The negative reviews given to last weekend’s blockbuster debut of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice” were perfect testimony to an age desperately struggling to stay centered around truth.
Some complained that the existential themes the movie reached at were beyond the grasp of characters in masks and tights. But having already seen the movie three times myself, I’m confident that the list of things beyond the grasp of such reviewers is a long one.
No ears to hear. No eyes to see. We have made ourselves orphans to the truth.
Turns out orphans are also a fundamental theme in the stories of not only Batman and Superman, but also the movie’s villain, Lex Luthor. Three men unmoored from cherished or honored upbringings as children who go on to become uber-men of abnormal and extreme pursuits — all undertaken in the attempt to corner and capture the definition of ultimate meaning.
And whether villain or hero, they are often confused. They are often angry. They are often riddled with insecurities and doubts that must be covered up at all costs.
Perhaps that is why the movie was perplexing to so many critics. We, the most pound-for-pound educated people ever in the history of God’s green earth, are rarely prone to Socratic doubt anymore. We are absolutely as certain that Muslims are victims of Islamophobia, as we are that their violent religion is simply understood when it crucifies a Catholic priest in Yemen on Good Friday, and murders at least 72 Christians in Pakistan on Easter Sunday.
We are absolutely certain that when President Obama said last week that capitalism and communism/socialism are just two sides of the same utopian coin, he must be the greatest economic thinker since Adam Smith, despite whatever evidence Obamacare provides to the contrary.
We are absolutely certain that the North Carolina legislature’s attempt to maintain a barrier between the men’s room and the ladies room is a level of bigotry on par with Jim Crow. We are absolutely certain that the Georgia legislature’s attempt to protect religious freedom and marriage from the fascism of the Rainbow Jihad is a legacy of a bygone era and backwards thinking unfit for our time.
We don’t really ask big questions, but we do hide from truly big answers.
And while “We” most definitely isn’t all of us yet, it sure seems like it is the part of us that is calling most of the shots. When Lex Luthor says “Knowledge without power is paradoxical,” he is preaching to the current progressive age’s choir.
“I am smarter than you, thus I am better than you. And that goes for you, too, God. Or Superman. The very idea of you usurps my right to live in the flat earth of my choosing. You deserve to be taunted and hazed out of existence, but falling short of that, you will feel the weight of my boot on your throat.”
What I am describing is a brand of Gnosticism, and our culture is drunk on it right now. So when the characters of Gotham and Metropolis were similarly afflicted in the movie, why should many of us see or hear anything to reflect upon? Other than a nagging lecture from a parent we tuned out years ago. Or our own conscience, hard-wired into us by a Creator we willfully suppress the knowledge of.
As Daily Planet editor Perry White reminded do-gooder reporter Clark Kent, “the American conscience is dead.” And proud of it.
But lest we think it is only the black hats in movies who engage in such folly, we have Batman’s motivations to ponder. Indeed, good men can turn cruel just as Alfred the butler opined.
Bruce Wayne’s nearly lifelong quest to overcome the senseless murder of his father, and the lack of decency and order within the criminal world, is summed up just as he and Superman are drawing their climactic battle with one another to a close: “The world doesn’t make sense unless we force it to.”
Now see my list of current events above. Sound familiar?
A hero acting in broad daylight with not only the consent, but the fawning and statue-building adulation of the public, was never going to make sense to the Dark Knight. In fact, Bruce Wayne had been at it in the shadows for so long that he had become jaded enough to see Superman as a threat no different than another “clown in tights” from his past (a reference to the evil Joker).
No square peg has more clumsily or unnecessarily been pounded into a round hole, but such are our feet of clay these postmodern. Instead of marveling at the possibility of something bigger than us existing in the world, it must be stamped out as a danger and a fraud. There were most certainly other plot devices at work for why Batman and Superman did not see eye to eye in the movie, but at its center their conflict was a lesson in tyranny.
He who makes the rules, rules, and Batman had had enough of Superman. He wasn’t alone. Some in the ruling class were also growing keen to force the world to make sense again by reigning in the Man of Steel. In essence, all of them were saying “Enough with this 24/7 God stuff. I’ll go my own way.”
Democrat Sen. June Finch, skillfully portrayed by Holly Hunter, summed that up best as she drummed up support in Congress to clamp down on Superman: “Whose will is he here to do, ours or his?”
Therein lays our eternal battle with God. That’s Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil stuff from the Garden of Eden right there. And from a comic book movie, no less.
Whom will we serve? Will we humble ourselves to a truly benevolent God, or force a false one upon ourselves and others through the fuel of contempt, fear and malice? “Batman v. Superman” asks nothing short of that question. Since life so often imitates art, many agnostic/secular/progressive (apologies for the redundancy) movie reviewers were bound not to get it.
We are all Batman. We are all Lex Luthor. We want what we want — especially when it is God telling us to do otherwise.
(Steve Deace airs each weeknight from 9 p.m.-Midnight eastern on the Salem Radio Network. He’s also the author of the new book “A Nefarious Plot.”)