The Heoric Bat’s Great Display of Divine Glory

January 5, 2010

Also known to Americans as Batman Returns.

Okay, there’s so much to say about Batman. There will in fact be a cycle of posts on how Batman is marketed to Chinese culture. But Wing, you ask, isn’t Batman not Chinese? Why is he in the blog of Epic Chinese Things?

That’s because Chinese culture tends to take epic things from the outside world and somehow, especially linguistically, make them (sound) more epic. We did it with Freemasonry (look for future posts on this) and we can do it with Batman. Think about it, which movie title is more awesome and befitting of a classic tale about the baddest asswhooping hero from Gotham: Batman Returns? Or Batman’s Great Display of Divine Glory?

Batman Returns was marketed as 蝙蝠俠大顯神威 in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The name translates directly to The Heroic Bat (蝙蝠俠, which is the official translation for Batman) and the phrase/subtitle “great display of divine glory” (大顯神威). Perhaps due to polytheistic origins and a culture of hyperbole the phrase 神威, which translates to “divine glory” or “godly might” or “holy crap that’s awesome”, gets tossed around a lot. Pretty much anything from a sweet 40 hit combo in a fighting game to Batman beating the crap out of the Penguin gets labeled as godly or divine.

As far as I can tell the movie was called 蝙蝠俠再戰風雲 in mainland China, which can be loosely translated to The Turbulent Tale of Batman’s Second Battle or Batman Once Again Wars Against The World. Properly capturing the epicness of the phrase “風雲” as a noun in English is rather hard for me at this point; I welcome suggestions.

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