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Gotham City - Semiotics

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Ryan Campbell

on 16 May 2013

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Transcript of Gotham City - Semiotics

Gotham Chicago
Think of: Think Of:
Batman, Crime, Chicago Color-blue/grey, life/death,

Object: Object:
Batmobile, Architecture, Sears tower, Skyscrapers, Skyline
Dark clouds

Feel: Feel:
Evil, envious, scared Love, “Awesome”, proud Survey Results Analysis of Gotham’s
visual representation. Character Analysiss The use of real world shooting locations such as Chicago rather than fabricated sets were another step taken towards grounding Nolan's trilogy in reality.

So much more could be said about the rich history of Gotham City's design, which has shaped the franchise across comics, cartoons, movies and more for the last 70 years. The enduring legacy of the world Batman and his enemies inhabit stands testament to the strength and depth of its design, and Gotham City remains one of the most evocative landscapes in superhero history. Gotham City Analysis Pacyga, Dominic A. Chicago: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2009. Print.

Brown, Simon. Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. London: Routledge, 2012. Print. CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 15 May 2013.

"Review: 'The Dark Knight'" The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 19 July 2008. Web. 15 May 2013.

"Artful "Knight" Takes a Plunge to the Dark Side." - The Denver Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2013.

Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 July 2008. Web. 15 May 2013

The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays with Storyboards (The Opus Screenplay) Sited Sources Conclusion The pathology of both Gotham City and Chicago is structured around a shared set of codes. Within each code is a plethora of signs. This extends from the metaphysical to the concrete, i.e. from the philosophical construction of the characters to the architecture of the cities. Gotham City is a synchronic representation of Chicago. It captures the essence of Chicago in the early 20thcentury, when crime was glorified and the city teetered on the brink of urban sprawl. This essence is then dramatized through a filter of science fiction. Through this filter Gotham City becomes a sign signifying a hyper realistic rendition of Chicago.

Continuation of square/rectangle motif- sign of entrapment by moral duty

Batman travels through the white light to reach outer world- sign of altruistic nature of mission

Gritty concrete, rusted metal- fighting crime is not pretty or clean

Encroaching black shadow- evil continuously encroaching on Batman Explore the various aspects of each character

Breakdown their physical realities
Their clothes/accessories

Breakdown their psyches
What made them the way they are?

Tie into the idea of ‘personas’
Everyone has two faces

Apply to an analogous scale of Good vs. Evil

Apply semiotical analysis Character Analysis Glamorized perception of crime.

Shoot outs on the street & lack of discretion.

Early 20’s gang shoots out comparable to Lower Wacker Drive shoot out. With The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan re- imagined Gotham as a real city

Taking everything back to basics, both men immersed themselves in the world of
Gotham, building models of the city in Nolan's garage and tackling the project as if it were a real place rather than the nightmarish comic book landscape of previous movies. Back to basics
Eight years later, the franchise was rebooted and the entire aesthetic redesigned from the ground up byhristopher Nolan and his production designer Nathan Crowley in Batman Begins. Production designer Anton Furst's Gotham City concept art for Tim Burton's Batman Gotham City First Depiction

Batman’s home turf is a time capsule for the prohibition era. No, alcohol is not banned but all the classic Mafia themes are in place and some technology somehow also just froze around 1930. Batman originated in 1939, Al Capone was still alive, Zeppelins were used for transportation and Fedoras were still in fashion. So the design was rather contemporary. “The grim, gritty urban environment of Gotham
is an integral part of Batman's dark appeal.”

Graphic Designer Joe Stone Introduction to Gotham City and its History

Chicago as Gotham City, crime correlation

Character Analysis

Analysis of Gotham’s Visual Representation

Survey Results- What does Gotham/Chicago mean to others?


Semiotic analysis of Gotham City in the The Dark Knight. We sought to deconstruct the parallels of architecture, history, crime and character between Gotham City and Chicago.

BEIGE/IVORY - Signify unification and calm

WHITE – Signifies purity, peace, and simplicity

All are societal attributes that Gotham City strives for.

GREY- Sign of security, solidity and reliability. Also
signifies boredom and monotony.

As silver- sign of modernity and technological advancements.

RED - Signifies power, aggression, blood and danger.

