Batman and Jesus
This post was long overdue. I happened to watch Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ for the second time and just couldn’t help noticing the similarities between Batman and Jesus Christ. I know its bizarre. And maybe even funny at some level. But, nevertheless it made me think about one of the subjects I’m very much interested in – storytelling. I am of the belief that ‘stories’ or ‘dramas’ have been produced by us, human beings for thousands of years. Having a keen interest in theology and religion, I’ve often indulged in very interesting discussions with my peers on the similarities and creative licensing employed by our forefathers in telling and re-telling, (thus affirming and reaffirming), stories and myths about legends and Gods. There is no question about the fact that America is the single largest exporter of ‘culture’ in today’s world. And Hollywood stands as the single mighty operating force behind it. According to experts, the average studio or division in Hollywood has bought and is developing one hundred fifty to two hundred stories at a time! No wonder they have mastered the art and craft of storytelling. But the narrative structures of the modern storytelling in Hollywood is strikingly similar to those employed in the ancient dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the stories mentioned in the holy books of Christianity. Cinema entertains us for sure and more often it contains grab bags of gimmicks, gags and gab. But it also tries to capture our shared hopes and fears, our longings and frustrations, our aspirations and failures. And we enjoy these plots of various stories, repeated again and again, without realizing the fact that most of the powerful stories share a similar narrative structure and characters. Here are the similarities between Batman Jesus Christ:
1. The Character
Both Batman and Jesus came from a well to do family and eventually gave up their comfortable life in search of something more bigger than themselves. Being a carpenter in an ancient Jewish set up meant that one had the skill and opportunity to build many things. It was certainly one of the ‘better professions’ to be in. Similarly for Batman, Wayne Enterprises was his father’s company. The lives of both Batman and Jesus revolved around a particular city – Gotham and Jerusalem respectively. And the citizens of these cities failed to recognize the efforts of its heroes. Both Batman and Jesus had a set of close associates and at least one of those associates rejected the principles of their heroes to tread in a completely opposite direction – in Jesus’ case it was Judas Iscariot & in Batman’s case it was Harvey Dent a.k.a Two-Face. Both were misunderstood by their own people or by citizens of their own cities. And both were rebels in their own way – challenging notions and norms.
2. The Conflict
Both Batman and Jesus had conflicts within themselves about various issues and spent time in isolation seeking meaning. Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert, all by himself – seeking, debating, thinking and fasting. Batman spends time travelling the world, learning the various aspects of the criminal mind – seeking, debating, thinking and training. At some point in time they even expressed doubts in their own self and capabilities. Eventually, they approach their specific missions with such a strong will that the thing they fear the most becomes a symbol of their identity – in Batman’s case it was bats and in Jesus’ case it was the cross.
3. The Hero and the Villian
Oedipus, Medea, Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth and many other protagonists in world drama are flawed and vulnerable characters. Just like Batman and Jesus. Both of them deny themselves a ‘heroic status’ in their society. And in both of their cases, the villian was a villian long before the hero arrived on the scene and the hero had no part in turning him into a villian. The hero doesn’t become a hero simply because he takes a stand against the villian; he becomes a hero because he stands for something. This can be justice, a cause, his family, friends or community. Invariably, while the villian stands for himself, the hero stands for something beyond himself.
Both Batman and Jesus sought power and challenged the existing law makers / law givers. But it was never for their own self-aggrandizement. It was for something beyond the self, something that is higher and more valuable than one’s own pleasure or even one’s own life. The transcendent cause they struggled with was bigger than themselves.
5. Attachment to people
Both Batman and Jesus were attached to people – especially the friends and family whom they loved. And both of them struggled to explain and deal with this attachment. Eventually both of them learnt to outgrow the attachment and sacrifice it for a bigger cause. Thus, Bruce Wayne becomes ‘The Batman’ and Jesus becomes ‘The Christ’.
Disclaimer: This post is a comparison between Christopher Nolan’s cinematic adaptation of the fictional character ‘Batman’ created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and ‘Jesus Christ’ as depicted in the various holy texts of Christianity.