Batman Begins, Gotham and Gomorrah: (Shows #556 & 562)


I have gotten repeated requests to provide some sort of summary on this two-part program. I’ve been slow to provide it, because, frankly, it’s a lot of material. But here goes:

This show was billed as “How Batman Begins is based on the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.” However, it is fairer to say it shares many commonalities with the tale. I have nothing from the writers of this film indicating they intended a modern retelling of the tale—but a modern retelling of the tale it is, intentional or not.

Background on Sodom and Gomorrah:
The myth of Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s destruction is found in Genesis, chapters 18 and 19. It is a simple plot. God comes down to meet his loyal subject Abraham. God shares his plans to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He has heard reports that the cities are—well, actually I’m not sure what he’s heard specifically. What the cities are guilty of is never clearly revealed. Basically, He’s heard that they’ve been very, very naughty. And he plans to investigate the allegations, after which, he’ll know for sure if what he’s heard is true.

God never states that he has any intention of destroying the cities, but Abraham gets that impression, and Yahweh doesn’t dispute him. Abraham has a history of unquestioning obedience to Yahweh (look up “Abraham and Isaac”). But here, the same man who would have murdered his own son as a human sacrifice to God points out that god’s plan could be considered unjust. Abraham’s plea amounts to the idea that there must be good people in the city, and that god, righteous as he is, would never kill good people in his lust for vengeance against those who are, for whatever reason, judged to be wicked. Abraham, being for a moment almost a humanist, tries to reason with Yahweh to save the cities by appealing to His pride and reputation (it should stand out that he doesn’t attempt an appeal to Yahweh’s compassion), “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked…Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

In what is perhaps the most famous aspect of the story, Abraham bargains with god to spare the cities for the sake the righteous. Yahweh says he will spare them if he can find 10 such people. Later, the cities are destroyed without any confirmation whatsoever in the story of how many “righteous people” were found. Actually, there’s no account of any attempt at investigation on Yahweh’s part to try to determine the number of “righteous people” in the cities. We go straight from the scene where God tells Abraham he’ll spare the city for 10 righteous people, to a new scene where two angels (who had accompanied Yahweh during his visit to Abraham’s) are imploring Lot and his family to leave the doomed locales. Lot is Abraham’s nephew, who lives in the area. So, without any recorded tally of righteous people, the cities are marked for destruction.

If I assume, as most Christians do, there were less than 10 righteous people in the cities, it still appears that, like the myth of The Flood, children don’t count. There is no indication in the myth that any children were spared, pitied, or even considered for the briefest moment.

We’re left to guess what the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah might have been and to guess how many righteous people Yahweh was ultimately willing to destroy for the sake of vengeance. But that’s the tale in a nutshell.

The Characters of the Bible Story:
Yahweh (and his angels): Powerful, supernatural being bent on the vengeful destruction of the cities after judging them wicked beyond salvation. Spiritual “father” to Abraham.

Abraham: Loyal follower of Yahweh who tries to intervene to save the cities for the sake of the righteous.

Lot: Abraham’s nephew who lives in the area.

The Wicked: They make a brief appearance as a mob who mean to inflict harm on Lot’s angel guests.

The Righteous: Never make an appearance. In some sense Lot and some of his family may be part of this group.

The Storyteller: The Hebrew adherent who puts forward the story and creates the other characters in conjunction with the spiritual beliefs of the religious institution of which he is a part.

The Characters of the Film:
Batman Begins has pretty much the same roster.

Ra’s al Ghul: Leader of a powerful organization (that shrouds itself in the trappings of supernatural power) bent on the destruction of the city of Gotham. According to Ra’s, “Gotham’s time has come…the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die.” He claims the right of judge, jury and executioner. Ra’s is not portrayed as a compassionate humanist. He admits to Bruce openly that he is motivated by “vengeance.” Another clear parallel with Yahweh of the Bible.

It is important to note that while I initially identified Ra’s as correlating to “god” in the story, he actually appears to be the equivalent of the religious leader, who creates the character of god in order to empower his will and justify his actions. If we take the Bible story as fact, then Ra’s is playing the role of god—but the correlation then fails immediately, as Ra’s is not really supernatural, but only a very powerful man who feigns supernatural ability and immortality.

To the Christian viewer, Ra’s would be an imposter god, and, therefore, unjustified in his actions toward Gotham. This would produce a disconnect that would allow a Christian to accept the message of the film as not being critical of his god’s actions in Sodom. In other words, god acted rightly toward Sodom and Gommorah for no other reason than he is god. Ra’s, being a mere mortal, would not be justified in judging or meting out justice upon Gotham in the same way.

If, however, we take the story as a product of Hebrew religious myth from the point of view of a religious storyteller, then Ra’s (with his League of Shadows) correlates to a religious leader (and institution) who produces god to further his own goals. And, in that case the character of god would actually be completely lacking in the film—just as he is lacking in observable existence. All we have of god, then, in the film, are men who use the god concept (specifically the fear of it injected into others) to empower their own actions. So, we have a choice to go with an interpretation that fails to correlate with the Sodom story’s main character (god to man)—or one that successfully correlates (man-made symbol to man-made symbol), but only from an atheistic perspective.

Bruce Wayne: Correlates to Abraham—loyal follower of Ra’s who desires to support the will of Ra’s, until he begins to question the justice and benevolence of Ra’s’ actions and goals. In fact, even the famous Biblical bargaining scene is repeated in the film, as Bruce tries to reason with Ra’s that the city should be spared for the sake of the righteous. The culmination of the exchange is Bruce’s statement to Ra’s that, “Gotham isn’t beyond saving. Give me more time. There are good people here.” It is important to note here as well that Ra’s was ultimately responsible for Thomas Wayne’s death, after which he hand selected Bruce in a “lost” state and mentored him—becoming the father that was lost. Just as Yahweh is a surrogate father-god to Abraham.

Like Abraham, Bruce is not only interested in the welfare of the generic “righteous people,” but also those close to him (Lot and his family). The most celebrated righteous man in Gotham is no longer living. Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, appears to be in a blood line of righteous men. His virtues in helping people in the city of Gotham are repeated throughout the film, and even Thomas’ own ancestors are incorporated as good men. Alfred informs Bruce that his “great-great-gra
ndfather was involved in the Underground Railroad, secretly transporting freed slaves to the North.” The Wayne family is a righteous family from a humanitarian perspective.

