Monday, April 7, 2014

What Counts: Who You Are or What You Do?

The Dark Knight trilogy is one of my favorite film trilogies. I've always loved Batman, and Christopher Nolan's take was exquisite, as many said. I was particularly struck by the moral, ethical, and spiritual elements, even when they were subtle.

The entire trilogy, especially the second film, is a great exploration of the experience of a dark night of the soul. While I doubt the screenwriters were thinking of this connection, the name connection makes the message all the more powerful.

A while ago, I was given the opportunity to get an e-copy of a compilation of the trilogy scripts along with storyboards (stuff I love to see). It's a great collector's piece for fans of the trilogy who like this sort of behind the scenes material.

No matter how much I read or watch about the trilogy, one element of the first film has always unsettled me. An on-going dialogue between Bruce Wayne and his love interest, Rachel Dawes, in Batman Begins was, "It's not who you are underneath; it's what you do that defines you."

In the context of Wayne's lavish, careless lifestyle (or so it appears), this sort of statement makes sense. But I'm troubled by how much the characters in the film never question the statement. And frankly, it's a very theological one. It's much along the lines of the relative importance of faith and works. It also intersects with psychology, as some therapies focus on personality and character traits while other emphasize behavior.

I've always been inclined to lean more on the side of identity being important. It is one's identity (encompassing personality, character, etc.) that drives actions. In the Dark Knight trilogy, Wayne was able to become an amazing Batman because of who he was inside, not just because he did certain actions. This is my primary criticism against a lot of strict behavioral models of psychology. Just because actions are taken doesn't mean internal change occurs. I guess the question is how important internal change really is. And if it's real and can occur. I believe it can, and Matthew 23:26-28 really resonates here for me.

How often do we see people do generous things, but only as long as others know what they do? I think those actions can still be valuable, but I believe there is a different quality to that sort of action and the truly heart-felt behaviors. It's almost a difference between the anonymity of Batman's Bruce Wayne in comparison to the narcissism of Iron Man's Tony Stark (although the latter did do a lot of action for the right reasons).

It's hard to untangle identity from behavior on a surface, almost quantitative level. But qualitatively, there's big difference in behavior based on identity. And who you are underneath really does count.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 comment:

  1. In the batman trilogy it was always the reverse of the mask normally wear. In the movies the batman mask was who he really was while Bruce was the facade and fake. Usually it's the other way purple presenting what looks good while they are shallow and pithy. Good post! Thank you for you thoughts.



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