’s incumbent upon his parents (as it is incumbent upon all parents with respect to all children) to teach him that patriarchal tropes which seek to cast women as helpless and in need of rescue are wrong. True, I understand that Miles might not live to learn the lesson he so assuredly needs to, but there’s still a teachable moment here for kids like him and the country in general. One of the most pernicious memes in comic books and fantasy stories needs to finally be addressed and thrown on the scrap heap of paleoconservative history. Women are not “damsels,” and they’re certainly self-sufficient enough to where they wouldn’t need the help, no offense to Miles, of a five-year-old child. To think so is insulting.
Then there’s Miles’s own personal “Great Man” narrative, exactly the kind of thing we need to be discouraging in our children if we’re indeed dedicated to seeing progress in our nation. I think it needs to be asked, why couldn’t Miles have “wished” to be a girl for a day? Is it an issue of transphobia or perhaps cisexism? I do not blame Miles for this since I truly do understand that he might be too young to be fully ready to come to grips with the complexities of his sexuality, but imagine the service to the greater good this little child would be doing if his parents had led him toward taking a stand for equality among all those who may go on without him. His legacy would have been lasting, indeed. He might even have had a street named after him in Burlington, Vermont.
I’m certainly pleased that Miles is happy today, but I can’t celebrate along with him. I’m not sure a city like San Francisco should be celebrating and enabling his offensive, sexist and heteronormative “fantasy” — one borne entirely of white male privilege, the surveillance state, and, probably, drones — either. But I may just be mansplaining.
Update: I tweeted Patton Oswalt over the weekend, demanding to know why he hasn’t spoken out about this. He hasn’t responded. I guess that says all you need to know.