The Arkham Sessions: Coping With Trauma In ‘Batman: Appointment In Crime Alley’
Based on a 1976 Detective Comics story by Dennis O'Neil and Dick Giordano, "Appointment in Crime Alley" is a memorable and heartfelt episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Gritty and sorrowful, the episode is centered around the anniversary of Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder in Park Row 30 years ago, and Bruce Wayne's annual appointment to visit the site of their death. We also learn more about Dr. Leslie Thompkins, the longtime friend and colleague of Thomas Wayne who consoled young Bruce on the night his parents were murdered. We realize Leslie's life was also greatly affected by the tragedy, and the two share a unique bond.
Are Bruce and Leslie enacting a healthy coping method by commemorating the Waynes every year in "Crime Alley", or is this a sign of prolonged grief and their inability to move on? In this episode of the Arkham Sessions, we discuss how some people who experience trauma and negative life events can get "stuck" on bad thoughts which keep them from overcoming the tragedies in their lives.
Isn't it normal to feel bad after a trauma?
Yes. After experiencing a negative event or tragedy, it is normal for us to feel sad, disconnected, scared and maybe even crazy. Our sense of safety and trust are essentially shattered. It's also very common to re-experience the event (like having bad dreams, feeling jumpy, and thinking about the event a lot). These are normal reactions to abnormal events. However, this normal response to trauma becomes a problem when we become "stuck" on these bad thoughts for a long period of time.
Is Batman "stuck" in the past?
People who do not recover from negative events often ruminate or repeat their troubles in their mind. In fact, research shows that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts and are unable to turn their attention away from them, a process that reinforces the anxiety, sadness and disconnectedness they have felt since the initial tragedy. A psychological treatment called Cognitive Processing Therapy helps persons with traumatic pasts identify their personal "stuck points" so that they can learn to get "unstuck" and develop healthier coping strategies. Stuck points are strong negative beliefs that create unpleasant emotions and problematic, unhealthy behavior-- for instance, distancing oneself from others, feeling hopeless and sad, or carrying a lot of anger and distrust. One can argue that Batman occasionally shows some of these signs in BTAS, but his trusting, supportive relationship with Leslie Thompkins has us wondering if she's the reason he hasn't become "stuck" in the past. Moreover, perhaps "Appointment in Crime Alley" symbolizes the stuck points of Gotham City. The episode carries some heavy themes by presenting the downtrodden slums of Crime Alley, the misfortunes of the city's underserved citizens, and Batman's inability to bring justice to a disenfranchised community.