Wednesday, October 26, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scene 60

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on the "Martha" scene after the Batman-Superman fight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder.

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  • Batman takes Superman down
  • Your parents and my parents
  • Force the world to make sense
  • Superman does bleed
  • "Martha"
  • Thoughts from listeners
  • Terrio and a moment of shared humanity
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco

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<Transcript of the episode>

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, Alessandro Maniscalco and I share our analysis of the DC Films that make up the Justice League Universe. My apologies, yet again, for a delay between episodes. As some of you may know, I work at the University of Missouri and this particular semester has been my busiest yet. For the first time, to keep up I’ve had to do some work late at night after my family has gone to bed. And that used to be podcast time late at night, so it has thrown off my schedule. But we’ll still get some more episodes out this semester, and my workload for next semester looks much more reasonable.

Anyway, in our last episode we talked about Batman v Superman and the Batman-Superman fight and we left off with Superman defeated. In this episode we’re going to cover the aftermath of the fight and of course the big “Martha” scene that is one of the most talked-about moments of this entire movie and I’d say one of the most talked-about moments in any movie this year. We’re going to give our analysis and also include thoughts on this scene from several of our listeners.

And before we get into that, a quick update on the Batman v Superman home media sales. According to, BvS has posted over $13 Million in DVD sales and over $44 Million in Blu-ray sales, for a total of $58 Million. And that doesn’t count digital sales, which are on the rise in the industry. $58 Million is a very good number, especially because we haven’t even hit the christmas shopping season yet. To put it into context, that is the 4th highest sales number for 2016. BvS is coming in behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Zootopia, and Deadpool.

So with that good news in hand, let’s move into Scene 60, the “Martha” scene. Batman has just defeated Superman with a second Kryptonite gas grenade, and Batman knocked him out and threw him down to the lower level of the abandoned train station. This fits thematically with Batman’s psychological state -- he has been down, in a dangerous moral place throughout the whole movie -- and now he has taken Superman down there with him, both physically and also psychologically because Superman, like Batman, was pushed to the edge of his moral limits and was actually in danger of taking Batman’s life, just like Batman is in danger of his vengeance consuming him and him taking Superman’s life. They are both going down into that dark place together, and we’re eagerly watching to see how they’ll come out of it.

Batman grapples down and methodically wraps a line around Superman’s ankle. The haunting Batman interval comes out in the musical score, and we get a beautiful shot of Superman’s blue and red in contrast to the grays and browns of Wayne Station. The lighting also sets a cool tone for the next part of this scene as it is streaming in the windows and hitting the dust with a blue tint. As Batman drags Superman over to the spot that he had prepared, he says, “I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you’re here for a reason. My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all.” This reinforces the idea that the Batman-Superman battle is not just a physical confrontation but this story is also dealing with the different backgrounds and the different mindsets of the characters. The reference to parents dying in the gutter obviously reminds us of the opening scene, the Wayne murder that set the foundation for Bruce’s entire powerless arc. But he also refers to Superman having parents, which touches on the envy that has been an undercurrent of Bruce’s arc, as we’ve covered in past episodes. This is a broader envy that Bruce probably has toward anyone whose parents weren’t taken from them, but Bruce has taken a general envy and projected it very particularly onto Superman, fueling his rage and mania, just like he projected his general feelings of failure as Batman onto the very singular moment of Superman and the wreckage in Metropolis.

One more quick note about this parent line. People have said that it was a mistake to have Batman refer to Superman’s parents, only to have him a few minutes later be surprised to find out that Superman has a mother, Martha Kent. If he already knew Superman had parents, then why is he surprised to find out he has a mother? But the easy resolution to this critique is that Batman is referring here to Superman’s Kryptonian parents. Thus it would still make sense for Batman to realize only later that Superman actually has a human mother and humans who love him. The other resolution to the critique is that Batman later is not primarily surprised by Superman having a human mother, but by Superman pleading for his mother’s life rather than his own life and by the fact that Superman’s mother’s name is Martha, not that she’s human. Of course, we’ll get into a full interpretation of that “Martha” connection a bit later, but for right now we can just reaffirm that this line from Batman about parents does not contradict anything later.

