Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Peter Rollins adventure in mising the point (He don't know Bruce)

may know how (not) to speak of

but he does not know how to speak of

I know he is soooo much smarter than me (and probably you), but the Irish theologian Peter Rollins is no expert on crime fighting American superheroes. In an attempt to critique American Capitalism and our fascination with heroes, he stretches an analogy past the breaking point. There are some truisms in his essay, but he overstates his case in many ways.

On its exterior his essay seems correct. However, Rollins does not understand that Bruce Wayne and his industrialism are a facade. They are not real. Sure, he must operate in such a manner to keep funding his crime fighting ways and their are conseguences. But, they matter not to him. Batman is real, while Bruce Wayne is a cover. This psychlogical reality changes everything. I think his essay would work better with Tony Clark/ Iron Man as the central figure.

Rollins missteps may because he is Irish and Batman is quintessentially American (hey, I don't really get James Joyce). It may because he is too smart for pop culture. It may be because he did not grow up reading Batman and is really critiquing a film adaptation (which is fine, but shallow- you must look at the entire mythology and many important pieces of the canon to make such broad assumptions) and it could even be that he feels a need to evaluate everything according to his worldview and makes some assumptions on the worldviews of others. This can be dangerous (but is not here).

This reminds me of my least favorite thing about my blog and the blogosphere in general. We think we know more than we know! I know politics. I know music. I know movies. I even know comic books, history, social justice and church life (pretty well). I know a bit about sports and art. I like books. I like theology. I like economics. I even like gardening, cooking, architecture and city planning (but know very little). I know little to nothing about Lost, technology, reality television, science, women, flora and fauna, business, real estate or money management (besides my adage- don't spend any). Remember that if I comment on those things.

So, when commenting on film, music or politics, I may actually have something compelling to say. When talking about sports, it is somewhere in the middle. When talking about theology, it may be insightful... but may not be. When speaking on books, I can tell you what I like. But, don't listen to me if I try to assess the subtleties of Vonnegut's prose or Volf's views of the Trinity. I may be able to tell you it is "real good." You can trust that. But, not much else. So, don't listen to Rollins on Batman.*

* I could tell you who to listen to about sports, books, film, musics, etc. But I wouldn't I don't want to hurt any feelings. I may also blog about this phenomena at a later time. It has become an obsession of mine.

read how he misses the point here.


Anonymous said...

You know it really pained me to critique Batman. He is my fav. superhero by far, but I must.

You are saying exactly what Batman would say... he would say 'this is the real me, Bruce is just who I am on a day to day basis but it is a mask I hid behind'.

This is exactly the problem. It's like the person who says, 'what I do as a CEO of shell is not who I really am, no I am really the person who sits and prays on Sunday morning and does a bible study on Thursday evenings'.

The problem is that these people are fooling themselves, thinking that their extra-curricular activities express who they are when really these are what allow them to shield themselves from who they really are in their everyday social existence.

Batman works by getting people to think 'the man in disguise is really the expression of his inner truth, a truth that is shielded in daily life'. But one must take the further step and say 'the disguise only manifests the fantasy life of the wearer - which is the true disguise of the wearers social self'.

Having said all this I must admit that this is based on the films - perhaps in the comics Batman is a poor social activist :)

Come on, you know I'm right :)

Rick said...

if this is peter rollins... thanks for coming by.

if not..let's pretend you are. it makes me feel better.

you said "The problem is that these people are fooling themselves, thinking that their extra-curricular activities express who they are when really these are what allow them to shield themselves from who they really are in their everyday social existence."

I think you are right, but I think Bruce Wayne is the extracurricular activity and batman is the Day Job. So, he is defined by batman, not his hobby (Wayne Industries). I think he could care less what happens at Wayne Industries as long as it masks his identity.

i get what you are saying but think it is unimportant to the myth. why? batman could care less about the consequences of capitalism or industrialism. they are of no importance to him.

the only thing important is his flawed view of justice. he does not care WHY you committed a crime or the root causes. he thinks you had a choice to obey laws or not. if you obeyed laws, you are okay. if you broke law (his morality is quite simplistic), you are not okay and need to be brought to justice.

if his business breaks no laws, nothing else matters.

to see into this mindset, I would recommend the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. it is among the most important pieces of the mythology. to look at batman without looking at Miller, Kirby, Moore (especially when looking at film alone) is like trying to interpret jesus by looking exclusively at the gospels of Mark and Luke, leaving John and Matthew to the side.

It cannot be done.

So- Batman is not an activist. he is a vigilante trying to fix the darkness in his soul because he feels guilty for his parent's death and angry at all criminals for their culpability in his sorry excuse for a childhood and life.

But, I have been wrong before. however, i can debate comics til judgment day (as long as it is judge dredd doing the judging).

Anonymous said...

LOL - thanks for the response. It is Pete BTW. I have a few friends who are into graphic novels so am dipping my feet in. Will get your recommendation.

Have you ever heard of 'True Faith'? It was written by a guy from Belfast inspired by his school experience. He went on to write 'The Preacher'. It is an incredible piece of work - in which a guy wants to kill God and so murders priests. Pretty dark stuff.

Would love to know what you think of it

Rick said...

sorry- I was out of commission for a couple of days...

I have not seen true Faith, but I put it on my list. I am huge old fan of The Preacher, which destroyed me when it came out.

I was still in the conservative Christian world at the time but rebelling against it due to love of pop culture, very dark tendencies and constant questioning.

its darkness repelled me and fascinated me, with fascination winning over. It was terribly important to my journey. I could go, but would sound a bit unhinged.