The premiere of Gotham just finished, and already people are extolling its brilliance; it’s becoming clear that DC’s TV universe is a big deal. Arrow is an undeniable hit, Gotham seems well on its way to achieving just as much as its older brother The Dark Knight, and the Flash and rumored Supergirl series have set many fans’ hearts aflutter. But what is it about these shows that kicks our culture into high gear? I’ve got some ideas.
- Stylized settings. Gotham City has never looked so good. Far from the super-campy 90s-gothic aesthetic, this new city looks like a Chicago that took a while getting out of the roaring twenties. It doesn’t look like a campy movie set anymore; it looks like a real, living, corrupt city.
- Realistic characters. The people in Gotham may be stylized, but they aren’t unbelievable. They’re well-written and sympathetic, with unique motivations and skills. Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon, in particular, straddles the line between hard-nosed cop and wide-eyed optimist with incredible skill.
- Identifiable plots. I love a good alien invasion as much as the next guy (see my Avengers Disassembled series for my investigation of the team that fended off Loki’s Chitauri army), but a newbie cop’s pursuit of justice for his young friend somehow grabs me more closely to the heart. I identify with his pursuit much more readily.
It certainly looks like there’s a pattern: that growing desire for authenticity.
Our culture craves authenticity. Modern life can be so fake, so constructed, so false that we tragically seek the authenticity we desire in scripted dramas instead of the real world. Facebook and Twitter pull us away from reality and drop us in an inauthentic prison of our own design, so we ache to be enveloped in a fake world that feels real. Authentic things feel like they should have more weight, be more real – because they are.
Don’t be fooled. As fun as the constructed city of Gotham is, it’s still just a 3D model and a handful of sets. However compelling Gordon and his partner are, they don’t solve crimes together off-camera. They’re meant to point us elsewhere.
The Bible suggests in Romans 3 that authenticity can be found in a fairly simple realization: you’ll never be authentic on your own. “Let God be true,” Paul says, “though every one were a liar.” No matter what your capabilities, authenticity can only be attained in God Himself.
And the point of this gift? Our real-ness serves to display the glory of God.
Don’t miss out on that. Remember, the things that feel more authentic feel more weighty – and this too is to point us to the truth, that a supremely authentic God reveals Himself in the echoes of all culture. What more weight could there be?
So from next Monday until the day Bruce Wayne puts on the cape and cowl, see Gotham as God wants you to: a means by which He can stir up your heart to desire His authentic life.
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Superhero news keeps flying fast and furious this year, but as summer draws to a close, our Superhero Superseries begins to, too. Keep your eyes here for the last two of this year, before we move on to other topics!
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are all available to watch instantly on Amazon.com, and buying them through these affiliate links helps support Redeeming Culture at no additional cost to you. Thank you!