The Scarecrow uses his fear toxins to fix athletic events.
Written by Samuel Warren Joseph
Directed by Dick Sebast
Music by Lisa Bloom, Carlos Rodriguez
& Shirley Walker
Animation by Tokyo Movie Shinsa
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne
Loren Lester as Dick Grayson
Mark Hamill as The Joker
Henry Polic II as The Scarecrow
Brian Mitchell as Brian
Chuck Moshontz as Boseman
Of course fear is a necessary element in our arsenal of emotions, for the obvious reason that it promotes self-preservation. Possibly, evolution (or God) could have provided us with some other mechanism that would have performed the same duty, but that old, cold ice pick to the guts does the job well enough. In fact, it may do the job too well. Fear normally requires an object to be afraid of, but it can also be experienced in the absence of such an object. And when we are afflicted by fear itself, the mind is all too adept at creating shadowy objects of which to be afraid.
That's the reason we can thrill to a good horror story. Fear, as Hitchcock knew but Hollywood has seemingly forgotten, is at its most pure when we don't see what it is we are supposed to be afraid of; no F/X wizardry can rival the shadows we conjure up when we are completely in the dark. And the old existential dread is at its sharpest when we are afraid of nothing in particular, for then we can become afraid of anythingthe rain against the window, the lipstick on the rim of the coffee cup, the picture frame just slightly askew. We become prone to imagine the world as a cunning trap designed solely to ensnare us. And that's the artistry that sets "Fear of Victory" apart from every other Scarecrow tale that BTAS ever told.
There is a cunning plot herethe Scarecrow is slipping top athletes an adrenaline-activated fear toxin and then betting against them in sporting contestsbut it isn't worried over. The episode's power lies in its oblique and successfully unsettling dramatization of "fear itself." The Scarecrow's plot doesn't create fearful hallucinations for his victims to suffer, and so it is easier for us to empathize with the unhinging panic that cripples them. Not all of us shriek when faced with spiders or leeches or rats, after all, but who hasn't looked out at a sunlit day and wondered what horrors hide behind an unturned leaf? The timing of the episode is daringly slow, so that we are methodically primed with suspense for the unmotivated panic attacks that unnerve and disorient us.
Such subtlety is not to everyone's taste; the flashy and deeply meretricious "Dreams in Darkness" outruns this one in most popularity polls. That episode does, at least, put a character through psychological torment as Batman struggles past inner demons made manifest, while "Fear of Victory" leaves its heroes mostly unplumbed. But that only demonstrates the stark and unquestionable power of raw fear. This story doesn't need drama to be dark and brutally effective.
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