Humanitarian goals, however, appear to conflict with the vengeance of Ra’s. In talking about his plans to destroy Gotham, he admits to Bruce, “Over the ages our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham we tried a new one. Economics. But we underestimated certain of Gotham’s citizens—such as your parents. Gunned down by one of the very people they were trying to help. Create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal. Their deaths galvanized the city into saving itself, and Gotham has limped on ever since. We are back to finish the job. And this time no misguided idealists will get in the way.”

Alfred and Rachael: Correlate to Lot and his family—those for whom Bruce cares. In general the generic Righteous People are also represented, and we even have an appeal to the idea of considering children among the victims—something sorely lacking in most Biblical destruction myths. There is a repeating character of a small boy who puts in a few cameos throughout the film.

There are other characters that bring hard realism into the film, which is one of the superior features of this film over the past Batman films. Gordon represents the struggle of man within corrupt social infrastructure—similar to Rachael’s character in many ways. His Quixote-style struggle to benefit society while constrained within the layers of a thoroughly corrupt social system is a flagrant anti-vigilante statement. We feel his frustration to the point of wondering at times why he even bothers to continue in his role as an officer of the law. But he still holds out hope—dwindling as it may be—that if a good system isn’t working, right action doesn’t include blowing up a building or killing people. He works as far as he is able, within the system, to correct what is broken and make it function successfully again. But he, alone, or at least disenfranchised from others of the same mind, can have little to no impact. (That is my one plug for the OUT movement.) This is quite contrary to Ra’s’ philosophy, “If someone stands in the way of true justice…you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.”

Fox: Science and technology are represented as being on the side of reason and humanism. Fox is the sci-tech guru, and the film’s icon of calm reason. His character, immersed in science and reason, actually produces the antidote to “fear”—Ra’s’ weapon of choice, produced in mass quantities by his brilliant, but diabolical subordinate, Crane. If Fox is the epitome of calm reason, his opposite, Crane, is no less the epitome of calm insanity.

Crane: Supplies mass fear, in the form of a neurotoxin derived from a blue flower, that shrouds and empowers Ra’s. And like any faithful adherent to a religious leader or institution, he operates in his own self-interest—Ra’s’ promise of reward. Ra’s explains to Bruce, “He thought our plan was to hold the city to ransom.” Also, during a discussion with Falcone, Crane makes a statement that is reminiscent of the religious adherent proselytizing or the Old Testament prophet, “I am more than aware that you are not intimidated by me, Mr. Falcone. But you know who I’m working for, and when he gets here…”

It is clearly then a struggle between a group of a humanist mindset and a group using fear and deception (of a false supernature) in order to gain power and wreak indiscriminate vengeance upon a population Ra’s has judged unfit to go on living.

The quotes supporting the use of supernature and fear as weapons against the masses are so thick it’s hard to cull them. But, below, I supply a batch as examples.

On Supernature and Deception (being more than a man in the minds of others):
Ra’s/Ducard: Theatricality and deception are powerful agents. You must become more than just a man in the mind of your opponent.

Ironically, this sentiment is echoed later by Bruce himself as he works out his Batman persona, “Theatricality and deception…are powerful weapons, Alfred.”

Ra’s/Ducard: You know how to disappear. We can teach you to become truly invisible…The ninja understands that invisibility is a matter of patience and agility.

Ra’s/Ducard: …if you make yourself more than just a man—if you devote yourself to an ideal…then you become something else entirely…Legend…

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

Finally, in a conversation between Ra’s and Bruce, humanism and reason stand up to supernatural claims to call them out for what they are:

Ra’s/Ducard: But is Ra’s al Ghul immortal? Are his methods supernatural?

Bruce: Or cheap parlor tricks to conceal your true identity, Ra’s?

Not to beat a dead horse, but in claiming the film puts forward a statement about religion, showing the repeated messages to this effect is necessary. In Batman Begins, it is not necessary to search with a fine-toothed comb for clues. It hammers us over the head with blatant and repeated messages throughout. Using the Sodom theme as our guide to the characters, Bruce is little more than a mouthpiece, stating outright that god is a cheap parlor trick—a mask—to conceal the real power of religious authority.

It’s no coincidence that masks play such an overwhelming role in this film. Ra’s hides behind a supernatural façade, but he is none other than Ducard. Crane plays the Scarecrow. And in a confusing string of masks, Bruce hides behind Batman, who hides behind Bruce. The “Bruce” we see dating models and buying expensive things is a front for Batman who is a front for the “real” Bruce. As Rachael points out near the end (talking about Bruce’s face), “This is your mask. Your real face is the one that criminals now fear.” This is interesting because of all the “masks”—Batman appears to be the only one that was “real.”

But clearly Ra’s, the deception of the supernatural “more than a man” mask (god), is used as a front to provide the League of Shadows (religious institutions) with unquestioned power. Unquestioned in the sense that so long as everyone is paid off (with Heaven) or scared (of Hell or social condemnation), nobody dares to question what’s in Falcone’s crates—to use another metaphor from the movie we’ll get to in a bit.

When Bruce stands up to Ra’s, we see humanism and reason confronting superstition, vengeance and fear in a struggle for the population, “I’ll be standing where I belong. Between you and the people of Gotham.”

In another response by Bruce, we hear him say, “This is just the beginning. If they hit the whole city [with Crane’s fear-inducing neurotoxin], there’s nothing to stop Gotham tearing itself apart.” In other words, if everyone is infected with fear, there will be no reasonable perspective left to restore order.

On Fear:
Ra’s/Ducard: …men fear most what they cannot see. You have to become a terrible thought. A wraith. You have to become an idea!

Ra’s/Ducard: Feel terror cloud your senses. Feel its power to distort—to control. And know that this power can be yours.

Ra’s/Ducard: To manipulate the fears in others…you must first master your own.

Rachel gives a potent speech on the paralyzing effect of fear: “As long as he [Falcone] keeps the bad people rich and the good people scared, no one will touch him. Good people like your [Bruce’s] parents, who’ll stand against injustice, they’re gone. What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?”

Falcone sums up his take on fear with this, “…you always fear what you don’t understand.”

Crane illustrates how, rather than paralyzing, fear can also motivate dangerous reactions, “Patients suffering delusional episodes often focus their paranoia—on an external tormentor…” Who could forget the images of 9-11? How long have gays been persecuted in our own society? What was it like a few hundred years ago to be an apostate or a heretic? Irrational and paranoid fear is nearly all that is needed to motivate one group to unfairly, and with real animosity, unleash upon another. As Thomas Wayne explained to Bruce about the bats, “You know why they attacked you, don’t you? They were afraid of you.” He also, reasonably notes that those who would use fear against others must understand fear themselves—that is, be subject to the effects of fear, “All creatures feel fear…especially the scary ones.”

