Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bane or Batman?

Movies reveal something about our culture, and the new Batman movie, “Dark Knight Rises,” is no exception.  

The pure evil shown in the movie was acted out in Denver. The details are still unfolding about what exactly happened in Aurora. But one thing we know for sure is that Colorado police bravely answered the call for help. Moviegoers were in distress. As men and women in blue rushed to the scene, they had no idea if they would confront one gunman, or an army. The police had no idea if the building was rigged with bombs or boobytraps. No matter what the danger, the police and the first-responders had their jobs to do. They did their duty. They were real-life superheroes.   

Evil vs. duty is a key theme of “Dark Knight Rises." We must acknowledge that mayhemic killers and terrorists exist, and so we will always need courageous men and women to protect us.   

 Step back and recall the context of the original Batman comic which debuted back in 1939.  In that year, a decade had passed since the 1929 stock market crash, and yet Wall Street and the rich were still blamed for the hard times. Yet there was a fascination with the rich and their ways. After all, most people dreamed of being rich.     

Enter Bruce Wayne, the Batman hero. Wayne was wealthy but he had suffered deeply; his parents were murdered by a criminal in front of his eyes. Fearful of being hurt yet again, he shunned romantic commitments, preferring the lonely solitude of his mansion. Wayne had paid his dues, and then some.  

As Batman, Wayne was using his wealth to thwarting crime.  He was, therefore, a “good” millionaire. Moreover, in his new life as a secret superhero, Wayne/Batman had to remain secretive about his identity. And who were Batman’s allies? Commissioner Gordon and his true-blue team. Indeed, the Gotham Police Department was righteous, although usually overmatched by evil. In other words, Gotham City might be corrupt and full of colorful criminals, but the cops were okay.  

In the 60s, presidential candidate Richard Nixon won middle-class voters by calling for “law and order”-- a Batman-ish theme. In the 90s, Bill Clinton won most middle-class votes by promising to defend the interests of Americans “who work hard and play by the rules.” Another Batman-ish thought.  

As a female character in the new movie tells Wayne, “You have to invest if you want to return balance to the world.”  Translation: if you have wealth, you have to give something back.

Batman is helped by the Gotham cops, many of whom lay down their lives in the fight against Bane and his evil forces. Filmed mostly in Manhattan, the movie brings up memories of 9/11; we see haunting images of men in blue, finding their way through the mist and darkness, bravely confronting evil.

By the end of the film, balance is restored, and we are reminded that the enduring virtue--and safety--of America comes from its working people, even if they have to be led by a brave billionaire and his amazing toolbox of gadgets and gizmos - his technology.   


The new Batman film will remind us of many things about the world we live in:

Technology is a tool. It can be used to do harm, or it can save the world. Bane, or Batman, we all have to choose how we will accomplish our goals, but technology will play a bigger and bigger role as time goes by. Technology can save the world, or it can destroy it. But technology is just a tool. The American people like to see those living in privilege, like Bruce Wayne in the movie, using their mastery of technology for good and not evil.

As the evil in Aurora, Colorado remind us, we need brave men and women who will always be ready to step forward to protect us. Society needs to honor those who put more than money at risk in the course of their jobs. Those who put their lives on the line deserve a higher status in our society - much higher than they have now. We need to honor our heroes, for without them, we are without hope.

There will always be evil people in the world, trying to get their hands on technology to do us harm. But thankfully, there will always be superheroes with their own technology as well.

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