Fair warning: There are spoilers in this post for the Christopher Nolan Batman films.
In the 2005 film Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) leaves town as a young man to abandon his millionaire lifestyle and join a criminal gang, in order to learn about the criminal underworld. Shortly after this, he is put in prison in Bhutan, picked up by Henri Ducard (played by Liam Neeson) to join the League of Shadows, an assassin organisation in Tibet. What follows is a brutal training programme and minimalist lifestyle in the mountains, after which Bruce eventually [Spoilers ahead!] refuses to join and leaves the League of Shadows headquarters in ruin. He then returns to Gotham City to become The Batman.
While many would look at this and say, “why, what a terrible affair - poor Bruce Wayne!” many others (myself included) consider this to be a positive and transformative experience. Bruce learns various martial arts, becomes very fit and healthy in the process, and gains a new perspective on life and understanding of the minds of criminals (empathy!). He learns about his true nature and what he should do with his life, and learns a new kind of patience which most people in modern always-connected society cannot fathom.
Bruce Wayne, in short, became a better person. He went in a stuck-up, prissy rich boy with a sense of entitlement, and came out a hardened criminal with, ironically, a greater sense of justice.
And I won’t lie: while I have no intention of being part of a crime syndicate, or hurting people for my own gain, there’s a certain aspect of cinematic criminal life which is slightly exciting. Not knowing what each day will bring; being constantly on the run; meeting people with action-packed lives and stories to tell. Sounds good, right?
I think there may be a market for emulating Bruce’s experience. I’m talking taking a year out out from your usual life to spend a bit of time being part of a criminal gang doing criminal activities, being a prison inmate then after being broken out become, more-or-less, a kung-fu Buddhist monk. A Bruce Wayne Gap Year.
There are barriers to this, of course. Maintaining a level of legality would be important, though you could exploit local laws to allow certain things to happen. Trying to prevent any real life-threatening injuries or situations from arising may be a priority for some clients, but naturally some element of danger has to be involved for this experience to be life-changing. A very broad waiver would be essential.
There’s also the suspension of disbelief. For some things, such as the criminal gangs, it’s possible that actors will need to be used. The client needs to be told, and convinced, that the criminal gang they’re getting involved in really is a criminal gang. It needs to be convincingly spontaneous, dangerous and seemingly illegal. The same goes for the prison. So, there’s another challenge.
The kung-fu Buddhist monk part can be completely genuine, though. It would just be very expensive, and require a huge amount of self-control and dedication, some of which may need to be gained through a mixture of carrot and stick. Again: broad waiver.
Yes, it would be expensive, but it wouldn’t need to be hugely popular to turn a profit. Just a few clients every year.
If anybody wants to provide the investment for this venture, I’ll drop everything and dedicate all my time to making it a reality. Applications for “criminals” will open shortly after.
Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.