The billionaires of the year

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By VANDERLEI TENÓRIO*

Batman and Forbes Magazine's Infamous Annual Billionaires List

On April 5, the magazine's forgettable, outrageous, and infamous annual list of billionaires was released. Forbes. Among the 236 newcomers (down from a record 493 in 2021) are newcomers such as: Barbadian pop star Rihanna ($1,7 billion), New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson ($1,5 billion) and entrepreneur Ukrainian Lonid Radvinsky ($1,2 billion) – Radvinsky is in the porn content business, being the main shareholder of the famous platform OnlyFans.

Geographically speaking, these newcomers come from 34 different countries. From that perspective, China has spawned 62 new billionaires (including two from Hong Kong), the United States has the second-highest number of newcomers (50) and India rounds out the top three with 29 new billionaires.

In numbers, the Forbes listed 2.668 billionaires, a total lower than in 2021: 329 people had a “downgrading”, the highest number of falls since 2009. The newspaper Valor Econômico found that the combined wealth of billionaires also shrank to $12,7 trillion from $13,1 trillion in 2021.

As expected, the ranking is led by Elon Musk, whose estimated fortune in March was $219 billion. Despite already appearing in other lists, such as Bloomberg, as the richest man in the world, is the first time Musk has topped the survey Forbes. Musk surpassed Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, who saw his fortune shrink by US 6 billion in the current list.

Interestingly (or not), two Brazilians stand out for being the youngest among the newcomers on the list. Pedro Franceschi, 25, and Henrique Dubugrass, 26, are co-founders of credit card startup Brex, which in January was valued at US$12,3 billion by investors. They are each worth $1,5 billion.

Taking the cue, recently, a fictional billionaire gained the world's spotlight. It is none other than, the playboy, business tycoon, philanthropist (via the Wayne Foundation) and corporation owner Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne.

Well, since Batman was introduced in Detective Comics # 27, 1939, he established himself as a wealthy business tycoon. In nearly every depiction, Bruce Wayne is the heir to the Wayne family's multibillion-dollar corporation, their holdings and pieces of Gotham City's main real estate. All the Gadgets of Batman come from the seemingly endless resources at Bruce Wayne's disposal, and all of his abilities are the result of Wayne's endless free time.

It's no secret that the universe of Detective Comics (DC) is full of heroes who can fly, lift tanks and break the sound barrier with nothing but their bodies, but Batman remains DC's most popular hero by far because he has the superpower every person seems to want: vast wealth combined with zero obligations.

Practically speaking, Batman's money is as essential to the character as his pointy-eared mask and cowl, so few screen adaptations have attempted to alter or omit that part about him. But while Batman's wealth may be an unchanging factor in the movies, in real life, the audience's conception of and relationship to wealth is constantly changing. After the financial crisis of 2008 and the movement Occupy Wall Street Since 2011, a growing number of Americans have identified income inequality as a central policy issue, and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have begun to question society about the role and responsibilities of billionaires. If you're a civic-minded individual, chances are you already have some sort of position on the question of whether or not billionaires should exist, because this conversation has become ubiquitous.

There have long been debates about what separates the upper class from the middle class and what constitutes a “self-created” fortune. In that case, in the comics, Bruce Wayne's fortune has already reached US$ 100 billion. Whereas, the movie version boasts a fortune of $9 billion. Monetarily speaking, he is second only to the following characters: Uncle Scrooge ($44,1 billion), Carlisle Cullen ($36,2 billion), Rich Rich, Jr. ($9,7 billion), Anthony Edward Stark “Tony Stark” ($9,4 billion) and the dragon Smaug ($8,6 billion).

Aside from which, our collective suspicion of real-life billionaires hasn't exactly translated into distrust of fictional ones, seeing as how Batman and fellow billionaire Iron Man remain iconic heroes in their respective labels. But in some ways, these heroes have to adapt to the climate around them – something Batman has always done. Not defending Wayne, but he is far from the only rich and smug superhero. In the history of cinema, we have specimens such as: the aforementioned Iron Man, Green Arrow, Blue Beetle II and much more.