We should also say that there’s a nice connection between Batman’s line and Man of Steel, because Jonathan Kent back in Man of Steel also surmised that Clark must’ve been sent to Earth for a reason, and that it is Clark’s responsibility to find out what that reason is. And of course, throughout that movie, he learned that the reason was to be a bridge between two worlds and to be the Last Son of Krypton, representing a new hope for Krypton based on choice and free will, and also to be a role model for humanity. In Batman v Superman, we have seen Superman struggling to live up to those purposes -- he is trying to, but people like Batman, who have a different outlook on life, are making it very difficult, as we can see right now with Superman currently being dragged toward possible death.

Batman then retracts the grapple and uses the momentum to swing Superman around the great hall, hitting him into columns. I’m not really sure about the physics here -- something doesn’t quite sit right with me, but Alessandro is okay with it, and it’s a really minor detail, so I’ll let it go.

Superman hits his head and groans, and then Batman finishes his line, saying “They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to.” So altogether, this line is very close to what Batman says to Superman in The Dark Knight Returns, which was “You gave them--the power--that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you to. My parents taught me a different lesson...lying on this street shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.” This is shot with the camera pushing in to a close up on Batman’s battle-scarred face. The shot really emphasizes the line, so we get the sense that it’s important for Batman’s character. Batman is forcing the world to make sense, and so at some level Batman himself is acknowledging that he has a skewed perspective and that he imposes his interpretations on reality rather than taking reality as it is, perhaps because reality is too painful or maybe he just thinks it’s non-sensical in general. He is pulling the wool over his own eyes and he even kind of knows he’s doing it. With regard to Superman, he is not seeing the good that Superman has tried to do nor Superman’s potential for good in the future -- Batman has fixated on Superman as a possible threat and on the destruction that has followed him in his wake. Rather than seeing the reality that others were responsible, like the public’s prejudices and uninformed conclusions or even more directly Lex Luthor, Batman instead forced things through his prism of Superman being the main problem. Why was Bruce forcing himself to see things this way? Because of his own feelings of powerlessness and failure that he was not willing to deal with.

Notice that here and earlier in the fight, Batman is never actually confronting Superman with the possibility that Superman will become a threat or that he’s too powerful to be trusted. Batman’s isn’t monologuing to Superman about the 1% doctrine. Instead, Batman is talking about his parents and about how he’s struggled to make sense of the world. This shows that what’s really going on is exactly what we’ve been saying all along -- Batman is grappling with issues of masculinity and his relationship to god, the god who took his parents from him. Batman’s primary issue is his psychological feeling of powerlessness and his inability to handle his failures as both Bruce and Batman. The reasons that he manufactures about the 1% doctrine are secondary reasons -- and they’re not totally without merit, but they are his rationalization to himself, not his true driving force. It’s important to make this distinction so that the “Martha” moment actually works. More on that later.

Anyway, the great thing about this line is the fact that Batman knows at some level that he is deluding himself is an indication that he might be able to break free from his skewed perspective and remove the filter, possibly seeing hope in mankind and in Superman.

Next, the music swells with the Batman rhythmic motif and Batman pulls the Kryptonite spear out of the floor where he’d implanted it earlier. This is the sword in the stone moment, and the spear is also sort of physically a stand-in for the arrow from The Dark Knight Returns comic. And a connection from within Batman v Superman itself is that the shot from behind Batman with his hand slightly out to the side carrying the spear is a visual echo of Scene 17 when Bruce was carrying the flowers out to the mausoleum. Thanks to @GothamDuder on Twitter for posting a nice pairing of these shots ( It is a cool visual touch but it also works thematically because that dream showed Bruce still having nightmares about his parents’ death, and now here he is trying to do the only thing that he thinks will matter, trying to redeem himself and his parents through vengeance, which of course is a path toward doom. We could also say that in both scenes, Bruce is mourning his parents’ death, particularly his mother’s (recall that the mother’s tomb got most of the attention in the mausoleum scene). And maybe the man-bat breaking out of the bloody tomb was the warning that if Batman spills blood with the spear (that is, he kills Superman), that he will actually be unleashing a demon (that is, himself, for having gone completely over the edge and becoming a murderer).