On Compassion:
When Ra’s begins his attack on Gotham, he nonchalantly informs Bruce, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to destroy.”

Ra’s take on compassion clashes noticeably with all of the characters of Reason in the film. Finch, Rachael’s boss, small part that he plays, even understands that addressing wrongdoing should not include disregard for the well being of those who are not to blame. When the investigation threatens to put Rachael in harm’s way, Finch makes it clear, “…as much as I care about getting Falcone, I care more about you.”

In a telling exchange between Ra’s and Bruce, we see the conflict between vengeance and compassion hightlighted:

Ra’s/Ducard: Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.

Bruce: That’s why it’s so important. It separates us from them.

On Justice vs. Vengeance:
No character in the film disputes the corruption levels of Gotham. The question is only one of how to address the problem in the most appropriate way—through blind vengeance or through reasoned justice combined with compassion? Although this is clearly addressed several times in the dialogue, perhaps the clearest expression is between Bruce and Rachael:

Rachel: You’re not talking about justice. You’re talking about revenge.

Bruce: Sometimes, they’re the same.

Rachel: No, they’re never the same. Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about you making yourself feel better. It’s why we have an impartial system.

Later, Bruce recognizes Rachael’s point, “I was a coward with a gun, and justice is about more than revenge.”

Religious Language and Symbolism:
Other religious language in the film is not to be overlooked, quotes like these pepper the exchanges:

Ra’s/Ducard: When I found you in that jail, you were lost. But I believed in you. I took away your fear, and I showed you a path. You were my greatest student. It should be you standing by my side, saving the world.

Ra’s, posing as Ducard: Ra’s al Ghul rescued us from the darkest corners of our own hearts.

In contrast to the religious ideology of salvation via an external source, Thomas Wayne’s statement, often repeated in the script, is supportive of self-reliance and stands in stark contrast, “why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Thomas’ other mantra is this: “Don’t be afraid.”

Alfred also asserts self-reliance and the idea that we make our own destinies: “I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do with your past, sir. Just know that there are those of us who care about what you do with your future.”

Rachael has something to add to the discussion on self-reliance as well, “it’s not who you are underneath…it’s what you do that defines you.”

Even the murderer Joe Chill chimes in with a statement about responsibility for one’s actions, “Sure, I was desperate, like a lot of people back then…but that don’t change what I did.”

Other lines filtered through religion-colored lenses include:

Bruce: You’re not the devil. You’re practice.

Or more on lost states and salvation:

Ra’s/Ducard: …whatever your original intentions…you have become truly lost.

Bruce: And what path can Ra’s al Ghul offer?

Ra’s/Ducard: The path of a man who shares his hatred of evil…and wishes to serve true justice.

There are even a few lines that may strike chords with aficionados of Bible trivia:

When Batman is interrogating Flass, Flass shouts out, “I don’t know! I swear to god!” Batman replies, “Swear to ME!” If this sounds familiar, it should. Hebrews 6:13 states that “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself.” In light of this passage in Hebrews, asking Flass to swear to Batman, rather than to god, produces a usurpation of the god symbol. With Bruce’s prior statements about creating the Batman symbol, which will follow Ra’s lead of making him “more than a man,” we see him, as a symbol of humanistic compassion and reason, raised to a supreme and unchallenged status—even above god. The dialogue now goes beyond Ra’s as a metaphor for god, to the use of the actual symbol god.

Another cameo religious line comes in toward the end when Bruce tells Ra’s, “let these people go.” This is nearly verbatim of a very famous religious quote from Moses (speaking on behalf of Yahweh) to Pharoah—another situation where an oppressed population required emancipation, and here again, Batman speaks words of his own that are, in Biblical terms, words from a god. Extremely interesting here, too, one minor change in the line is the switch from “my” (showing ownership) to “these” (showing autonomy). Batman demands their release on humanistic authority, respecting the human autonomy of those in danger. His power and will to help them requires no submission or reciprocation on their part. This is a slight, but highly significant difference in the two statements—as Yahweh’s assistance is always provided at a cost.

Perhaps the most clear contrast is a statement that reflects Jesus’ divine identity in the New Testament that he is “The Word,” and, subsequently, the Christian’s claim that they are “spreading The Word.” Ducard explains exactly what “spreading The Word” is really about: “Time to spread the word. And the word is—panic.”

Another interesting use of religious symbolism is found in the “rare, blue flower.” Bruce is told to climb a mountain—but he must carry a “rare, blue flower” with him. Ra’s puts it thus, “If you can carry it to the top of the mountain—you may find what you were looking for in the first place.” A friend who actually mountain climbs pointed out that this was his favorite scene. He went on to explain that the use of the words “if you can” should be a red flag. Climbing the mountain, he pointed out, is the hardship. Carrying a flower with you represents no challenge. So why carry the flower? Simply to show loyalty and obedience to Ra’s’ will. A viewer wrote in to point out that this flower represents “faith,” and that appears to be dead-on. Meanwhile, it is no surprise later in the film to find that this flower, faith, is used to produce a neurotoxin that imparts fear to the entire population when spread by Ra’s (the religious leader) and Crane (his adherent).

Further religious symbolism strikes when we consider that fear is used more than once to rebuff inquiry. As Falcone so clearly explains, “Ignorance is bliss, my friend. Don’t burden yourself with the secrets of scary people.” The writers illustrate his point when they have Finch try to investigate the contents of Falcone’s shipments at the docks. Finch is told by the guards, “Listen, counselor, we don’t wanna know what’s in Mr. Falcone’s crate.” Do not question. Do have faith. Use fear where bribes fail. If push co
mes to shove, get violent. Finch does, in fact, end up dead for his inquiry.

What defense is there against the effects of fear? Oddly enough, Crane hands us the key, “only the mind can grant you power.”

Ra’s uses Crane to make the blue flower of faith convert to fear, where it is described, in the film, as an honest to goodness mind poison. When Rachael is injected with it, Crane says, “the mind can only take so much.” And Bruce points out later that “she needs the antidote before the damage is permanent.” Could the effects of fear and faith poison the mind so as never to be undone? I certainly hope that’s not the case.

And who should produce the antidote to this mind poisoning fear brought on by faith, but Fox, the icon of reason and science—real inquiry and information. Later, Batman instructs that the antidote (provided by reason) must be administered to the entire population.

Even to the last, the film is a promotion of a humanist perspective. Gordon says to Batman that he never said “thank you.” And Batman replies, “you’ll never have to.”

