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.
It’s always the same.
Every time an atrocious incident takes place (eg the Colorado shootings) films are blamed. Many people have come out to complain about “The Dark Knight Rises” and how it is responsible for corrupting minds with its violence.
On the website, “red letter christians” there is an article about the link between the shootings and the film and towards the end of the article, the writer says this:
“It is truly a tragedy when 12 people are killed by a deeply senseless act of violence. It is also a tragedy when the human mind is molded to enjoy and celebrate similar acts of violence on the big screen.”
What the writer seems completely unaware of is that in Nolans’ series of Batman films, the filmmakers are keen to state that it is because of Batmans violence that more violence takes place. The violence in the Dark Knight series escalates because of Batman himself.
If there were no Batman there would be no Joker, there would be no Bane and there would be no (spoiler) Talia Al’Ghul. These people exist because of Batman. The Joker strikes Gotham to show Batman that every one of us will be come a blood thirsty murderer if pushed far enough. Bane and Talia want to destroy Gotham because Batman killed Raz Al’Ghul.
These films demonstrate the circular nature of violence. These films are not pro-violence.
This is a great message to discuss with young people.
Where does violence take us? Does it really get us anywhere?
In fact, the only way that evil is dealt with in these films is through sacrifice. It is Harvey Dents supposed sacrifice (really Batmans) in the Dark Knight that leads to the Dent Act that removes criminals from the streets and it is Batmans sacrifice at the end of the Dark Knight Rises that brings victory.
The Batman films, rather than promote violence, shine a light on its fallacy and show that the myth of redemptive violence leads us straight to the pits of Bane’s hell.
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.