We cut outside to see the helicopter landing and Lois now needs to make her way into the station to find Superman. Batman comes up to a conscious but still weakened Superman and puts his boot on his neck in an iconic shot. This movie has lots of iconic visual moments, but even just these scenes of the fight and the aftermath of the fight have several really powerful and memorable images. This is definitely one of them, which sets up the climax of the Batman-Superman showdown. Batman says, “You were never a god. You were never even a man.” This obviously connects to the god-and-man dynamics that have been at play throughout the movie. Batman is refuting the notion that some people had that Superman was a god. And Batman may have even assumed that Superman saw himself as a god, even though we the audience know that Superman was much more humble than that. For Batman, the fact that he is able to stand over Superman like this, shows Batman’s power and shows that Superman was definitely not a god or all-powerful in that sense. And then Batman goes even further to say that Superman wasn’t even a man. Batman had already remarked that Superman is not brave, men are brave. So again, Batman is exalting men and positioning Superman as lower than men. He is not human and not part of mankind. So that leaves Superman as something less than or worse than a god or a man, something which pretends to be both but is dangerous as a result. Batman’s words also indicate that he is unaware of Superman’s Clark Kent persona and his earthly parentage.

Now, as I’ve said before, I think it would be cool to see a full feminist analysis of this movie, but I’m not equipped to carry out that analysis. But I do think it’s interesting that Batman keeps talking about men, using that specific genderized term instead of a more general term. So there may actually be more with regard to masculinity that is going on here, but we can only touch on it rather than fully unpack it.

Continuing forward, Batman activates the Kryptonite -- probably with some technology embedded in the spear shaft, as explained by Man of Steel Answers -- and he slices a cut into Superman’s cheek. This connects to the earlier threat, “Do you bleed?” He does bleed, and yes Batman is the one who made him bleed, but his blood is red like ours and it shows Superman’s vulnerability, which is perhaps the first piece of the puzzle that will contribute to Bruce’s realignment, once he is able to break free from his tunnel vision.

We can also think of this slice across the face as Batman metaphorically defacing the symbol of hope for humanity, because Batman in this moment has lost that hope. It’s sort of like a physical manifestation of Wallace’s “False God” paint on the statute. This moment also shows very poignantly how far down this path of vengeance and brutality Batman has gone. We are watching him step right up to the edge of the abyss, and it seems like he might go through with it because he seems so committed.

And this is a good point to remind you about one of our favorite Batman v Superman blog posts, the revenge tragedy analysis from Pulpklatura on tumblr. ( ). Chris Terrio himself, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said that he was digging in to revenge tragedy structure for his work on BvS and Pulpklatura traced out the full revenge tragedy arc for Batman in this movie. A typical revenge tragedy takes the character all the way to the moment where they are going to carry out the vengeance, and of course if they do they are actually harming themself, not just the person they’re targeting. It’s really their own soul that is on the line. And in the revenge tragedy structure, that all leads up to the moment called Anagnorisis -- the recognition or moment of clarity when the main character gains the understanding that was missing (because of his fatal flaw). So Batman’s lack of understanding and his inability to see Superman’s perspective has been very clear thus far in the movie, and we’ve seen his vengeance rising and rising. Now we’ve reached Batman’s Anagnorisis.

After the fight, “Martha”

Batman raises the spear and Superman struggles to say, “You’re letting him kill Martha.” Before we get to the word “Martha” we have the fact that Superman is saying that Batman is “letting him” kill someone. So this is an appeal either to Batman’s past heroism or to his current guilt-complex or to both, because Superman is pinning someone’s death on Batman by saying he is the one letting someone die. But of course, the more important thing is the name Martha, because this startles Batman. Obviously the name has special potency for Bruce, and it was also someone who was killed and Bruce couldn’t do anything to stop it. So Bruce hesitates.

Now, the biggest misconception about Batman v Superman is that Batman and Superman finally get along because, hey that’s cool, their mom’s have the same name. But that is definitely not what happens in this moment. What happens right here is that the name “Martha” catches Batman off guard, just enough to make him pause before he plunges the spear down. And Batman asks, “What does that mean?” He’s confused and getting agitated, whereas before he had been very methodical. He’s not becoming friends with Superman, he’s just stopped in his tracks for a moment. He can’t just kill Superman without figuring out why he said “Martha” in this situation. That mystery would eat at him forever.

The key now is that this moment of pause allows for several other things to happen, all of which will add up to Batman’s Anagnorisis, his moment of clarity and him breaking free from his tunnel vision and his path of vengeance.

The first of those additional things is that Superman gets a chance to choke out another line, “Find him, save Martha.” This is important because it has now shifted from Martha being killed to Batman having an opportunity to save Martha. This hits Batman right in the chest because his failure to save his mother is the issue that has defined his life and his character arc in this movie. He has felt like all his efforts as Batman have been a waste, just pulling up weeds, and he’s also been unable to save others like Robin or Jack or Wallace. And Superman just happens to be cutting right to the core of this.

