Life, movies and heroes

Advance warning, this is a very quote heavy post. Hopefully it will come across as more than just an excuse to share my favourite movie quotes though nothing will beat Liam Neesons epic monologue in Taken.

It is said that art imitates life, but life has also been inspired by art. One of my favourite genres and underlying themes within movies,  TV shows and video games, are heroes. Individuals or groups of people standing up for and defending those who can’t defend themselves.  It seems that many of the bad guys that the heroes have to face and defeat, are metaphors for everyday life. They seem to express the notion that this world is not as it should be, and it needs people to stand up and fight the evil, to show the world how it can be:

Blake: Hoping you live happily ever after?
Ruby: Well I’m hoping we all will. As a girl, I wanted to be just like those heroes in the books. Someone who fought for what was right, and who protected people who couldn’t protect themselves.
Blake: That’s very ambitious for a child. Unfortunately the real world isn’t the same as a fairy tale.
Ruby: Well that’s why we’re here, to make it better.

RWBY, Shining Beacon Pt2, Rooster Teeth Productions, Created by Monty Oum

Angel: Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. But that’s why there’s us – champions. Doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be.

Angel, Deep Down, Mutant Enemy Productions, Created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt

The problem with these types of movies though is that they can give across the message that the evil in this world is so huge, that you must have some special powers, or virtually limitless resources, in order to fight against it.  I’m currently writing this at a time when most of the UK seems to be under water, and the British Armed Forces have been drafted in to help with flood defences and rescuing people. They have the resources and the training, so people seem to just leave it up to them to sort everything out. I’m not suggesting that people go out and try something that is beyond their ability, particularly in times of extreme events, but why do people wait for extraordinary circumstances to fight against something? Are we looking for an example to follow?

Jor-El: The people of Earth are different from us, it’s true, but ultimately I believe that is a good thing. They won’t necessarily make the same mistakes we did, but if you guide them, Kal, if you give them hope, that’s what this symbol means. The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.

Man Of Steel (2013), Distributed by Warner Bros Pictures, Directed by Zack Snyder.

Bruce Wayne: People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.

Batman Begins (2005), Distributed by Warner Bros Pictures, Directed by Christopher Nolan

We have people we look up to, who inspire us; we may refer to them as heroes. With heroes in movies being such larger than life and having super powers, it’s often difficult to see that they are people, we often fail to see the humanity within them. I sometimes think we’ve done that with Jesus. We’ve become so focused on him being God that we’ve completely lost sight of the fact that he was also human. The sacrifices required to stand up for something, to fight against something, to support something, are often immense because they are too often done alone and is never a one-off battle. We seem to forget this about other people we regard as heroes too. Standing up for something, especially if someone else is likely to lose, is costly. It’s why many heroes in these movies hide their identity:

Joyce: Well it stops now!

Buffy: No, it doesn’t stop! It never stops! Do you… do you think I chose to be like this? You have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs, watching TV or gossiping about boys or… God, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Becoming Pt 2, Mutant Enemy Productions, Created by Joss Whedon

Capt Tom Lasky: Chief, I won’t pretend to know how you feel. I’ve lost people I care about but, never anything like you’re going through.

Spartan 117:  Our duty, as soldiers is to protect humanity, whatever the cost

Capt. Tom Lasky: You say that like soldiers and humanity are 2 different things. I mean soldiers aren’t machines, we’re just people

Halo 4 (2012) Developed by 343 Industries, Distributed by Microsoft Studios

Many of these movies have an arc where the main character learns something then acts on it. Rambo is a great example. He goes from the above to realizing that not only that he has the power to act therefore he must as Thomas Jefferson said “If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action”) but also he’s fighting for something other than himself:

John Rambo: Any of you boys want to shoot, now’s the time. There isn’t one of us that doesn’t want to be someplace else. But this is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something. Your call.

Rambo (2008) Distributed by Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, Directed by Sylvester Stallone

I sometimes think we’re in the middle of that arc, that we’re in the middle of the movie and we still need to learn the lesson that we don’t need to be super heroes; just need to be prepared to take the risk to help others because that’s the reward in itself:

Angel: If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… , then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.

Kate Lockley: And now you do?

Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don’t think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.

Angel, Epiphany, Mutant Enemy Productions, Created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt

Many Christian apologists use this sense that the world is not right as an argument for God. Some have drawn comparisons of the apparent escalation of the worlds problems with the decline in belief in God, that the latter is bringing about the former. My response, aside from the fact religious believers can be quite adept at inflicting pain and misery, is does it really matter at this point? It is down to humanity to try to sort its problems out (the second coming of Jesus is not an excuse to do nothing since it involves the earth) as its humanity that got itself into the mess in the first place. As Nelson Mandela put it, Poverty is not an accident, like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made  and can be removed by the actions of human beings.

John Rambo: You’re not changing anything.

Burnett: Well, it’s thinking like that, that keeps the world the way it is.

Rambo (2008) Distributed by Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Nick Fury:There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could.

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Directed by Joss Whedon

Maybe the world is short on heroes, maybe it’s our attitudes that keeps the world as it is but like Ruby at the very top of this piece, maybe we can be inspired to make a difference. The world can decide if that’s being a hero.


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