It’s very interesting that the seed for this theory has been in front of us the whole time and yet it’s never really been explored in any major detail until now. Of course ‘major’ is a relative term as those of us posting and re-posting this online seems to stretch the idea of ‘major theory’ to the breaking point. But as Meg Bucholtz of Looper has mentioned the theory of the Bat signal being used as an intimidation tactic is one that seems quite sound since it does offer up a lot of different thoughts as to what it might be able to do in any continuity. In Christopher Nolan’s for instance, as Meg mentioned, it’s a signal to the criminals of Gotham that Batman is still around and might show up at any moment to kick their crime-happy butts back into shape should they step out of line in plain sight. Of course given that Batman doesn’t always seem to come at beck and call it’s more reminder than threat at that point since he’s not Superman and can’t possibly detect when the signal is being used unless he were to have a device on him at all times that would be directly linked to the signal itself. But in Nolan’s canon that would still be kind of hard to do since it was made obvious that Bruce Wayne had to live a life as well and couldn’t be on-call every hour of the day. Obviously, what if Batman happened to be needed in daylight hours? The signal wouldn’t work then unless it was overcast, which seems to be a big thing in Gotham a lot of times, and even then there’s no telling of Bruce would be able to come.
And again as Meg mentions it might scare the minor crooks and thugs since they can’t possibly stand up to Batman and don’t want to take the risk, but for other criminals such as the Joker and the wide assortment of enemies that Batman has made over the years it’s almost like a beacon stating that the fun is just about to start. After all this time one might think that Gotham’s issue with Batman, when there is one, would facilitate funding for a new program that might outfit a special contingent of officers that were equipped and trained to take down the worst criminals that Gotham had to offer. That would make sense from a realistic standpoint, wouldn’t it? After all, Batman can’t take on everyone, as even he has his limits, and during the daylight hours it would be great if there was a force that was on-call and ready to go and didn’t need a signal to be alerted to trouble. If you think that criminals only commit crimes in the dark of night then not only are you kind of naive but you’re still expecting a lot out of Batman. It’s also a rather big plot hole that’s no doubt been covered more than once but is still pertinent.
As an intimidation device the Bat signal does make a great deal of sense, but in a practical way it’s only going to scare people for so long until it becomes quite useless and possibly even a goad for the bigger and badder criminals to test the Batman’s resolve and, as it’s been seen, take advantage of. After all, a big glowing signal in the darkness announcing that Batman is out there, ‘somewhere’, is kind of ludicrous from one standpoint since it’s a definite heads up that the dark knight is being called in, but to be honest there’s a much bigger intimidation factor when it comes to the tools and weapons he uses when dealing with said bad guys. Really, what’s going to be more intimidating, the mere mention of Batman being around, or a sudden and explosive entrance in the Batmobile or one of his other hi-tech toys? Honestly it would seem more intimidating to be facing down a cannon than an implication that the bearer of said cannon is going to be showing up. At least with the signal in the sky there’s a percentage chance that the criminals might have time to run or prepare some half-baked plan that might depend on the writers to pull off but is still better than just standing there waiting to catch a beating.
Throughout the years the Bat signal has been seen as a call for help and recently it’s been seen as the intimidating factor that lets criminals know to toe the line or risk being taken in. But the funny thing about this is that if every criminal in Gotham rose up, and Batman might have solution for this because…well, he’s Batman, there’s still a chance that he’d be overwhelmed and unable to do much. Even with the Gotham police on his side it does seem as though a band of super-villains, if they could work together, could find a way to take Batman down if they worked in concert. Then the Bat signal might just be a mocking reminder of the hope that Gotham no longer has.