What do we do when the system fails us?
I believe it’s a question that is at the heart of the Nolans’ Dark Knight trilogy but one that the films fail to answer.
For Bruce Wayne, the system that is set up to protect the people of Gotham has failed and he becomes Batman to rectify that. He removes himself from the system and becomes a vigilante. But as I’ve discussed in my previous post, he doesn’t succeed. Batman is part of the problem. It is because of him that the violence escalates. Gotham is worse off because of Batman.
Raz A’Ghul in Batman Begins also believes that the system has failed but his response is to burn Gotham to the ground and start over. He believes that a fresh start is the answer. But we can all hopefully agree that this is not the way to do it.
At the end of The Dark Knight Rises (SPOILER) John Blake also believes that the system has failed and takes the drastic step to follow in the footsteps of the Dark Knight.
The films are full of people for whom the system has failed. But what is their response? Work outside the system? Destroy the system? None of these ultimately work.
So what’s the alternative?
It’s a question I’m not sure I have the answer to yet but I want to continue the discussion. As a youth worker, I feel these are important questions to chat through with young people.
We live in a corrupted world in which the system has failed us. MPs, police officers, bankers and the church have all let us down. How do we respond?
How do you respond? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here’s a post I wrote for the website “reel faith”
We all love a good ending don’t we?
The problem is, Hollywood (and every other network) does not seem to want to give us one.
And it’s not just films that are guilty of this.
I enjoyed the six part ‘Hit and Miss’ drama on Sky Atlantic a couple of months back until the last episode which refused to tie up any plot strands and left us instead with a “second series cliffhanger”. Can’t we just have a TV series that ends well and doesn’t force us to watch the next series in the hope of some resolution?
The truth is, this is nothing new. Films and TV shows have been doing this for years. I gave up on ‘Lost’ a number of years ago after failing to resolve any plot strands after two seasons.
This probably all sounds like I’m against ‘cliffhangers’ in TV shows and films but I’m really not. There are plenty of TV shows and films that weave it in successfully. I enjoy ‘Fringe’, ‘Dexter’ and ‘Breaking Bad‘ and they all tease another series in each of their season finales.
Films like ‘Batman Begins‘, ‘X-men 2’ ‘Spiderman’ (admittedly all super hero films) all end with a sequel tease and, in my opinion, pull it off well. In fact, I think these examples make the film better.
So why do some work and others don’t?
Films and TV shows need to be able to stand alone. If I choose not to watch the next series or the sequel, I need to feel like that film or series’ main plot strands have been wrapped up. Let’s use ‘Batman Begins’ as an example.
At the end of the film, Bruce Wayne has become Batman and the villain (Raz Al’Ghul) has been defeated. The films’ main plot has been resolved. Yes it then sets up the introduction of The Joker but if I decided never to see ‘The Dark Knight‘ I’d be happy that the film delivered what it set out to accomplish.
The problem comes when a TV show or film fails to tie up its main plot strands and expects the audience to tune in to the next series or sequel to find resolution. That’s not right. I’ve spent my money; I’ve sat through a series; I expect a conclusion.
For me, I have similar ideas when it comes to my Christian faith. I like doubt. I like questions. I like the grey areas of faith.
As a youth worker, I walk the fine line between answering all of the young peoples’ questions and leaving room for ambiguity. Faith shouldn’t be wrapped up in a neat little box. We shouldn’t be able to answer all of the questions. We need to leave room for the ‘what ifs’. We need to need to help young people find some answers but also leave them wanting more.
It’s okay not to resolve all the ‘plot strands’ of the christian faith but we need to be sensitive to the young people we work with in order to know which ones to resolve and which ones to leave open ended.
For those who know my views on film and theology, this is not something that I normally do.
I’m not against selecting a clip from a film that helps to illustrate the point I want to make. It’s just when most youth workers (in my experience) do this, they don’t hold the rest of the film up. It becomes an act of cherry picking wherein you pick the parts of the film that match your beliefs and reject those bits that don’t. This is not good practice and if we try not to do this with the Bible, then we also should not do it with film.
An example of this was the surge in talks using clips from the matrix many years ago. Now, there are good scenes in the matrix but what of the rest of the film? What of the meta-narrative of bondage and S&M? Those parts must also be allowed to speak.
Films must be held up in their entirety.
So, with that out of the way, let’s delve in.
Batman Begins (2005)
I’m aware that this film came out six years ago but it was only after watching it again a couple of nights ago that, the above scene struck me.
Batman chooses to stand up for Gotham. He stands inbetween Gotham and the League of Shadows. In some way, he intercedes for them. He fights for those people. Now, we have to be aware what kind of man Batman is. He is a psychologically disturbed vigilante and at no point are we condoning the actions that he takes (although we probably secretly cheer him).
20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.[a] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[b] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
Earlier on in Genesis 11, we find the myth of God destroying the Tower of Babel because of the arrogance and slavery that he sees. The League of Shadows are doing the same thing. When the people of a city have gotten too proud, too arrogant, when they have lost what it means to be just, they come and raise the city to the ground in order that it may be rebuilt.
Where Abraham succeeds, is to convince God to hold of its destruction if he finds a number of righteous people.
For our young people, are they willing to stand up for their community, their town? Are they willing to intercede on its behalf?
Batman risks his life to save ‘his’ people. Would our young people do the same?
What would it mean for them to stand up for their community? What would that look like?
Let’s have that discussion with our young people.