The second thing that happens because of Batman’s pause is that he has the flashback to the opening scene with the beautifully filmed Waynes murder. The music, “A Beautiful Lie,” actually came in first and then the visual flashback. It all works to bring the audience back to those emotions, just as is happening for Bruce. And this is the moment where the beautiful lie, where Bruce’s fall, can finally come to an end -- he no longer needs to lie to himself but after this point he can begin to cope in a more healthy manner and can start down the path toward redemption.

But we’re not there yet. We’re still just putting the pieces together to get to that point with Batman. Next we have to go through the anger that rises up in Bruce. He yells, “Why did you say that name?” His anger is from his confusion, from the memories of his parents’ death, and it’s also a psychological defense mechanism as he is about to come face-to-face with his errors and his mistakes because of his previously clouded view of reality. And Bruce’s question “Why did you say that name?” can be read in two ways. One way puts the emphasis on the question of why the name was said. The other way puts the emphasis on the fact it was said.  Like “Why did you have to say that name.” because now that has cast him into doubt. As a result he can no longer pull the wool over his own eyes and make sense of the world.

This leads to yet another thing that happens before Batman goes through with killing Superman -- Lois runs in yelling the name Clark. And she hears Batman say, “Martha, why did you say that name?” She crouches down by Superman and says that Martha is his mother’s name. Amy Adams acting is great here, by the way.
And so now Batman has the new piece of information that Superman has a human mother, someone who Superman cares about deeply enough that he was pleading for her life instead of his own, and Batman also sees that this woman right in front of him loves and cares for Superman as well. He has human connections and meaningful relationships. This contradicts Batman trying to say throughout the fight that Superman isn’t a man. That he doesn’t really know human emotions.

All of these pieces come together and Batman is silent… he lifts up his foot and steps back. Yes, this whole chain of events was set off by the name “Martha” causing Batman to pause, but the actual name “Martha” is just one of many pieces that came together to form Batman’s Anagnorisis -- his moment of clarity. And now, as Batman is processing all of it, he might be thinking that Superman is Clark Kent and that he has a full human life, he’s not just an alien. He might also be realizing that Lex Luthor could’ve been pulling several strings over the past months. And most importantly, he might be realizing that he himself was actually the villain in the story rather than the hero saving the world from a powerful threat. He was actually about to become the murderer who killed Martha’s son rather than the hero. He might also be realizing that Alfred was right the whole time and that he had lost track of who he was supposed to be as Batman. He might be thinking back to how out of control and brutal he had become, seeing it in a fresh light for the first time. He might be realizing that he has been forsaking the memory of his parents but that he still has an opportunity to make things right.

Of course we don’t exactly know what’s going through his head, but as he’s backing up, Ben Affleck clearly gives a performance where he is having a flood of thoughts and emotions, and all of the things we’ve mentioned have been set up by the film, so they’re plausible. He then hurls the spear to the side, confirming that he has realized he was about to make a big mistake by killing Superman and this represents his first steps in attempting to get himself back on the right track.

Now, let’s wrap up the point about the 1% doctrine versus Bruce’s psychological issues. Everything we just talked about relates to Bruce’s psychological state and his tunnel vision of vengeance that he’s been in up until now. So his moment of clarity is that he realizes his own tunnel vision and gains a new perspective that allows him to break free. He realizes that what’s been driving him has been his own issues, not an actual threat from Superman. So this allows him to start to right himself and to team up with Superman because he now realizes that Superman was never the issue. In other words, this resolution to the Batman-Superman fight is directly related to Batman’s mental state, and it is a profound shift in his character arc, right along with the structures laid out in revenge tragedies.

None of this stuff relates to the 1% doctrine. There’s nothing here in the resolution to the fight that proves Superman is a 0% risk. Maybe Superman showed he has a good heart because he begged for his mom instead of for himself, and he didn’t just kill Batman right at the start of the fight, but that still isn’t enough to put him down at a 0% risk, so the 1% doctrine would still apply. And there’s also nothing here in the resolution of the fight that shows Batman changing his outlook and becoming willing to accept more risk. It’s not about Batman coming to the realization that the 99% chance of Superman doing good is worth the 1% chance of him turning out tyrannical. So this scene is not about addressing the 1% doctrine because as we’ve been saying over and over again, the 1% doctrine was not the real issue -- it was just Bruce’s rationalization. It was part of the wool that Bruce had pulled over his own eyes, trying to force the world to make sense.