Reason, humanity and justice serve humanity and require no homage—no money, no bloodletting of animals or of humans, no pledge of loyalty, not even gratitude. They demand no fear. They fear no inquiry. They provide equal support to everyone to pursue happiness and fulfillment in their lives, and they demand nothing in return for what they offer and provide. Perhaps with more works like Batman Begins on the market, more people will begin to consider taking advantage of those offerings?

Comments

  1. says

    OMG THNX.I loved the ‘Batman Begins’ AE shows, they were my favorite by far, along with the children stories episodes.I would have never watched the movie if it weren’t for you and your analysis, actually.Anyway, this is an incredible read and a very interesting analysis. Bravo.

  2. says

    Wow. Thanks, both of you, for the positive feedback. I was cringing as I opened the comments, thinking I’d be chastised for the sheer size of it.Crucifinch: I’m glad you watched it. I was a mild fan of the first film that came out, but not so much of the sequels. I was in San Antonio the first time I saw BB. I was not interested. I expected the crappy sequal quality, but my husband insisted. The theatre in San Antonio is IMAX. And I thought I would die from entertainment overload when the rooftop car chase scene was on! It was just so “all that” on IMAX.It wasn’t until I’d seen it a few times, however, that I began to recognize “Hey–this is basically the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah!”Glad some people like the symbolic analysis. Thanks again!

  3. says

    Well written and researched as usual Tracie. I always enjoy your posts and if people think them too long or verbose, tough. Sometimes a quick little post is simply inadequate to express your ideas. I also loved your Jung post by the way, and now I am interested in learning more about his theories and ideas, although I personally prefer Adler and his view of psychology. Enough rambling, I have never seen the biblical angles of BB, probably as I have remained in the naturally atheistic mindset with which we are all born into this world. Thank you for lending another layer of meaning to one of my favorite movies of the past several years. I am just curious if you have seen The Dark Knight yet, and if so what are your thoughts on it?

  4. says

    Interesting symbolic interpretation, some thing I tend to do whenever confronted with a new story. I’m not sure why you seem to cling to the idea that it’s analogous, though. You have gone through an extremely thorough run down of the similar elements, proving in each case how there is more contrast there than comparison.Yahweh doesn’t show his face or doesn’t prove to be God after all, the city isn’t destroyed, and “Abraham” acts in direct opposition to the fated outcome. As an analogy, your essay fails miserably. Perhaps I’m going too far back to my own experiences in English Lit classes in high school, but I seem to remember that for one story to be considered analogous to another, their plots would be the first connection considered, and here the endings diverge completely. There are connecting elements, yes, but only those generalized enough to fit into any modern single defender story.

  5. says

    Hi Niksa, thanks for your comments.Rogerdr: I’m not sure I understand the criticisms. At the outset, I noted “it is fairer to say it shares many commonalities with the tale,” and that “we have a choice to go with an interpretation that fails to correlate with the Sodom story's main character (god to man)—or one that successfully correlates (man-made symbol to man-made symbol), but only from an atheistic perspective.”It is true that if we take the tack of the true believer, the analogy fails miserably from the get-go. But from an atheistic standpoint, it is equivalent. An atheist/humanist reading the Biblical story would question, for example, “what about the children?” While a true believer would not normally question such a thing. So, the missing child in the Bible tale is “there” in the mind of any humanist considering the story; but not there to the believer. Putting the child into BB is a way of incorporating what a person should think about the Biblical version if they are of a humanist, and not a believer’s, mindset. I think the entire story correlates in this fashion.The Bible tale, read from the atheist/humanist perspective is a tale of a thug who abuses people and unfairly judges and kills them. In that respect the tales are completely aligned.The contrasts come in only via the believer/narrator of the original tale and how his perspective would contrast with BB. To an atheist, the tales are very much the same—only the Christian interpretation of the Bible story would make them different.>Yahweh doesn't show his face or doesn't prove to be God after allAgain, I explained this in my essay. From an atheist perspective, he isn’t in the Bible tale, either. So, in that regard, the tales correlate. There is no real god in either. I addressed this in the section from which I pulled my quote above.>the city isn't destroyedAgain, from a humanist perspective the city should not have been destroyed in the original tale. It’s a humanist, modern version of the tale. It’s an update, just as we have many updated vampire movies that are sympathetic to the vampire and do not treat him as monstrous. That doesn’t mean they aren’t modern re-interpretations of older vampire tales. They vary, yes, because the person telling the tale has a different view of the events and characters. And that’s all I’m saying with this essay. If someone simply wanted to tell the same story again with no reinterpretation, that would be a remake. This is not a remake of the original tale. It’s a reinterpretation—a modern retelling.>"Abraham" acts in direct opposition to the fated outcomeHere, we diverge. Abraham tried to intervene in both stories–directly opposing god. The only difference is that in the modern tale, he succeeds. Again, from a true Christian view, Abraham could not have hoped to defeat Yahweh by direct opposition—Yahweh is a supernatural superpower. But from an atheist view, such a power does not exist. God would only be the concept justifying the action of people destroying the cities. And, again, from an atheist view, it correlates. When you see god about to destroy a city—you oppose, because, in an atheist world, you CAN win, because god is only ever men claiming divine authority. But the Hebrew writer would never have taken this position. He actually believed his god was real and unbeatable. However, in today’s world, since we know such things are myths, the modern version calls it as it is—and makes god a myth.>English Lit classes in high schoolI don’t want to demean what you learned there, but as you bring up education, I actually went a bit further into media studies, communication psychology and anthropology of religion than this, in college, and I respectfully disagree with your take on the film and how it correlates to the Bible story. My education doesn't make me right–but I'm just sayin', I'm no slouch at this, myself.>their plots would be the first connection consideredYes, and the plots are the same. Powerful figure judges a city to be corrupt and wants to destroy it out of a vengeful sense of "justice." Please note that Ra’s could have wanted to destroy the city for evil reasons (is he not, after all, the villan?); but the writers _chose_ for him to claiming to be doing it for righteous reasons—just like Yahweh.Also consider that he doesn’t appear on the scene like the Joker—for example. The writers _chose_ to have him take Bruce in as his teacher, mentor, and a surrogate father (very much like religious training). Just as Abraham is the loyal, religious subordinate to Yahweh.These are elements that were thoughtfully considered that did not NEED to be handled this way in order to advance the tale. Most villians in comic movies want to do harm–Ra's sees this as doing good. Most heroes are mentored by their villian antithesis–but Bruce was.Consider that Bruce tries to reason with Ra’s and uses language that very much echoes the Bible scene of the same exchange. He appeals for the "good people." That was not necessary, but it WAS included. Ra’s cites “vengeance” as his motive and clearly equates it to just action—a parallel you can call coincidence if you like, but I can’t overlook it based on the other similarities that are, to me, obvious. This is Yahweh in the Old Testament to a tee.Many things have to be disregarded to toss out this analogy, the flower of faith being one of the largest. If you recall, the director purposely focuses on a closeup of the flower and holds that shot. The flower is ridiculously bright blue. Sharp color is a note to the viewer from the director to _pay attention_ to this item and its meaning—because it will come back again. And it does come back again, but converted to fear—just as Hebrew religious faith and fear are intertwined (“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and other such passages can be found heavily throughout the Bible).I can’t force anyone to see what I think is obvious. Meaning is not something that can be forced into a brain. But this is how I see it. And I have to accept that you don’t. Still, I’m happy to offer a defense of my view.

