Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie: New Bricks, Old Message

Like any dutiful parent of a Lego-mad son, the fixed point in school half term week was the Lego Batman Movie. Less frenetic than the Lego Movie, and following a more conventional storyline, it was fun and occasionally inspired without being spectacularly brilliant.

In the movie Batman is prickly, anti-social, and doesn't want or like company, yet keeps a DVD library of romcoms and relationship movies. The 'redemption' of Batman is his discovery of his need of others - his 'family' of Robin, Batgirl and Alfred, and even his need for arch-enemy Joker.

Have we heard this somewhere before? Maybe in Ice Age, where the 3 misfits find their place in their new 'herd' of sloth, tiger and mammoth. Maybe in The Incredibles, where Mr Incredible discovers that 'I work alone' doesn't work. Maybe in Harry Potter, where Harry is repeatedly reminded by his friends (especially towards the end of the saga) that he can't do this all on his own and is stupid to try. Maybe in the annoying 'Everything is Awesome' theme song from the first Lego movie - 'everything is awesome when you're part of the team.' Or dig back to 'About a Boy', the Hugh Grant movie where Grants character is just as averse to company as Batman, but discovers along with the Boy, that 'we all need backup'.

What is it about this story that we repeatedly tell it to ourselves, and repeatedly hear it and find that it has traction? Our society is individualistic, dependence and commitment don't come naturally, and aren't encouraged. And in the place of the old gods, discovering a new-found 'family' is the nearest thing we can offer to a spiritual experience of communal identity and belonging. Maybe its an indicator of the failure of the church to provide genuine community, where people can belong, find purpose, acceptance and love.

It may be Robin who is formally adopted (sort of) but Batman is an orphan too, and just as much in need of family, perhaps more so, than Robin. The Bible speaks of adoption into a family where we are loved, where we belong, where we find our place in the team of the master builder. A consumer society is by nature transient, material things are given too much significance and relationships too little. The hunger for belonging reflects that primal part of our design: 'it is not good for the man to be alone'. It is the persistence of his friends which finally wears Batmans resistance down, and saves him in the process. Persist in loving, welcoming, accepting, there may be a Batman out there who needs you.

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