If an audience member thought that the 1% doctrine was the real issue, then yes, this resolution to the conflict will seem very unsatisfying. It will seem like just a coincidence based on the name “Martha.” And Batman will seem stupid or at least inconsistent for just teaming up with Superman after this. But if you’re like us and the many many people who loved this “Martha” scene and were emotionally moved by our empathy for Bruce, then you saw how this scene worked wonderfully for everything they had set up with regard to Bruce’s psychology.

And I have to say, for the audience members who thought it was just a simple coincidence about the name “Martha,” I’m really curious how they interpreted the whole sequence when Batman is walking backwards and processing everything and then throws the spear to the side. Are those audience members just imagining that Batman is thinking, “Martha? But that’s my mom’s name! And it’s his mom’s name? Two mom’s named Martha? That’s like a crazy coincidence. Martha? Oh wow, Martha!” That just seems ridiculous on the audience’s part to think that that’s all that’s going on here. We should all strive to be better viewers than that.

Now, because this “Martha” moment is so commonly discussed and also so often misunderstood, we also want to take a few minutes to talk about why Superman said “Martha” instead of “my mom”. Some people have called this a plot hole, saying that anyone would say “mom” instead of their mom’s first name. First of all, that’s not a plot hole -- it’s not impossible nor a logical inconsistency for someone to use their parent’s first name. But we can go further than that and think about some possibilities for why Superman said “Martha.”

One possibility is that Superman knew Bruce’s mom’s name was also Martha, and so maybe he thought this would get through to him more forcefully. We know Superman knows Batman’s identity because he called him Bruce at the beginning of the fight, so it’s plausible that Clark Kent also investigated Bruce’s past, and it would be really easy to find out about the Waynes because they were very prominent people in Gotham.

But I’m not sure Superman could’ve been that strategic given the stress he was under at the time. Another hypothesis for why Superman said “Martha” instead of “my mom” is that it’s because he was actually saying “Martha Kent,” which would give Batman much more information to use to hopefully save her. Remember that Batman at this point does not know Superman is Clark Kent. We first saw this hypothesis from DCEU-Positivity on tumblr, and the idea here is that he was saying Martha Kent but the “Kent” got stepped on and Superman couldn’t get the word out. There are a couple grunts from Superman that kind of sound like they start with the K consonant. This choking on the word Kent is convenient to the scene because it allows Batman to focus on just the word “Martha,” but convenience is not a plot hole. If this hypothesis is true, then unfortunately it was not only Batman but most of the audience, too, that missed the Kent part of it.

Another idea comes from one of our listeners, Angelo. He actually put forward two ideas, the first is similar to our point earlier about Superman knowing that Batman was Bruce Wayne.. Right at the start of the scene Superman says something like 'Bruce, please, I was wrong, you have to listen to me.' This implies Superman knew Batman's identity, and so maybe he was trying to connect with him when he mentioned Martha because he knew Batman's mother shared his mother's name. Angelo noted that many people might see this as a little Machiavellian on Superman’s part, but he doesn’t because really Superman is not trying to trick Batman but to save him because he is appealing to Batman’s honor, basically saying, “You're letting your mother die yet again through vengeance.”

Angelo also pointed out another idea, which is that people assume Batman in that scene is clueless about Superman's biological background. Yes, Bruce may not have known Clark had foster parents with human names but he must have done some background study to possibly find out that Kryptonians were genetically engineered and so had no real parents. But Kal-El’s birth was uniquely natural, so Batman had no way of knowing Kal-El had real parents. If Superman had said mother, Batman could have interpreted it as a lie or a stall and then he would’ve killed him without pause. Also, Angelo asks us to remember that even if on the odd chance Batman did not know Kryptonians were genetically engineered, he had just seen a flash drive full of meta-humans, so Superman saying 'mother' would not necessarily stop Bruce but embolden him to look for his mother as a meta-human or Kryptonian hiding on earth to kill her too. Yet by mentioning her name, a human name, it immediately clicks because Batman realises Superman has a HUMAN mother and she shares the name of his own mother. Thanks, Angelo.