  6. says

    When I wrote this line:>Most heroes are mentored by their villian antithesis–but Bruce was.I meant to say "not mentored."Just to clarify.

  7. says

    Great post Tracie! I really like Batman Begins but I’ve never seen this dimension to it. I just finished watching it again and seeing this new depth really added to my already great affection for it.I always enjoy it when you are on the show because you are so well prepared and have put so much effort into collecting all the material. I just wanted to say that it shows and is appreciated.Thanks for bringing us heathens (all the way to Sweden with the help of technology and science, as opposed to faith…) a great show!

  8. says

    In posting that lengthy comment above, I recognized something I previously failed to note. There is another rather overt use of religious symbolism in the film: The venue in which Ra’s mentors Bruce, and where a good portion of the early film takes place, is a monastery.Ra’s later refers to it as his “house,” much as Yahweh’s abode was in the Temple of the Hebrews (known as the “House of the Lord”)–where he was said to have actually, physically dwelt. The particular room his presence inhabited was known as the Holy of Holies:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14499a.htmhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodesh_Hakodashim

  9. says

    Thanks Silver!Also, Niksa, I totally spaced your question. I have seen the new movie. I think if a person is unfamiliar with general “moral dilemma” puzzles, they might be pretty interested in it. Myself, initially, I’ve been through those before, so it was sort of old hat. I don’t think it was religious. I think it was directed mainly at giving a stage to the issue of moral dilemma puzzles–such as “If a terrorist has a ticking bomb in a building and someone you love is in the building, and he won’t talk–would you resort to torture? Is that right?” Or the situation “You are in one room and someone else is in another, you both have a button that will set off an explosive…”When they showed the two ferry boats, and the guy asked, “Why would he leave us the detonator?” I turned to my husband and said, “Because it detonates the _other_ boat.”The initial robbery scene was reminiscent of theories of whether you benefit from cooperation or deception (I think that’s part of game theory? But don’t quote me, that’s more Russell’s area)…and so on.So, again, if you’re not familiar with those puzzles, I can see how it would be an eye opener and something to ponder for awhile after the movie lets out. But for me, it was predictable, because I recognized the Joker’s scenarios too early to find them surprising or original.

  10. says

    With all the philosophical thematic tie-ins so far, one must wonder about the future…Batman Begins :: TheologyThe Dark Knight :: EthicsBatman 3rd :: Metaphysics??I really can’t imagine Bruce Wayne trying to fight the Riddler while wondering if it’s all nothing more than a distortion of his senses. Is Batman just a Brain in a Vat?? :(

  11. says

    Tracie, apparently you don’t quite understand my criticism. Although you gave the caveat that you mentioned, your central thesis is well laid out with, “I have nothing from the writers of this film indicating they intended a modern retelling of the tale—but a modern retelling of the tale it is, intentional or not.” Simply put, you’re wrong. It’s not.The analogy fails, but not from an inability to see the original in a different light. Adding elements into a new story that one coming from a particular viewpoint would imagine in the original doesn’t make a correlation between the two, it differentiates them.You say, “The Bible tale, read from the atheist/humanist perspective is a tale of a thug who abuses people and unfairly judges and kills them. In that respect the tales are completely aligned.” This is a matter of the themes of the tales, not their plots, which I was talking about, but it still fails. If the Bible tale were read from an atheist/humanist perspective as a lie, then the character of God may be seen as a thug, but the story wasn’t written with God in such a role. As it is said in the original, God is just and the people of the city (even children, presumably,) are wicked and deserve to die. The perspective of the reader should not transform the intentions of the narrator as well as the characters. Certainly, I believe God, as depicted, is surely at least a thug, but this is not the character in the story itself. Ra’s in BB, however, is meant to be seen as a thug. There is no intention of the storyteller to show him as a just actor. An atheist/humanist reading the original and watching the second may easily equate the thuggishness of the two characters, but this does not make a correlation between the tales. The characters, if anything, are opposed in moral judgment, and are not equivalent. JHVH sees genuine evil in the city, an outside perspective on what he should be seeing or whether there are unvoiced innocents there doesn’t change this. Ra’s also sees genuine evil, but he is not the same assumed worthwhile judge as JHVH in the original. Again, a new perspective on what the original is ‘really’ saying doesn’t change this. The Christian reader’s interpretation of the two would presumably echo the storytellers and the atheist/humanist’s would see a discrepancy in the original’s view and his own, he should not therefore interpret the original as echoing his own perspective in order to correlate the two. It’s simply not written in an atheist’s perspective and so the themes do not correlate.You say, “From an atheist perspective, (God) isn’t in the Bible tale, either. So, in that regard, the tales correlate.” Again, regardless of the atheist’s perspective on what the original is ‘actually’ saying, God is explicitly written into it, so the tales do not correlate. Attempting to take JHVH out of the tale by presuming artifice of other characters is creating a strawman and therefore a false analogy.My main problem is with the plots, but here, you also seem to miss the important point. You say, “from a humanist perspective the city should not have been destroyed in the original tale. It’s a humanist, modern version of the tale.” From whatever standpoint, and however it is wished that the story would end, the fact that the city is not destroyed means exactly that BB is not a modern version of the Bible story. The fact of the destruction of Gomorrah is not a minor plot point to be wished away in fanfic, it is the epitome of divine justice, but more importantly, the denouement. Transforming this part into a humanist’s idea of justice by averting the destruction destroys the analogy utterly. I don’t know how you can go on so much about the religious overtones and symbols in BB and yet overlook that the whole outcome of the story is reversed. It is the God character who meets divine justice and the city (in the person Gordon, if not Wayne) that is his judge. If there are correlations between the two stories, even given your alterations of the original through new perspectives, they end there. The plots diverge diametrically, and so the second is neither a retelling nor a new version of the first. It may be called a reaction or an answer to the first, but it is not a retelling.In the Bible tale, Abraham disagreed with God, perhaps, but he did not act against him. He certainly did not act against the angels or attempt to stop the fire and brimstone. You say, “Yahweh is a supernatural superpower. But from an atheist view, such a power does not exist. God would only be the concept justifying the action of people destroying the cities. And, again, from an atheist view, it correlates.” This is why it does not correlate. The original tale does not have God being the just the concept justifying those who do the actual destruction. God is the destroyer. Whether the atheist/humanist sees this character as being a thug or not really being present at all makes no difference; such an interpretation is not a true representation of the actions within the story itself. One does not say, “Here is what the story would be saying if this were changed, so this is actually what it is saying.” What the story says does not come from the perspective the reader, but from the perspective of the narrator; and, in this case, the narrator gives God a starring role and Abraham a grudging acceptance of his fate. An atheist/humanist reader may not like this, but his interpretation should be based upon the perspective given, not his own desire. Bruce is no more Abraham than Ra’s is JHVH. He does not welcome Ra’s into the city or protect him and his cronies against the mobs (to the detriment of his family). He thwarts them at every opportunity given. For these reasons, there is no correlation here.I said that the plots are not analogous and stand on that. However far we get into the story with the characters rehearsing roles and lines paraphrased from the Bible tale, once Ra’s enters the city and Bruce rejects him and his intentions, the correlations end and the analogy fails. The things that you see as obvious only take part in the first half, even three quarters, of the movie. From there, what is obvious to me is that you stopped looking at the evidence and stayed with your thesis as if Bruce, Alfred, Gordon, and Rachael were forced to leave as the brimstone began falling. I ask you, who turned to salt?

