An argument is making its way around the internets and in particular circles right now, including movie critics and various writers of fiction. A growing number of people are concerned that the American superhero has died. Superhuman men and women still carry the weight of comics and feature-length films, but these characters aren’t as pristine as the world-saving people of the past. Superhuman abilities remain, but the moral fiber that also set these individuals aside is crumbling.
This is good social commentary.
In speaking and writing classes- communication in general, instructors insist that the most believable and therefore influential people are so because they make an effort to be just like everyone else. They let their humanity show. CEOs, political figures and religious leaders allow their audiences to see that they struggle just like every other person who ever existed. An understanding that the president yelps out a couple of four-letter words when he stubs his toe functions as a consolation to your average man. In the past, this was because we wanted to believe that we were capable of being a political leader, a millionaire or even a hero. We desire some sort of affirmation that even though most of us suck at life, we’re not disqualified from being able to save the day. Any artist, speaker or writer who can get their audience to believe this will likely have a solid hold on said group’s attention.
Back to killing our superheroes- Morphing Batman into a brooding, vengeful person with mixed motivations not only increases the masked man’s credibility, but removes an example and a standard of behavior. If he sleeps around and can still bust criminals’ faces open, then we can too. This removes any moral requisite for awesomeness.
Speaking as a Christian, I can say that we’ve all been subjected to an overly righteous person and their insufferable personality. The general response to most of these individuals is a lack of credibility. We find ourselves thinking, “Nobody’s that holy. Therefore, I will not listen to a word they say.”
We rely on humility to combat this attitude and earn the trust of the masses. Pastors, musicians and Christian writers let their humanity show to get potential audiences to let their guard down. But more and more, I’m seeing people go too far down this path. Men like Donald Miller (who I greatly appreciate) spiritualize self-deprecating statements and humor, pretending that this kind of behavior is actually some sort of humility.
Batman and Donald Miller become silly or offensive after a point, even if they are trying to help me relate to them. Some sins aren’t intended for public consumption (I dare say, most of them). If the Dark Knight has syphilis, or a harem of women he’s seduced, he becomes not less believable, but no longer a hero. As a fan or follower of sorts, I’d fall into disenchantment. When that happens, the time comes for a new hero- somebody who isn’t a tool. Or worse, I stop believing in heroes and men whose lives should be followed. But the supposed (in this case, fictional) admissions of these men were intended to gain my trust. See how that failed?
I want to believe I can do something great. That belief becomes more powerful when I don’t have to be perfect in order to achieve whatever goals I have. Lowering any standards I’d encounter along the way, reducing the loftiness of my goal might make it more attainable, but at the same time, less desirable. Tainted goals don’t sound exactly great, so we’ll try to keep them lofty and hope to rise to the challenge.