Skip to main content

when heroes despair


last friday was a day i had anticipated for many months: the arrival of watchmen . i am one of those who never heard of watchmen when the comic series came out in the 1980s, and truth be told i was never much of a comic reader anyway. however, the notion of the anti-hero has always appealed to me. we do not live in a black and white world; there are many shades of gray, and the idea that our heroes are not immune to that makes them more real. so, for example, i am more a fan of batman than superman. bruce wayne has no superpowers. under his mask and cape he's just as normal as i am (except for the whole zillionaire thing).

when i first saw the trailers for watchmen last fall, i was immediately engaged. the mixture of flawed heroes within a graphic novel genre interested me. i did not like sin city when it came out a few years ago, and i've only seen a few scenes of 300. everytime i saw the blue guy, or the owl guy, or the white mask and fedora hat guy i excitedly counted down the days until 03.06.09. so the date arrived, i fought legions of moviegoers for a seat, and watched the watchmen.

in terms of style and presentation, it is an absolute winner. its vision of a parallel 1985 where richard nixon is a fifth-term president and nuclear war with russia is an immediate threat had my attention. the heroes are introduced through a series of flashbacks, sometimes within other flashbacks. we learn that nixon used them to end (and win) the war in vietnam, then later outlawed their vigilantism. so most of the watchmen established fake identities and tried to live "normal" lives. their existence is much different than the world lived in by the "supers" of the incredibles when they were forced to retire into everyday life. the streets are violent, greed and evil is rampant, and the world is poised on the very edge of destruction. plus someone is trying to kill the watchmen.

again, the idea that heroes are real people (except dr. manhattan, who through a scientific accident became a god-like presence, beyond human and yet still struggling inside with human emotions and desires) appeals to me. each of the watchmen, through their own failings or their forced redundancy, struggle with their own demons. on one end of the spectrum, rorschach, the detective/vigilante, is fed up with the sleaziness of the world; on the other hand, dr. manhattan in his pseudo-divinity, becomes detached from the suffering of humanity.

in the end, the group falls apart, whatever ideals led them to become superheroes in the first place are at best blurred, and even the all-powerful dr. manhattan arrives too late to avert human disaster, too self-involved and not enough other-involved to be present when needed. i did not expect a "hollywood ending" to watchmen, and i was right. but even movies like blade runner and the dark knight, which explore the inner darkness of humanity, still find a way to cling to some sense of hope. watchmen tries, but the solution that is offered is empty.


i will not speculate (at least for now!) on whether watchmen attempts to comment about religion, whether dr. manhattan is a symbol of God's lack of interest in human suffering. but i do know that real people, even the super ones, need hope. in times such as these, when many people struggle with hopelessness, where do we turn when our leaders and heroes are in despair as much as we are? today is the festival of purim in Judaism. the celebrations of today recall queen esther's victory over the evil haman, whose plot to exterminate the Jews failed. it is a day to remember that violence and evil never have the last word-- there is always hope, and we must never give in to despair.

"i lift up my eyes to the hills-- from where does my help come? my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (psalm 121:1-2). in the end, watchmen is correct: even heroes have limits-- even the ones we suppose are perfect. so when we worry, experience anxiety, are unsure what will happen next, let us remember that God is near, especially when everything else falls apart around us.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reflecting Upon Newtown

Note: I offered these words during the prayer section of worship Sunday, December 16.

Last Friday was a day full of surprising ministry. After I wrote my usual Friday email devotion to the church, I received a call from Byron Proutt, our missions coordinator. He and others had recently partnered with Park Cities Presbyterian on a project, and their missions director called Byron to say another ministry was unable to pick up several boxes of food for their pantry—could we use it? Of course we could! So Pastor Gregg, Mr Johnny, and I rolled out to the warehouse and hauled back 80 boxes of food. Praise God! After we unloaded it Gregg and I went to Kroger to give them a letter of appreciation for making our Thanksgiving baskets for hungry families a priority. After I dropped Gregg off at home, I turned on my radio for the first time that day and heard the reports of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. I could not believe what I heard, especially as a father of young children.

I came back to m…

The Famous Black Cat Band

This week my former high school band director, Mr Reinke, died. Mr Reinke is a legend in my hometown of Bay City. He was the leader of our Black Cat Band for many years. He was a fiery man, a perfectionist with extremely high standards. He was a gifted musician. He and I both played the trombone; one of us sounded like a goose being strangled. The other sounded like... well I can't think of a metaphor to properly describe Mr Reinke's horn. It was amazing. He would pull that thing out occasionally to show us how to properly play a part of a song and the sound was spellbinding. 
Mr Reinke was very innovative in his music selections. He had us playing the most random music, from popular stuff of the day by Michael Jackson to Also Sprach Zarathustra (popularly known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This song in particular was a great choice-- it's amazing, complicated; however, this was the late 1980s. The song was originally released…

a response to gideons international

last sunday prosper united methodist church welcomed representatives of the gideons to share about their ministry. how many times have you stayed in a hotel or visited someone in the hospital and found a gideons Bible there? and while no one can argue that reading the Bible is a bad thing, or that distributing Bibles to others in native languages is inherently harmful, i would like to offer some thoughts on the practices of the gideons, as they were described at church.

1. bravo to the gideons for distributing 73 million Bibles last year. however, most of the Bibles they sent were tiny new testaments with psalms. i am a Christian, and i love the words of the new testament. but those words have their foundation in the old testament, and to remove thousands of years of traditions and stories of God's powerful love and acts of salvation diminishes the power of the whole Bible. we must never forget that the old testament (or "first" testament or "hebrew Bible"…