I'm Not Batman

This past summer I saw The Avengers three times in theaters. And honestly it wasn't because I really enjoyed the film so much that I just had to spend $45 on it. I went because different groups of my friends wanted to see it at different times, and I wanted to enjoy it with all of them. Conversely, I only saw The Dark Knight Rises once.

Now based on the empirical evidence, one would conclude that I preferred The Avengers, perhaps even the Marvel series in general, much more. But as much as I did enjoy seeing Hulk slam Loki around like a ragdoll, I thought Christopher Nolan's portrayal of Batman was vastly superior, artistically speaking. My reasoning? The hero--or superhero in this case--was flawed.

I'll admit I'm biased on this. I've been a fan of Nolan's work since his incomparable Memento, and comparing him to the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like comparing "Ride of the Valkyries" to "Call Me Maybe."

photo credit: Sevi_Lwa via photopin cc
Now it's not as though Tony Stark is a particularly flawless character. But there's a difference between battling and overcoming personal demons in the span of a feature film, and exploring the innate balance of hero and villain throughout a cinematic trilogy. On the basest human level, Christopher Nolan's Batman is more relatable to human experience than the unwavering self-sacrifice of Captain America ever could. And I think there's a reason for this.

Sixty years ago, Joss Whedon's Captain America probably would have struck a chord with more young people. Captain America is the epitome of valor and nobility. And to that generation, strong, incorruptible leaders were looked up to--admired. They wanted men that made rooms stand at attention when they entered. Men that won wars, built financial empires, steered countries into prosperity and fortune. In short, they wanted heroes.

The hero was an inspiration to the common man. Devotion was no less than religious, and emulation was second to cleanliness. It was a device to make them want to be better. So it should come as no surprise that our parents became big fans of the megachurch movement complete with the pastor's towering vision. Call them celebrity pastors all you want; they inspired your parents and got the troops rallied around a goal.

If you're under 35, I bet you cringed at the idea of giving megachurches any credence. Like me, you probably don't like CEO pastors and their cookie cutter congregations. Like me, you're probably more unimpressed by corporate titles and infallible generals than inspired. Like me, you probably don't have any heroes. And like me, you probably don't want any.

It's not because we don't want to be better people or allow ourselves to be inspired. It's because the incorruptible icon feels inauthentic. And it's hard to be inspired by anything that feels less than genuine.

This probably seems not only counter-cultural, but counter-biblical. After all, Jesus is our example and he was blameless. He's the ultimate hero. But reexamine the majority of biblical texts and remember that only four books of the entire Bible explore the stories of Jesus. The rest are dedicated to the shamelessly petty men and women who dared to call on the name of the Lord.

In the first book alone you have the father of faith distrusting God twice, and yet he still ends up in Hebrews 11. In fact, that chapter includes a murderer, a prostitute, an idol worshiper, a coward, and an adulterer just to name a few. Perfection is discouraging, but mistakes make excellent teachers. This is why we don't surround ourselves with heroes. We don't want people who are holier than us; we want people who can help us up when we fall—because they too have been there.

After all, we all fall. And as Alfred said, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”