Bruce Wayne became an orphan yesterday night just around the corner of my apartment. Well, the day before yesterday too.
Chicago’s been transforming into both Gotham and Metropolis for the last week or so for the filming of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (click here to see Chicago Tribune’s article on it). I am not much knowledgeable about the history of neither DC Comics nor the Marvels’ superheroes. To think that both cities, Gotham and Metropolis, are being filmed in Chicago, and to try tying in Superman and Batman’s worlds together, sound pretty complex to me. So I am sticking with Batman. He’s always been my favorite, and after all, my neighborhood, Uptown is being filmed as Gotham.
There’s something about Batman that intrigued me more than other superheroes since I was little. Maybe it’s because he ironically loves wearing the color black, the color I thought symbolized the “bad.” Or maybe it’s because I found his childhood orphan story to be empathetic. But definitely, my ultimate celebrity crush on George Clooney did heighten and affirm my choice of favorite superhero over the years.
The first night they started setting up Uptown, my friends and I walked over to the set with excitement and curiosity. We Snapchatted and Instagrammed the big lights for the set, the Lawrence station sign that changed to Gotham River, the Gotham Transit Authority logo, bright Aragon neon sign, The Mark of Zorro (the movie the Wayne family watched before the tragic accident) poster, the old cars and Gotham City Taxis. We lured and walked back and forth Lawrence Avenue, regardless of one crew member with a thick black jacket joked around and told us that we should walk three blocks away since they are planning on shooting a major explosion. Bruce Wayne’s parents die after getting robbed and shot, not from any explosion, we at least know that. Once we came to walk back the same street again, he told us – not in a grudging way, but more like “this-happens-all-the-time-but-really?” way – “Oh, you guys are freaking me out…!” I smiled as I put my head into my scarf, walking away. Eventually, we stood from a distance where another guy told us we could watch on the side of the street as long as we don’t use flashlight to take photos and make a way for other pedestrians to walk by. We could see snowflakes flowing down more clearly from the bright and giant light hanging up. Through the glimpses of number of other film crewmembers with thick black jackets and black beanies, there, I saw the Wayne family happily walk out the door of Aragon ballroom.
The next day, yesterday, felt even colder than the night before. As I walked out of Lawrence station off from work, I looked to check if I was still a Gotham citizen, only to find that they took away the GTA map signs. It was a little disappointing but soon I found out that they were continuing to film right outside the station. The old cars with American flags and Gotham City Taxis were still parked on the street. Some cars were new and different from the ones last night. I thought one of those cars got to be the Wayne’s. Unfortunately, I had too much work to catch up on than to keep imagining and being distracted from looking around. I briskly went inside Starbucks and found a spot by the window and turned on my laptop. Sitting by the window was not a good idea. I was distracted to see people taking selfies in front of the cars and the crewmembers coming in and out of the vans. I tilted the stool I was sitting towards the left to change my view, away from the film site. Then I saw the Green Mill (a famous and historic jazz bar where Al Capone used to visit)’s sign sparkling, only a block away from where they were filming. I turned my head to the right again to see Gotham. Then again to my left were Green Mill and Chicago. Al Capone and Batman. Gotham and Chicago. It was a queer moment of collision between the fictional world and reality.
We all know that movies, books, and fictional worlds are not real. But they do speak louder truths to us. That’s why we got excited to see Gotham taxis and Daily Planet sculpture set in Chicago during the last couple of day. It’s as if the narratives of justice and victory came to be in our city. It hasn’t been so long since I lived in Chicago, but I know the city holds stories that are not pleasant to hear. The stories that we usually try to push away of. Corruption and evil, they are there – just like they do in Gotham. And we meet or at least hope to meet kids like Bruce to come to be, a kid who is able to overcome the tragedy and go beyond his ways to prevent others from suffering, a boy who grows to become a man who is willing to sacrifice his wealth to help the others in need.
Yesterday (and day before yesterday), Batman’s identity started rising in Bruce’s heart around the corner of my apartment in Chicago. I grieved with him over his loss. I rooted for the coming of Batman in him. I hoped in Gotham more for what’s ahead for the city. So I hope in Chicago too.