As a collector and superhero fan, Batman and Me made me very angry. Not necessarily with the way the documentary was captured by director Michael Wayne (who did an incredibly good job), but because of what his subject Darren ‘Dags’ Maxwell says constantly throughout the documentary.
The film undresses the ‘dark’ past of Dags’ addition collecting Batman items, which on the surface appears to be about a passionate collector, but ends up transforming into the exposure of man who looks down on those who cosplay, who is more of a Star Wars fan, yet spent a huge part of his life collecting Batman merchandise when he was never really a big fan of the films to begin with.
Instead of being about a collector who collects out of love, the film showcases a bitter man who sees being a ‘nerd’ and a ‘geek’ in a negative light, who speaks as if he has left that part of him behind in a derogative way. Seeming to have had an obsessive compulsive addiction of buying things because he felt like he needed to, not that he wanted to.
I fear that this movie will shine an extremely negative spotlight on those in the collector and cosplay community, despite the film being well documented, this is not the kind of attitude that someone should be getting attention for. From what I witnessed during my viewing of Batman and Me, I believe Dags’ self-hate for being a Batman collector says more about his mental health than about collecting.
My frustrations paused momentarily when Peter ‘MPS’ Sims appeared on my screen, who also collected Batman merchandise, but did so out of love. Not for the sake of collecting, nor because he felt compelled to do so. MPS was more selective about what he collected, taking the time to make use of the items that he collected and play with them, even if briefly. I found myself relating more to MPS than Dags, who at this point of the documentary seemed to have no shame in his self-loathing, even ridiculing his partner over a Star Trek cup that she “doesn’t need”.
Dags’ life choices remain questionable, retiring from a life of collecting awesome superhero items, to focusing on making terrible short films. I believe that had Dags decided to collect Star Wars items instead, a franchise he seems to be still passionate about to this day, I don’t believe that the man would have been nearly as jaded as he is now. Why he chose to collect Batman items over Star Wars merchandise is anyone’s guess. Maybe he felt that there was too much to collect? Maybe collecting Batman items was a lot easier as there was less to collect in comparison?
I was honestly relieved to hear that MPS was collecting Batman items out of joy, as this is what most collectors do. Whatever we collect, it doesn’t have to be Batman items specifically, but we collect things out of nostalgia and love. Regarding sci-fi, fantasy or superhero items being produced more and becoming more accessible, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I see it in a more positive light as the world finally accommodating to my passions. Superheroes have always been cool, just the rest of the world finally gets it and films now try to accommodate to our standards. Being a collector is something that you don’t grow out of. Being a fan of superheroes, sci-fi, cosplay, isn’t something that should ever be seen in a negative light. Even if you ‘used’ to do those things, but no longer actively participate.
While Batman and Me is an interesting documentary, with clever use of action figures to assist the narrative, the film left me in fury. If you aren’t part of these fan communities and you stumble across this film, I fear that those who collect would be seen in a negative way with mental health issues, when this is certainly not the case. Dags’ issues with his identity and self-worth are derived from his own ego. What this man says about collecting, cosplay and the fan community is seriously misplaced frustration for his own ‘wasted life’ and he does not speak for me nor the fan community.
I believe that you are never too old for the things you love. I collect things out of love and joy, which is something that Dags appears to have never done during the entirety of his collecting ‘obsession’. Although this documentary did make me angry, I don’t hate Dags. If anything, I pity him as he will never know true joy.
Batman and Me is being screened digitally as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival which is on now until August 2.
For more information, visit: http://mdff.org.au