Lots of good thoughts there. I would say, given the fact that Batman earlier referred to Superman’s parents, it is more likely that he did think Kryptonians had parents rather than that they were parentless. But this just confirms that if Superman had said “mother,” it would’ve meant absolutely nothing to Batman and Batman would’ve gone ahead with the murder. And Superman knew that Batman would assume “mother” meant a Kryptonian mother, and Batman would have no desire to stop what he was doing and save another Kryptonian, so it would make no sense for Superman to say “mother.” Superman was smart enough to realize that his only chance of getting through to Batman was to make an appeal to a human mother, so he used her name. This is a completely rational move on Superman’s part, and it’s not far-fetched that he would be able to piece these implications together in the moment. From this line of reasoning, he doesn’t have to have known that Martha was Bruce’s mom’s name -- he just needs to have known that Bruce has no compassion for Kryptonians.

Other People’s Thoughts

In addition to Angelo, we want to bring in some more thoughts from other people on this scene. It’s a great scene, and it deserves multiple perspectives and opinions more than just ours. One of our favorite movie reviewers is Mark Hughes from Forbes and he made a nice connection between some overall themes of Batman v Superman and this specific “Martha” moment.
Hughes wrote that if you’re non-cynical in a cynical world, then either you will change the world or the world will change you. Superman in this movie universe is a non-cynical character but he’s in a very cynical and realistic world. Superman is trying to stay true to himself, but the world is making it hard. Luckily, it hasn’t changed him yet, though it’s gotten close. Batman, on the other hand, has become very cynical and untrusting. Hughes points out that at the moment of truth, Superman keeps his non-cynicism and calls out for his mother instead of himself. This helps Batman to see that Batman himself had become corrupted by the world, and this realization was part of what pulled Batman out of his cynical hole.

Casper Richter shared some thoughts about the Martha Scene on YouTube. He said that some fans do not understand the fight between Batman and Superman. Firstly, when Superman says the name Martha, Batman might be confused at first and possibly think it's a trap from the monster, Superman. But then when Superman asks Batman to save someone else's life when he’s about to die, that confuses Batman even more because it goes against his belief that Superman is a monster. Then, when Lois comes in, Bruce probably recognizes her and so this is even more confusing because Lois seems to love this monster that he’s about to kill. Casper points out that Batman is screaming, why did you say that name, still trying to figure out if this is a ploy or a trap from Superman. But when Lois tells the truth, that it is Clark's mother's name, it crushes Bruce inside. He wavered back in confusion and pain, as the prodigal child he has become. He starts to process it all. And it’s poetic that Batman was created by a desperate man with a weapon who killed the innocent, and now Batman was nothing but a desperate man with a weapon about to kill the innocent. Batman might also be realizing that the entire plan with Kryptonite and the letters he received before the bomb in the Capitol building was a trap to enrage him and push him to kill Superman, all orchestrated by Luthor. Finally, when he throws the spear away in disgust, he finally regains himself, and can be for another, whose family is in danger, exactly as his own was in the past.”
Well said, Casper.

A loyal listener, B from YouTube, asked the question: What if Superman’s Mom had a different name? What would’ve happened?
We don’t have a definitive answer, of course. And we imagine that the scene was conceived around the fact that they noticed the two had mothers with the same name. So if they had different names, the filmmakers would’ve written it totally differently. But if we assume it all played out the same right up to Batman holding the spear above Superman, then we can speculate about what would’ve happened then if Superman’s mom had a different name. I think in that case there's a chance Batman would have killed Superman, but I also think there's a pretty good chance he would've stopped. I think there was already something inside Bruce that was trying to get out and stop him from his destructive path (for example, a part of himself knew that he was forcing the world to make sense rather than taking things as they are, and earlier there seemed to be parts of him that wanted to listen to Alfred, but his hatred and tunnel-vision didn't allow him to yet). So assuming that part of Bruce existed, that part of himself just needed a crack from which to break free and put Bruce back on a better path. If Clark's Mom had a different name, he still would have used his dying breath to call out for her life and this may have been enough (seeing Superman broken and beaten and caring not for his own life but for the life of someone else, and Superman would’ve still alluded to someone else being behind the whole fight -- "You're letting HIM kill my mom," and Batman’s detective instincts might have been curious about that allusion). So this might’ve been enough to give Bruce pause. And if Lois can get there in time, he would've stopped. Lots of people can plan a thing but when it comes to the actual moment of carrying it out, they have second thoughts.

And I can say that Alessandro basically agrees with me on this speculation. He says that probably any name would’ve worked to give Batman pause, and Lois was there to humanize Superman by identifying the name as his mother. But Alessandro isn’t so sure what would’ve happened after the pause. It was the connection to the name Martha that helped Batman to see his own faults and reclaim who he once was and the original reason he became Batman.