The unforgettable and dubious Batman made his screen debut through serials and movies version of the Batman from 1943. The character has been portrayed by: Lewis Wilson (1943), Robert Lowery (1949), Adam West (1966), Kevin Conroy (voice only) (1992-2016), Michael Keaton (1989, 1992 and 2022), Val Kilmer ( 1995), George Clooney (1997), Christian Bale (2005-2012), Ben Affleck (2016-2017), Iain Glen (2019) and Robert Pattinson (2022).

Produced during the height of World War II - when the U.S. government had more control over the country's private industries than ever before - the first serials portrayed Batman as an agent of the government, since the Motion Picture Production Code prohibited heroic depictions of time vigilantism.

However, even with censorship limitations and a tight budget, the series made sure to include Bruce Wayne's palatial mansion and his loyal butler, Alfred. These serials paved the way for the mainstream from the show Batman of the 1960s, and from that point on, Batman's riches were bestowed on screen adaptations.

In that vein, live-action TV and movie productions of the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s painted Wayne's fortunes with a bright sense of fun. Of these works, only Tim Burton's films pointed to a critique of Wayne's wealth, by conceiving Wayne Manor as a dying and isolating fortress. Given the enthusiastically pro-capitalist Cold War politics that informed the American popular media at that time, the lack of critical insight offered by the Adam West, Burton, and Schumacher eras is not surprising.

Therefore, the trilogy Dark Knightby Christopher Nolan did little to advance discourse in this area, even following in the footsteps of the grittier Batman comics of the late 1980s, which took a more subversive view of Batman's power as a private individual.

Analyzing economically, the last part of Nolan's trilogy, The dark Knight Rises, was the first Batman film to be made after the global recession, and it is also the first Batman film to support the idea that private wealth is massive and inherently harmful.

The first half of the film is built around stripping Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) of his possessions and Gadgets, forcing him into a situation where he must learn to be heroic without the safety net of wealth while his company and his beloved and technological Batcave is being used against the population of Gotham. It is worth noting that while Nolan's Batman films used Gotham quite effectively to reflect post-11/XNUMX fears and the West's potentially corrupting desire for security, the films had nothing substantive to say about class conflict. .

Given what came before, it's clear that The Batman, by Matt Reeves, is a film to criticize the Waynes' accumulation of wealth more directly. Let's face it, the bar was already low, and any new Batman movie would have to raise it because, since the end of Nolan's trilogy, there's been a barrage of comments pointing to how Batman's chosen method of cleaning up the city may not be the right one. more politically correct or useful.

The question remains: if Bruce Wayne has enough money to fight crime with Batarangs, then he must have enough money to use philanthropy to achieve the same results, right?

For our happiness', The Batman circumvents this argument by pivoting most of its plot around Thomas Wayne's $1 billion city renovation fund. Long before Pattinson's Wayne became Batman, the Waynes tried to throw money at Gotham's problems, and all that resulted was more mass corruption and fewer resources for Gotham's poor and orphans, giving birth to The Riddler. The chorus “Renewal is a lie” highlights the failure of Gotham's rich and powerful to effect change through traditional means.

Well my friends, right off the bat (pun not intended lol), The Batman puts Bruce Wayne in an ironic position. Having witnessed the ineffectiveness of the renovation fund to repair Gotham, Bruce became alienated from his inheritance and the Wayne family finances. In this respect, as the long Black progresses, Bruce discovers some of the ways in which his family's wealth was the source of Gotham's dysfunction. The renovation fund ended up funding Falcone's criminal empire.

In short, realistically, a complete deconstruction of capitalism in the form of a blockbuster superhero movie is probably not possible, both because such a thing would never be financed by a major studio and because it was meant to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for its corporate parent.

Even so, the gestures that Robert Pattinson's Batman makes in that direction speak to some of the current cultural anxieties about wealth and inequality, at least a little better than the privileged Bruce Waynes (Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney and Bale) of the past.

*Vanderlei Tenorio is a journalist and is studying geography at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL).

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