Watching Batman Begins

One of the strange things about growing up in a church is the odd lengths to which some people will go to prove a point. I remember one of my youth ministers loaning me a book about the occult presence within our society and how pervasive it really was. I was hooked. I learned all about how the show the Smurfs were using pentagrams, goat-heads and mystic words in the program. Pretty creepy to a kid who loved that show, but what’s stranger is the conclusion the author came to was even creepier.

His point was that all this low-level, nearly hidden, occult references were driving kids toward the occult. I’m not exactly sure who would listen to blue cartoon creatures that were two apples high about their religious affiliation, but I’m sure someone somewhere might. I would wonder if they already had larger issues that might need to be addressed first. Disregard for a moment that most, not all but most, of these images were used by the major bad guy in the series. Disregard that these were used as a flavoring element and were never the actual focus of the series. I still have a problem, now, agreeing with these points.

Hand in hand with that were the restrictions that well-meaning adults tried to impose on our selection of popular music. There were very few outright restrictions, such as no music allowed with you at church camp, but there was always a push to shun nearly all contemporary music, regardless of its label of Christian or not. In the case of Christian music, no one could get away with calling it bad or evil, but there was always an undercurrent of it just not being as proper or good as hymns from 400 years ago. Non-Christian modern music, no matter the artist or subject matter, was something no one who cares about their spiritual life would listen to. It was all junk that just filled up your life with something other than God.

These arguments always befuddled me, mostly in how stupid it seemed to be having the conversation at all. I know who I am and I know what music is. The two can overlap, but that does not mean I define music nor does music define me. Seems pretty obvious, but that argument of mine always fell on totally deaf ears.

Not to mention that, if the people advocating these views really knew that most of those 400 year old hymns were based on the popular secular tunes of their time, often drinking songs from the pub, then these songs should be evil, too, regardless of their testing through time.

With the advent of modern communication methods, starting with the radio and moving all the way up to Internet chat and web pages, the fight for our attention has done nothing but increase. TV, as we knew it as children, is nearly gone. Targeted programming is all the rage, with smaller and smaller, yet more lucrative niches gaining ground while the conglomerate networks of yesteryear decline into less prominence. The channels of communication, voice, video, text, image and different fusions of these categories, all have appropriate usages.

Back in college, I got in an argument with a man who had created a web page that discussed how all modern music, including anything “Christian” that did not predate the founding of the USA, was evil. Think about that for just a moment… a web page, something that was relatively new in 1996 or so, saying that any music not at least 200 years old was wrong. If that was the case, what about the guy’s computer? Since it was most likely only a year or two old, given the relatively recent rise in computers configured with modems, shouldn’t he have been writing his diatribe with a quill pen and parchment paper? Nah, even that’s too modern. Give the man a chisel, hammer and rock tablet. Maybe a cuneiform rock? Nah, just make him draw pictures on a cave wall. If age is the requirement for what makes something right, then nothing is right because there is always something older, until you reach the beginning of time when there was NOTHING in existence.

All the introduction done, so where does Batman fit into all of this? All of this media influence has to have some influence, doesn’t it? We’re bombarded with all kinds of information, at all times of the day and night, and some of it has to rub off on us, doesn’t it? Watching Batman Begins proves that it can. Sort of.

Even having seen the movie many times in my own house, there is something about the movie that has not lost its power to move me. Seeing Batman name himself for the first time just gave me cold chills. Watching him beat down the bad guys just gets my blood pumping. I must admit that, watching this movie, listening to some music or reading some books, really can fire me up or calm me down. But the question I have is, why?

As I have thought about this today, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me, these external stimuli are nothing more than a trigger for something already inside me. These reactions could not occur unless some part of me already had these ideas or felt these feelings. It is me who has the reaction, not the stimulus.

Some science fiction and fantasy authors do a play on this very argument. One, in a book I recently finished and wrote about previously, The Blood Knight, was that a good character had the ability to write music which could effect others in either a good or bad way. His music was seen to turn the tide of public sentiment against an evil ruler or to kill those who hear his music. In this series, the music really becomes a character to itself. Music like that is a force that could be spoken against, but that is not how music works in our world.

If a media stimulation incites a negative, or bad, reaction in me, but a positive, or good, reaction in someone else, the media itself cannot be good or evil, negative or positive. It simply is a stimulus and our reaction determines nothing so much about the stimulus as it does about who each of us are a person.