It’s not only the dark side of Gotham City’s villains that we see in The Lego Batman Movie. We also see the dark side of the dark knight.
While the constant comedy of this family movie keeps the content lighthearted, the character development of Batman himself gives the film a sense of depth. The conflict Batman/Bruce Wayne faces is lurking inside the crevices of his heart; his change involves unmasking himself so he can learn to give and receive love.
Batman lost his parents to the crime-ridden streets of Gotham, which creates in him a passion for fighting crime. The Lego Batman Movie suggests he uses this mission as a way to avoid dealing directly with his traumatic past. In one scene, his butler Alfred catches Batman lost in thought as he gazes at a wall of family photos. Alfred suggests that Batman settle down and give up the mask. But Batman puts on his mask of denial and avoids facing his greatest fear, which, Alfred claims, is having a family again. Batman has kept himself safe from experiencing pain by being a loner, acting independently, being egotistical, and by staying focused on the physical aspects of his life. All of these are mechanisms that help numb himself to feeling any strong emotions.
Later, Bruce Wayne reluctantly heads to a city gala—forgetting to take off his Batman mask until Alfred reminds him. Once there, he meets an orphan named Dick Grayson. Dick sees Bruce Wayne for who he truly is, in the light of his broken past, when he points out that they both grew up without parents. He feels a connection with the real man behind the mask, which makes him confident enough to ask Bruce to adopt him, thereby instigating Bruce's move towards a new family.
Bruce is also moved by a video he's shown later in the film, a montage of how rude, selfish, and arrogant Bruce is when he’s wearing his Batman mask. It’s then that he finally confronts the dark parts in him, the ones that push other people away. This is when he begins to embrace relationship and vulnerability.
We all have masks we put on to protect ourselves. It's hard to admit we’re just ordinary people with flaws and insecurities. But when we isolate ourselves it is our own downfall, because we were created for relationship. When man was alone God said it wasn’t good. What’s more, all human relationship was created to flow out of the center of divine relationship. As St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
As Christ’s church, we are members of one body. God intends to use us in each other’s lives as his vessels of love. George Macdonald makes this connection when he writes, “We shall never be able to rest in the bosom of the Father, till the fatherhood is fully revealed to us in the love of the brothers.” Macdonald suggests that until we love others in the church (and outside of it), we won’t find rest. What’s more, we won’t fully understand the love of the father if we don’t spend our lives giving and receiving love from brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is an interconnectedness in these divine and human relationships, a harmony that imparts rest and peace to us. We can only truly be ourselves—the real person God made—when we take off our masks and connect with others.
When we isolate ourselves it is our own downfall, because we were created for relationship.