Represents the Joker and his destruction COLOR AS SIGN Semiotic Analysis of Gotham’s Visual Representation Examine color scheme, structural shapes, design motifs and architecture of Gotham. Analysis:
Childhood friend to Bruce Wayne
Knows all his secrets (Batman)
Love interest to Harvey Dent
Her death causes the Moral Compass shifts for both Dent & Batman

Moral Compass: Good Rachel Dawes ‘It’s not about what’s right, it’s about what’s fair.’ Analysis:
Alter Ego of Harvey Dent after he is corrupted by The Joker
Two faces, two sides to a coin
His actions are driven by hate and vengeance, but he lives by a moral code of chance

Moral Compass: Evil Two-Face Analysis:
Gotham’s Hero
Vigilante justice
Does not kill
Wears a mask

Moral Compass: Good ‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ Batman Gotham Criminals-Chicago Criminals

Joker> John Wayne Gacy
Makeup as a visual façade , signifying the psychology behind their crimes.

Concept of the “other”-violence used as a way to gain respect.

Childhood-stories of neglect/abuse used as a crutch to rationalize their crimes. Underworld of Crime In the late 1850s an underworld of crime began to emerge in Chicago, quite similar to the underworld portrayed within The Dark Knight. Correlation of Crime Between the Two Cities Chicago as Gotham City Despite being largely set at night, Gotham was reminiscent of a bright, cartoony rave, with outlandish buildings and gigantic statues at every turn. Anything that could possibly glow – from billboards to graffiti to the characters themselves - did. What does Chicago/ Gotham make you think of?

What’s the first object (a physical thing) that comes to your mind when you think of Chicago?

How do you feel about THIS OBJECT? Semiotic Survey
Analysis Rectangle and Square

Signs of security, control, balance, and dependability.

Signifiers of human knowledge and construction. SIGNIFICANCE of SHAPE Shape repetition as a design motif

Signifies man made structures

Connotes structure and order with purpose to keep people in and others out.


Symbolizes power, wealth elegance

Sign of the night – darkness, mystery, fear

Symbolic of Batman- the underground and anonymity BLUE

False sense of security

Bleak atmosphere

Represents darkness of night Analysis:

Moral Compass: Good Jim Gordon ‘Why so serious?’ Analysis:
Batman’s arch nemesis
Wears make-up to “cover his scars”
Has no real name
Wants to prove the point that all men are inherently evil – Thomas Hobbes

Moral Compass: Evil The Joker ‘The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.’ Analysis:
Gotham’s DA – also Gotham’s Conscious
Trying to put the city right and fix the crime/corruption
Not Rod Blagojevich (ha!)

Moral Compass: Good Harvey Dent ‘Some men just want to watch the world burn’ Analysis:
Batman’s Conscious
A butler – he serves
Always British
Soft spoken, but always right

Moral Compass: Good Alfred ‘Batman has no limits, Alfred’ Analysis:
Projects confidence/aloofness
Wears suits, spends money
A façade for the public to ridicule

Moral Compass: Neutral Bruce Wayne  
  If Metropolis is the City of Dreams, then Gotham is the City of Nightmares. Its history is a long and bloody tale of crime, corruption, and death . As Batman has grown in popularity and recognition, spreading from the printed page to television and cinema screens, so too has this world evolved. From his very first comic book appearance back in 1939, Batman has dwelt in a much more grounded setting than most other superheroes, fighting seedy low-lifes in grimy alleyways and across shadowy rooftops. Famous cases Glen Lewellen- Aided a drug ring

Detective Dante Servin- Off duty-shot Rekia Boyd in the back of the head 4.5 million payout to family.

William Hanhard- helped run a ring of mobbed-up jewel thieves City of Corrupt Cops “More than 300 Chicago police officers have been convicted of serious crimes since the 1960s... Police crimes include beating innocent citizens, protecting drug dealers, accepting bribes, murder and lying about torture... The problem of police corruption is not caused by occasional flawed police officers or “bad apples.” Rather, the apple barrel is rotten.”- Chicago Sun Times Structure of Crime In the midst of prohibition gangs began to flourish in Chicago.

The behavior of these gangs mirrors those in The Dark Knight.

John Dillinger-Gotham bank robberies

Al Capone-Gotham mob boss, Maroni Sees Gotham incarcerated by monotony of law and order.

Anarchy as remedy to entrapment
Trapped by:

Society’s law and order

Moral duty to protect Gotham Rectangle Motif as Sign of Incarceration Bruce Wayne/ Batman
Joker Objective architecture This Page was left blank intentionally. Cited Sources Continued The End!
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