  12. says

    >but the [original] story wasn't written with God in such a role.Correct. It is written from a theistic perspective. But a modern retelling examines the story from a modern view, not an ancient view.>The perspective of the reader should not transform the intentions of the narrator as well as the characters.And yet, in reality, it does. In fact, the vampire analogy I used is an example of that. Surely the creature is monstrous—and yet, can it be pitied as well and even understood and sympathized with if the story is considered from a compassionate perspective? Yes, it can. It is the same story, but the interpretation is revised and updated by a reader who wanted to focus on a particular question: Is this creature worthy of pity and sympathy rather than merely murderous loathing?>but this is not the character in the story itself.From the perspective of the ancient narrator, you are correct. But not from modern moral view, where such utter destruction (including children) would be condemned around the globe.>Ra's in BB, however, is meant to be seen as a thug. There is no intention of the storyteller to show him as a just actor.Can you support that? Does he not make some very valid rebuttals to Bruce about corruption and the very real flaws in our systems of justice, which often fail us? He’s not insane. He seems to be honestly against the same sort of evil most of the rest of us condemn, and his motives, as they are expressed, can be understood and sympathyzed with. His frustration at crime has driven him to vigilante justice, which is extremely close to what Bruce is doing as well. In fact, many of the arguments Ra’s puts forward would ring quite true with a lot of advocates of the death penalty who say that if a few innocents are killed, that’s a price we have to be willing to accommodate for real justice. I daresay, I could even sympathize with him to a large degree, and Gordon’s own frustration is a reflection of that same attitude—the idea that working within the system seems, often, futile and uproductive.Many would agree with Ra’s when he responds to Bruce’s assertion that a murderer be justly tried for his crime: “By whom? Corrupt bureaucrats? Criminals mock society's laws. You know this better than most.”Bruce, himself, says this very thing after he tried to assassinate Chill. Rachel says that we have to have an impartial system to judge such people, and Bruce replies, “Your system is broken.”Are we, then, supposed to be completely unsympathetic to Ra’s view of serving justice? Certainly the film works to explain why we need to reject it—but it also makes it clear that his view is understandable (which is what makes it a real threat in the real world) given our social shortcomings—which are very real and not figments of Ra’s imagination. Ra’s is a thin shade away from any of us. So, I disagree that no attempt is made to show him as a just actor. I think a huge effort is made to ultimately define real justice and to try to assert that is not what Ra’s offers–although it absolutely can be confused to be the same. But we are made to sympathize and even agree with Ra’s to a large degree.Meanwhile, what I’m saying is that a modern reader will read S&G and find it to be a brutal tale of injustice. So, a modern retelling, from a modern reader's perspective, will be about a brutal injustice. We don’t have ancient Hebrews around to update the story. We update it based on our own modern perspectives. Despite their acceptance of the tale in the Bible, we’d be hard pressed to find a Christian who could advocate for killing a city full of people, including children, as being “just.” God gets away with this merely because he is assumed to have the authority to do whatever he wants with impunity. But a modern moral reader will not see that same message if he/she is not a believer. And it is a modern writer (and modern reader of the tale) who retells this tale in BB.>An atheist/humanist reading the original and watching the second may easily equate the thuggishness of the two characters, but this does not make a correlation between the tales. The characters, if anything, are opposed in moral judgment, and are not equivalent. JHVH sees genuine evil in the city Ra's also sees genuine evil, but he is not the same assumed worthwhile judge as JHVH in the original.No character in the film disagrees that there is genuine evil in Gotham–the same evil Ra's sees. The writers show that everyone agrees with Ra’s judgment on this. And the viewer is shown a city that is as sleazy as any they could imagine. The writers make it clear that the wickedness of Gotham is not only real, but pervasive. So, I disagree with you on this. Ra’s judgment of the situation is fair–he is shown to be the same "worthwhile" judge–as his judgment is verified by the writers. Gordon asserts, “In a town this bent, who's there to rat to anyway?" Nobody disputes Ra’s judgment that “You're defending a city so corrupt we have infiltrated every level of its infrastructure.” Ra’s methods, on the other hand, _are_ what is questioned. And they are _the same_ methods employed by Yahweh in the Bible story.>The Christian reader's interpretation of the two would presumably echo the storytellers and the atheist/humanist's would see a discrepancy in the original's view and his own.Not as the reader, only as the narrator. As an interpreter of the events, the humanist would observe the same tale in both stories.>he should not therefore interpret the original as echoing his own perspective in order to correlate the two. It's simply not written in an atheist's perspective and so the themes do not correlate.The reader's perspective is not irrelevant, however. And I'm not suggesting anyone assume that what they read in S&G is what is actually meant by the narrator.I know what the writer of the Bible story meant. But as a modern reader, I find the narrator’s view of the events appallingly amoral, as any person holding to modern morality would agree. Again, even most Christians would not suggest that if a city is corrupt, it should be solved via Hiroshima methods. The only thing that makes Yahweh right and Ra’s wrong is that the ancient narrator assumed god could do no wrong by default. Both judgments (Ra's' and Yahweh's) are shown to be fair. The methods are also the same. But Ra’s is a criminal and Yahweh is just—if I’m an ancient Hebrew. If I adhere to modern morality as I consider both tales, both judges solve the problem incorrectly.What I’m suggesting is that when someone today reads this (S&G) tale, they will be prone to ask “What the hell is going on here? Is this narrator really saying that destroying all these people was just?” And in order to address this amoral assertion, I make a film retelling this story to ask the same question to the modern viewer: Do you think this is right? I use all the same elements—evil city, seemingly beyond fixing, someone who wants to see real justice served and is ready to “do what is necessary” to see it through. Is his plan a “good” plan? If not now, then why then? These are important questions and they arise from a humanist reading the old tale and applying the modern interpretation. BB modernizes the story to ask us again, “is the message of S&G really one of justice or one of criminal behavior accepted because we sometimes confuse justice with vengeance (which, by its nature, shows no mercy)?">Again, regardless of the atheist's perspective on what the original is 'actually' saying, God is explicitly written into it, so the tales do not correlate. Attempting to take JHVH out of the tale by presuming artifice of other characters is creating a strawman and therefore a false analogy.Was sympathy for Dracula written into the original? If a modern reader
