A Tale of Two Cities
This post might be a bit premature as the 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Film is still a long way from being released. But as an avid pop culture watcher, I'm very excited about this film and what it'll mean for the Warner/DC cinematic universe. This film featuring the acting talents of Ben Affleck as 'Batffleck' and Henry Cavill draws two of DC's flagship titles into a confrontation that will lead to the development of the Justice League. But at first, Batman and Superman do not get along. This makes sense, as these two are very differnt characters, with different styles of heroing and even their settings are vastly different! As I think about this, I began reflecting a Frank Miller quote, "Metropolis is New York by day and Gotham is New York by night."
Die-hard fans of DC Comics would note at this point that Gotham and Metropolis are ficitional twin cities, set in the US states of New Jersey and Delaware. But Miller's comment relates to the artistic representation of these two cities. New York is in fact the home of the world's most prolific comic book companies and so its no wonder that this city has been the inspiration for the settings for some of the most beloved characters in pop culture. But I think there's more to it than that.
New York is a city with a long history, a history that relates to what's at the core of comic book stories - good vs evil. As a city with a sordid history with crime, the idea of a 'no holds barred' hero or a superpowered human who could not be harmed defeding people would be very compelling. I think another aspect of these two cities that is significant is the heroes who protect them. Metropolis is a city that by far and large is populated by good citizens. It has its problems which relate to corrupt politicians, greedy corporations and the gang or two - but the biggest problem it seems to have is the many super villains targetting the city because they think they have a shot at Superman. Meanwhile, Gotham is a city that is populated mostly by gangs, corrupt police and terrorists with a desire to cause mass panic - throw in the odd psychopath targeting the dark knight and you have a city with some real issues. Another comparison is the way in which the two cities are depicted in the comic books. Gotham has garbage collectors (we know this because often their trucks are stolen by crooks and used for nefarious purposes), but the streets of Gotham are covered in garbage, during the day the city is often overcast or raining (unless we're looking at Wayne Manor where its ussually sunny) and the buildings are dirty art-deco style monoliths which gaping gargoyles and graffitti. Meanwhile in Metropolis, the streets are mostly clean, the sun is shining and the buildings are modernised regularly. Perhaps Superman helps in the updating of the Metropolis skyline so that it looks like a more modern city - whereas everytime Wayne Industries restores the city after a villain causes rampant destruction - they make it look relatively the same (or darker)!
Art mimics real life, and in this way our views of our cities - or even our lives can be coloured by our demeanour! Gotham reflects Batman - a brooding vigilante with a job to do. Meanwhile, Metropolis reflects Superman - a super-being with a destiny to fulfil. One responds to crime as a symbol of fear while the other flies over his city, a symbol of hope. Similarly we can have days that are coloured by fear or by hope! Maybe on those days, we might look around and see Gotham city... a morbid dark place where enemies are all around - or we might see Metropolis, a hopeful place where we know we are safe.
Its hard when we're having Gotham moments, when the world seems to be coming against us and our response is one of fear or anger. And as Christians this is particularly difficult, it leads people to cast aspersions on our faith... as if being a Christian means being an incurable optimist! Jesus doesn't want us to be Supermen or Superwomen, He wants us to be us and not hide our true selves behind a thinly veiled disguise. However, neither does He want us to be Batman - a brooding figure in the shadows. What both Superman and Batman lack is faith. Superman trusts his strength and Batman his intellect, but both get caught out when these things fail - faith will never fail.
We sometimes have unrealistic expectations of faith, like as if we might be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound if only we had 'enough' faith! But faith is more about letting go and letting God, than anything we might be able to achieve on our own.
Jesus tells His disciples:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Matt. 6:25-26 [NIV]
Perhaps when we have our Gotham moments, we should try and see the light in the midst of the darkness! We don't have to worry about where our hope is going to come from, we can rely on our faith and know that even thought the streets may be dirty, the outlook grim... God is still on our side!