Real Hero, Real Evil and a Real Problem

As I explained, I have no theme for this blog aside from simply sharing what I think. So, in this post I am going to take a (large) jump from The Search for Significance to Batman. Yes, that’s right: Batman. Last week I watched The Dark Knight for the first time. I must say that I enjoyed it. While I did indeed hide my face behind the pillow in a few slightly terrifying scenes, the story captured my attention and I couldn’t wait to see how the story turned out in the end. After the movie, however, I spent a solid 2 hours trying to figure out what the overall message of the movie was and what in the world I actually thought about it.

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Unlike the various Avenger films, which are all about witty comments, brilliant comebacks, big explosions and unrealistic action sequences, Batman takes on some of the more serious themes of the heroes’ fight against evil. Through this serious side of superheroes, one important message about being a real hero came through for me: Batman shows that being a real hero mean sacrificing personal safety, desires, feelings, hopes and sometimes a reputation in order to serve those who express their thanks by spitting in the hero’s face. Throughout the movie, as Batman is saving people from death left and right and is doing his best to stop the Joker, he never gets the recognition nor the thanks that he so justly deserves…and he continues to act on people’s behalf. Real hero.

The Dark Knight also addresses the opposite side of the of a real hero: real evil. Out of all of my movie watching, The Dark Knight portrays evil (accurately) like no other. The character of the Joker shows the reality that there are those in this world who engage in evil for the heck of it. For them, evil is fun: it’s a game. In addition, the character of Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight depicts the truth that even so called “good men” fall into darkness. Through Dent’s turn to evil, the movie shows that hope in human goodness is frail and not to be trusted. Yet, the movie provides no other alternative for hope, nor does it explain that human goodness is not possible. In the end, the movie’s message is that man simply has to hope that mankinds’good outweighs the bad.

Observations stated, I am still asking myself some serious questions about whether or not The Dark Knight is the kind of film I should watch for entertainment. Like I explained, not only did the movie capture my attention, it is an excellently made movie from the acting and special effects to the storyline. But the overwhelming evil (even as it is acknowledged and passionately fought evil) is a cause for concern. Is it acceptable for me as a believer to allow my eyes to see such representation of evil? Is the fact that the good beats the evil in the end worth it? After all, the Christian life is a battle against evil. We live in a war zone every day. But is it right to focus so much on the bad? I don’t have the answers; I only have the ability to go and search the scriptures and then come to a personal conclusion based on what the Lord reveals to me. I have NO idea where He’ll take me. Of course, I never really do!

I hope that I have encouraged some serious contemplation!

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4 thoughts on “Real Hero, Real Evil and a Real Problem

  1. First of all: Emily, Why so serious?

    But in all seriousness (so punny…), you bring up a lot of good points. As to whether or not it’s okay for a believer to witness the evil character in the Joker, I don’t see any big problems. There’s goodness in trying to understand evil; without that understanding, how can we properly combat or cure it? There’s plenty of darkness even in the hero – but the goodness comes in him overcoming that darkness. Stories like Batman are not only about good guys beating bad guys – it’s also about the battle itself. We might be on a path to purity, but we are definitely going to have struggles along the way. They (most likely) won’t be as clear and out-in-the-open as the nihilistic Joker, but that’s the point of the story. One of my favorite points in the movie is, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” I think that’s where the grace of God makes all the difference. Without his help, we’d be stuck; but with His strength, we can push back and fight the things that weigh us down.

    I also find Harvey Dent a fascinating character. When he’s explaining how we put Batman in charge when we let evil take over our city, and follows up with one of his big quotes for the movie, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” he opens a whole new can of worms. Foreshadowing aside, what does this mean? Is it true? Batman, in order to protect Harvey’s reputation for the betterment of the city, takes upon himself the blame for all the bad things happening in the city. He doesn’t do it for Harvey’s sake, he does it for Gotham; because they need to have Hope. And that’s what Batman gives them – he becomes whatever the city needs him to be. He makes the city hate him and love Harvey – because if the White Knight of the story isn’t as good as everyone thinks, then who can they look to for leadership?

    Suffice to say, I love this movie, and can go on and on about it. I’m very much looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises, coming out in a couple weeks. A whole new bunch of ideas will come with that one, so I hope you’re ready for it!! 🙂

    • Hey Stephen! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and then comment! We needed another discussion…one aside from our mutual CS Lewis obsession! 🙂

      I must say that almost everything you said in the first paragraph makes total sense to me. I agree that we need to know how to properly combat evil and that seeing/reading about a battle of good against evil can be helpful in that fight (I mean it’s all over scripture) but my question is, is it right to find that evil vs. good entertaining? Or to reward an actor/movie producer for such representation of evil?

      “I think that’s where the grace of God makes all the difference. Without his help, we’d be stuck; but with His strength, we can push back and fight the things that weigh us down.” And I couldn’t agree more!!!!

      On to your second paragraph!! While Batman’s action (taking the blame for Harvey’s wrongdoing) is indeed admirable, he’s giving Gotham false hope: it’s hope based on a lie and a failure. How is that real hope? There IS NO hope in human goodness…and there shouldn’t be hope in the lie that human goodness exists.

      I must say that after I first saw The Dark Knight I started to get really excited about The Dark Knight Rises, so, if I decide to watch it (once i figure this all out) I will do my best to be prepared for a whole new discussion of new ideas. 🙂

      Thanks again Cuz!

  2. One thought to add might be that while it is helpful to make sure we understand the evil we are up against so that we may better fight it, on screen and in literature, evil can be portrayed without it being grotesque… or even further, without it causing us to dwell on things that are demonic.

    A great example of ‘clean’ bad guy would be Darth Vader… Or, you may notice a vast difference between the Lord of the Rings films and books is that Tolkien went out of his way NOT to describe the physical darkness of
    bad guys. Further, the Bible frequently discusses evil, without ever dwelling on it. This does not minimize it, and we are still taught how to combat it. We just don’t have to stare at a very physical manifestation of wickedness for two and half hours… 🙂

    In light of the admonition to dwell on “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is praiseworthy”, as Christians who actively engage in creating our own literature and films, we might try to find ways to show the very real spiritual struggle without sickly glorifying it.

    • Excellent thoughts Marli! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! Our previous discussions on this topic (specifically regarding LOTR and JRR Tolkien) have come to mind as I’ve thought this through. I’m beginning to think that this is a movie-by-movie decision. 🙂 I look forward to continuing this conversation with you as well!

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