A couple weeks ago we started a new feature where several of our very gifted launch team members write about various topics each Friday of the week. We continue this week with a post from Carter Mundy.
“A Story Beyond The Story”
There’s something about a good story, isn’t there? Why do we love stories so much? Is it that they take us out of our own world so we can escape to dreams of glory and fame? Or maybe it’s because they reach into the depths of our emotions and force us to reflect on our own lives in some deep and meaningful way.
Whatever the case, stories almost always convey a message with which the audience is forced to interact. It’s probably not a good story if it doesn’t touch us in a transcendent way, soliciting at the very least an emotional response, be it enjoyment or anger or whatever.
The Dark Knight Rises certainly carries many themes with which we can interact, especially deep issues which touch on the very nature of humanity and human existence. Within its skillfully executed plot we can see human need for hope in something beyond the natural world, faith in things greater than human ability (or more specific to the movie, human government), the necessity for cultural and societal redemption, as well as the necessity for each individual to choose between living a life defined by good or one defined by chaos and evil.
Following themes like these, it’s not hard to see that Christians have much we can relate to, identify with, and enjoy in The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, I’m sure the writers did not mean to convey some veiled Christian message, or present an allegory. Yet, the movie radiates small rays of truth, including the affirmation that we desire (and need) salvation through a source greater than ourselves. Is that not clearly relatable to the gospel?
It’s important not to make too much of the movie itself, yet it’s also important to realize that anything which upholds truth should be celebrated by the Church. This gives us but one avenue through which we can interact with our non-Christian neighbor in a meaningful way. Rallying around a story like Batman not only gives us a great avenue for building relationships with non-Christians, but it also gives us entertainment we can enjoy on more than one level.
Let’s look at the themes of hope and redemption, starting with two significant characters. First, “The Batman” seems to portray the ideal human. Second, Bruce Wayne images the natural, or normal man. Of course they’re one and the same person physically, but they play much different roles in the story.
Batman is a symbol of hope beyond what is natural—a Christ-figure in the story. Bruce Wayne is the epitome of human suffering and finitude. Batman has no limits; Bruce Wayne does. And while Bruce is pushed to his, the hope of Gotham can remain in the limitless Batman icon.
Throughout the movie, there is a quiet hope for the return of Batman. Some choose to place their hope in more “practical” things; but people like Officer Blake lead by example, never giving up the belief that Batman is still willing and capable of saving Gotham.
Batman as a symbol of hope stands for truth, incorruptibility, and justice as it should be known and carried out. This opposes the chaotic destruction of Bane and the League of Shadows. Batman’s agenda for Gotham is redemption from within, not total annihilation. He mixes justice with mercy.
Rather than destroy Gotham, Batman wants to transform it. The League kills without mercy. Their goal is to destroy, because they believe the city is beyond hope. But Batman, so believing that change from within is possible, will even give up his life for Gotham in the end.
Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, gives his whole life to uphold the ideal, also to the point of “death,” identifying himself with that ideal, or “surrendering” to it. When Bane breaks him, and throws him into the pit, Bruce undergoes his own personal redemption by focusing on the hope that Batman provides.
So if Batman represents a Christ-figure, Bruce Wayne shows us the role of a true Christ-follower. He surrendered himself to the ideal. This led to his “death,” which gave him a chance to have a “real life” at the end of the story. He also acted as a liaison between Batman and others, like Selina Kyle. She had been so jaded by her fellow man that she thought it was pointless to have hope in anything. He showed her that living for the ideal was not only good and right, but was best. This led to her “conversion” from a life of making wrong choices to a life of making rights ones.
There is much more we could look at. And of course, anything taken too far will break down eventually. But on a large scale, The Dark Knight Rises exhibits many major themes that Christians can affirm, and anyone can identify with. Don’t give in to the wrong-headed presumption that all things “non-Christian” must be avoided. Find what reveals the truth, celebrate it, and share it with others. Isn’t that what God calls us to do?