    feels sorry for Dracula, and writes a new version, asking modern readers to consider the suffering such a creature would endure—how is that not the same tale told from the perspective of the modern reader/storyteller? I’m not getting your objection. Rather than a mindless beast, I portray him as a sensitive and tortured soul. It’s not suddenly a different story. It’s the same story told from a new perspective.A modern reader reading S&G sees a core moral dilemma. I think you’re hanging up way to much on the attributes of the characters. It’s the morality of the solution that is the focus (of nearly ALL the dialogue in the film). Is Ra's'/Yahweh's _response_ correct? You’re hanging up on “he’s a god” and “Ra’s is not.” That’s not even relevant to the question. Does it matter who you are if you’re mass killing men, women and children? If someone relating the tale thinks this is right—does that make it right or does it make the narrator also morally bankrupt? This is the question BB gets to. It’s not a false analogy, because there is no valid reason to assert that “if god does it, it’s OK.” The movie is asking if this is a justified judgment of Yahweh’s/Ra’s solution on the part of the reader/narrator? Is the action right action? And if it’s wrong for Ra’s what is the justification for calling it right for this other character, Yahweh? This is a common and long-standing question in human history with regard to religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The BB writers are clearly asking it as well. And they’re using a retelling of an old familiar Bible story to do so.>From whatever standpoint, and however it is wished that the story would end, the fact that the city is not destroyed means exactly that BB is not a modern version of the Bible story. The fact of the destruction of Gomorrah is not a minor plot point to be wished away in fanfic, it is the epitome of divine justice, but more importantly, the denouement. Transforming this part into a humanist's idea of justice by averting the destruction destroys the analogy utterly.Can a writer “wish” that Dracula be a sensitive and thoughtful creature, even if he is an unthinking monster in the original version? It certainly calls into question his destruction and his motivations. It changes the story and the interpretation for sure. But I fail to see it as being as problematic as you seem to see it. If I retell a tale, but I change the ending to make it just rather than unjust, how does that impact the question: Is the motive to destroy the city wrong in the first place?You seem to be saying that if I were to write a story where I say child rape is right, and I make a character who is a great guy go around and I, as the teller, somehow justify his raping children, and someone else rewrites it and ends it with my failed attempt to rape a child, but still addresses the core question of “is child rape really justified?”—that is a different story. It’s the same story (changed up a bit, surely, but still recognizable), but morality has prevailed and the question of “is child rape justified?”—the core question—has still been addressed.The Bible story says utter destruction is good. The BB version says it is bad, and stops the horrid event from occurring. I see this as very minor. But you see it as major. I don’t know what else to add but that I disagree.>I don't know how you can go on so much about the religious overtones and symbols in BB and yet overlook that the whole outcome of the story is reversed.The religious overtones are only signs to let us know this story comes out of religion. It’s clues to the viewer to help them grab the analogy: Oh, this is based on some something that comes out of religion somehow (that is, S&G).>It may be called a reaction or an answer to the first, but it is not a retelling.Call it what you like. I’m not hung up on semantics. But the tale in BB is drawn from S&G. And I don’t think it could be any more clear.> Abraham disagreed with God, but he did not act against himHe opposed his goal. He tried to stop the destruction of the city. Abraham was against it and did as much as he could have done to stop it. Being unable to forcibly stand against an omnipotent being, he tried to alter the being’s mind. He did not just “disagree”; in fact, he took the only limited action that was available to him.> This is why it does not correlate. The original tale does not have God being the just the concept justifying those who do the actual destruction.You seem to be taking me to be saying that I think the narrator of the original tale is in agreement with the narrator of the modern tale. That’s not what I’m saying. I agree they are opposed in their interpretations. I’m saying that the narrator of the modern tale is assessing the original tale in modern terms.> One does not say, "Here is what the story would be saying if this were changed, so this is actually what it is saying." What the story says does not come from the perspective the reader, but from the perspective of the narratorHere, I simply disagree. Any story involves BOTH the perspective of the teller and the listener. And the elements that are “changed” are not highly relative to the question being posed in the BB film (drawn from S&G), so it is an element that can be altered without impact to their central goal.> Bruce is no more Abraham than Ra's is JHVH. He does not welcome Ra's into the city or protect him and his cronies against the mobs (to the detriment of his family).This is truly minor stuff. Ra’s has Bruce in his home and they are clearly close—with what could be called a father/son bond. Again, you're looking for an utter remake. And that's not what I've been proposing it is.Abraham also did not welcome Yahweh into the city or protect him against mobs, that was Lot, so I’m not sure I’m understanding this.>He thwarts them at every opportunity given. For these reasons, there is no correlation here.I’m not sure further discussion is going to be helpful, because I reject your earlier claim that the reader’s interpretation of a story is irrelevant to the story at hand, and that only the narrator’s voice can be considered. Here you are again, appealing to the original narrator and giving no credence to the reader who is also processing this tale. Abraham did what he reasonably could to stop god based on the restrictions imposed by the narrator of S&G. But those restrictions are irrelevant to the question of the morality of Yahweh’s actions—which is, clearly, the core question for the BB writers (the modern readers of the original tale).> I said that the plots are not analogous and stand on that.Fair enough. I think if we compare contrast believer/humanist narrators and expect a remake of the original tale, you have points. But that is not what I claimed to do, and I explained as much at the outset of my post. I’m looking at it from the correlation that would occur if a humanist read the original and retold it using his own view of the original tale. The elements that would matter to him (which are few) remain intact in both tales. And they correlate on that level. The external trappings need only correlate to the point they can be superficially recognized by the viewer. And I think they can.> once Ra's enters the city and Bruce rejects him and his intentions, the correlations end and the analogy fails.I disagree. The correlation becomes this: If Abraham could have stopped god, would he have been under any moral obligation to do so? That’s the question BB is asking, and they’re using the S&G framework to flesh that question out further and see where they can take it.>From there, what is obvious to me is that you stopped looking at the evidence and stayed with your the
    sis as if Bruce, Alfred, Gordon, and Rachael were forced to leave as the brimstone began falling. I ask you, who turned to salt?Again, I’m not claiming it is a remake. It is, as I said before, a modern retelling, a reinterpretation. In this story, the “good people” were used as the catalyst of personal people Bruce cared about within the city. Just as Abraham cared about Lot and his family as specific persons. That is their only function with regard to the original tale.But, perhaps they’re not “Lot” so much as merely a representation of the "good people”? That might be a fair statement, since it is true that Ra’s makes no attempt to salvage any one of them, and they are just as much in peril as the rest of the inhabitants of Gotham. I would call that a fair criticism.