Okay, one more person, and this is another long-time listener, Trent Osborne. He posted the following on YouTube: “The BVS fight was the real fight that determined the fate of the world. If Batman kills Superman, then his fall is complete. After that Batman would justify everything he did and kill more often while taking down whoever challenged him. Batman would become a tyrant over Gotham and likely wouldn't stop there. Using his resources and intellect he would likely topple the government and take control of the country as the world leaders could potentially push the buttons.

Trent continued, “If Superman kills batman, his morals and values are empty. Superman has no reason to value the good in humanity and will only do what he believes saves lives, like when he killed batman he would justify whatever he did as being for the greater good and only he could keep the world safe, just like he saved his mother. Superman would abandon the law and morality and would become a tyrant over humanity and the world and like Batman no one could stop him.

“The Martha moment was essential to both of them. Bruce needed it to realize how far he has fallen, to see the humanity in Superman and see the potential good that can come from things rather than the potential threat. Superman needed to see the humanity in Bruce to prove that his faith in humanity was true, that the even the darkest of people can be shown the light. The Martha moment proves both of their morals true while rejecting both of their cynicism and it's proved through their mothers who helped shaped the heroes they became. It climaxes both arcs and is a central key to resolving both existential crises.” Trent concluded, “I can't believe how deep that scene goes into both characters. Zack truly understands both Batman and Superman.” We agree with you on that, Trent.

End of Episode:

So that’s our analysis on the “Martha” moment. It’s really a masterfully crafted scene in terms of the larger arcs going on, and it’s emotional if you’re viewing the characters in a certain way. I know I consistently get emotional in this scene, and I heard a story on Twitter way back in April where a dad said that on his first viewing, he thought this scene was a bit silly, but then he went to see the movie a second time with his school-aged son, and he looked over and noticed his son was crying during the “Martha” flashback here. And this father said that that was when he got it, he realized what this scene was about and how to connect with it. I thought that was a cool story.

Another quick follow-up on Martha --- I mentioned earlier that I’m not expert enough in feminism to give a full feminist analysis. Well I’m also not expert enough in PTSD and trigger words, but @Truth_JusticeKr on twitter raised the issue of PTSD as it relates to Bruce and the word “Martha” in this scene. I think there’s definitely something to this perspective on the scene, but I don’t know enough about PTSD to give any definitive interpretations. If you do happen to know something about this topic, we’d all appreciate getting some of that insight if you don’t mind sharing in the comments.

Thanks so much for listening. And thanks to our inspirational podcasts, Man of Steel Answers and the Suicide Squadcast. Be sure to follow us on our new twitter handle, @JLUPodcast. And we just ran a twitter poll on people’s favorite scene from BvS ( The voting is mostly done and it was a close contest between the Warehouse Rescue and Lex’s Helipad scene, with the Warehouse Rescue looking like it will eke out the victory. Coming in well behind those were the Capitol Bombing scene and then the Wayne murder and funeral at the beginning. Other favorites multiple people mentioned were the Doomsday battle and Wonder Woman’s appearance in particular, the funeral scene at the end, and the “Martha” scene that we just covered.

Now, in closing, we want to give the final word to the great writer himself, Chris Terrio. This is again from his Wall Street Journal interview. He said, (quote) “I began to think Batman and Superman occupy different parts of the mythic imagination. In superhero stories, Batman is Pluto, god of the underworld, and Superman is Apollo, god of the sky. That began to be really interesting to me—that their conflict is not just due to manipulation, but their very existence. In the end, there’s a common humanity which I think is discovered at a certain moment in the film.” (end quote) I’m pretty sure that moment is the “Martha” moment, and they both were able to see humanity in the other. And like Ben Affleck said, this movie overall is about the two heroes finally coming to be able to see things from the other’s perspective.


  1. I think it'd make sense to say Martha, because he's trying to Martha Kent. Save Martha Kent. OK, Batman can easily search and identify that person. Had Superman just said save mom or my mom, Batman has nothing to go off of here, for I think this Batman does not know he is Clark Kent, because to him he is just some alien.

    1. Yes, I think that's the most straightforward interpretation. There's a bit of a hang-up on that line of thought because later he has another chance to speak but he says Martha again instead of Kent or Martha Kent that time. But I think what you said is still plausible.