Two things have been distracting me from writing a blog post today. And at first glance they had nothing to do with one another.
The first is the outcome of Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary. I came into the world during the Carter administration, and never have I followed an electoral process with more hope or anxiety. Regardless of your political, moral, spiritual, economical, racial, philosophical — hell, grammatical perspective, it’s hard to deny the historic significance of the candidacies of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Policies aside, they’re both mold-breakers in the history of American presidential contenders.
The second distraction is the 2005 film Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale and directed by Christopher Nolan. My boyfriend gave it to me on DVD and I just decided to pop it in (I was supposed to be working on the blog at the time, but I’m prone to occasional procrastination). It’s the prequel to the Batman story, in which the son of a billionaire quests to avenge his parents’ murders, and along the way, becomes the winged legend who saves the world’s greatest city from ruin.
As the closing credits rolled and the soundtrack swelled, my shameless sense of idealism kicked in, and I realized that the presidential race and the comic book legend are about much the same thing — the need for a hero.
Of course, I’m not saying the country is in as disastrous a state as the darkly corrupt and criminal Gotham City, but there are certainly aspects of the nation that need help — and what is the electoral process if not the search for someone larger than life to do the saving?
One of the things that has been most frustrating to me this election season are the petty distractions muddying the real issues that need discussing. In this regard, some news outlets are behaving particularly badly — fixating on and exaggerating inconsequential events. And we’re still just in the primaries. Considering such frustrations, it can feel like the old, broken ways of politics and political news coverage will never change. In the wake of the Pennsylvania primary, for example, I got really frustrated thinking about the continuing campaign season ahead. Which led to my inability to concentrate on writing a blog post. Which led to me turning on the movie.
In Batman Begins, there’s a scene in which the adult Bruce Wayne is on a private plane, making his prodigal return to Gotham. He’s talking to Alfred (played by Michael Caine) and explaining his idea of creating an alternate hero identity — one strong enough to inspire the good citizens of the city to seek a better life. And he says, “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy.”
Sure, the line is spoken by a comic book character, but I think it holds up just fine in real life. I hope the winning candidate likewise has the ability to shake the country of politics as usual, cast out the practices that don’t work, and save the things that need saving.-K.H.