  13. says

    Maybe I have misunderstood your use of “retelling” as “remake”, because that is close to my definition of the word. A modern version of an ancient tale need not be exacting in its plot detail or minor characters, certainly. If you, instead, meant “half of the tale remade and half changed”, I might agree. Yet the core of my argument for this still seems to miss you by inches.”Was sympathy for Dracula written into the original? If a modern reader feels sorry for Dracula, and writes a new version, asking modern readers to consider the suffering such a creature would endure—how is that not the same tale told from the perspective of the modern reader/storyteller? I’m not getting your objection. Rather than a mindless beast, I portray him as a sensitive and tortured soul. It’s not suddenly a different story. It’s the same story told from a new perspective.”No, it’s not the same tale told through a new perspective, if major plot turnings are reversed and the characterization of the protagonist or antagonist is overturned. It’s a different tale about a different Dracula. It is, in fact a tale told not about Dracula at all, but a new character invented by the new storyteller.

  14. says

    rogerdr: “I ask you, who turned to salt?”Yikes. I get the feeling that if a TV show had an episode where a kid kept pretending to be sick to avoid school, then really got sick but were forced to go to school ill(’cause the parents wouldn’t believe him anymore) and I said “hey, that’s like a version of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ story,” rogerdr would start berating me because the original wasn’t about a boy not wanting to go to school at all.”I ASK YOU, WHERE WAS THE WOLF IN THE SITCOM EPISODE?! LOL YOUR ANALOGY FAILS MISERABLY.”I mean, dude, I know it’s not exactly the same story but it’s based on it. That’s what a retelling is. They’re both about lying and losing the trust of the people you lie to as the consequence.Now, what if the ending were changed on the show?. What if instead of being made to go to school with diarrhea(not being sophomoric, the flu would be too obvious to miss =D), it ended with the kid admitting his mistake but saying that this time it was true and that he promises never to pretend to be sick again?. I submit that it would still qualify as a retelling of the story(“lying leads to loss of credibility”) but with an added lesson(“but you can regain the trust you lost by apologising and not telling lies anymore”). To me, what matters is the subject being discussed, not the individual minor details or the fact that it wasn’t told exactly as the author of the original did.But what do I know? I only took high school-level Lit. Wait a sec, that makes me a scholar, right?. n_n

  15. says

    Having not seen the movie, I can't comment much on it.But I do know what Jewish scripture commentators say about Sodom & Gomorrah, and it's in stark contrast to what most Christian preachers will say about it.Jewish tradition (the Talmud) teaches that God wanted to smite the two cities because of something they DIDN'T practice, and that was hospitality. This is why the messengers were targeted – they were strangers coming into the city, and therefore seen as easy prey. If you think about it, this flies in the face of nearly every tradition and custom throughout the civilized world. Usually, when a newcomer arrives anywhere – a city, a town, a building, a home – it is expected that someone will welcome him or her. A simple example of this is the tourist industry! It is so ingrained in nearly every society that when it doesn't happen — when someone is made to feel unsafe or threatened in a strange place — it arouses outrage and a desire to punish those who were not welcoming. I do not believe that this is a "Biblical precept" that people follow because it's in the Hebrew scriptures or because God ordained it. I think it's a matter of social evolution and it was well established when the scriptures began being published. That, of course, adds to the evidence that humankind has been around a whole lot longer than the fundies say. It took a couple of million years for such a concept to become so deep-seated that we then projected this high principle onto the imaginary god, and scholars devoted their lives to picking it apart and ruminating on it.

  16. says

    >No, it's not the same tale told through a new perspective, if major plot turnings are reversed and the characterization of the protagonist or antagonist is overturned. It's a different tale about a different Dracula. It is, in fact a tale told not about Dracula at all, but a new character invented by the new storyteller.I think this is going to have to be a point on which we simply disagree. I have nothing to add that I haven't said already. And I believe I understand your point.It's not unlike the idea of biological cells changing out in bodies every several years (or whatever the cycle is). If none of my cells are original–is it still me? That question can't be answered without some assessment of what "I" am. If I am my biology, then it is not me. If "I" am a collection of memories and thought patterns, then "I" am still me. I don't see there is a right answer to the question, it's a matter of perspective and the value/focus of the one making the judgment.Adrael:I think you express my point exactly. However, I don't think Roger was trying to be overly harsh. I do think he has a difference of opinion. I understand the reason for the difference, but I still maintain I do not share his perspective.I believe there is too much in the story that points to S&G to be ignored or written off to chance. That's really the only point I'm concerned with. And I think you hit the nail on the head with "based on." I have a feeling that Roger would take less issue with the post if I had used that phrase as well.

  17. says

    Late getting here, but I love this post. Been a while since I watched (need to get the DVD), I remember one point thinking Ra's would end up giving credit for S&G to the group.But I didn't really think of the other parallels before. The movie is now even more awesome in my eyes.

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