Batman: A Modern Hero “If Hero means sincere man, why may not every one of us be a Hero? ” (Thomas Carlyle). In the youth of many, comics and heroes played an important aspect in most of our lives. Growing up most children in the United States and around the world has cherished their comic books and cartoons that demonstrate their favorite heroes courage and self-sacrifice in the face of danger and adversity. Joseph Campbell, in book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes his idea of the monomyth. His proposal states every hero, including Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, goes through 17 stages in their journey.
By investigating the plot line of a popular superhero multi-million dollar movie, Batman Begins, we will discover the heart of the monomyth outline. The film opens up with Bruce Wayne as a child stealing an Indian arrow from his friend, Rachel, and almost immediately falling into a feebly covered well. After the fall into the cave, a swarm of bats fly out and surround the terrified boy. This scene plays a huge impact on Bruce’s origins of becoming Batman. As with most heroes, some sort of tragedy or life changing incident happens at a young age.
Besides the ‘bat incident’, watching the murder of his parents places a life-changing shift in his life and his way of thinking. As a young man of 21 or 22, Bruce (Christian Bale) confronts his own desire to commit murder when the killer of his parents is released on parole; he does not commit the act, but only because the killer is gunned down in front of him. Rachel (Katie Holmes), now a lawyer, takes him to the underside of Gotham where he gets to see the face of true criminality; after that, he sets out on a journey to learn about the criminal mind (Jones, Paul).
This new awareness of crime in Gotham is the first stage in Joseph Campbell’s pattern, the Call to Adventure. Bruce takes off on a seven-year exploration, exploring prisons and criminal masterminds. It is during his travels he is approached by Henri Ducard to join Ras al Ghul and the League of Shadows, and is taught to serve true justice and fight evil. Here he learns to manipulate the fear of others by mastering his own. At this point is where the second step comes to light. After Bruce’s training is complete, he is asked to kill a man for stealing. His rejection of committing murder is in a way a Refusal of the Call.
He in fact is not refusing the need to fight justice, but is refusing the ways of the League of Shadows and in turn becomes a true hero. Returning home to Gotham Bruce states to his Butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), he will “become a symbol, a dramatic example that is incorruptible and everlasting”. It is here Alfred becomes an aid to Bruce by helping him prepare and watch for his protection. This protective figure in Bruce’s life is yet another step in the monomyth. After returning to Gotham and his father’s company, Wayne Enterprise, he begins to work with Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman).
Lucious also becomes an aid in Bruce’s life as Batman. His offer of special tools propels Batman’s ability to fly and overcome normal human capabilities. Bruce Crosses the First Threshold by taking Batman to the streets of Gotham. He approaches a good and honest cop by the name of Gordon to get information on Carmine Falcone, who is the leader over Gotham City’s organized crime. Here Bruce announces himself to the people and begins his double identity. Also included in Crossing the First Threshold is his ability to save Rachel from getting mugged and murdered.
During this time, Batman goes through the belly of the whale, facing some issues with his human identity and also malfunctions with the bat suit and tools. Through these lessons Batman grows stronger and gains needed improvements to help fight crime and continue onto the road of trials. The Road of Trials involves many scenes of fighting crime and casting fear into the criminals and corrupts in Gotham. Batman during this time busts Falcone and his drug business. During the middle stages of his journey, Bruce undergoes his Apotheosis. Bruce using his alter –ego Batman tries to break up a drug deal and in the process gets drugged.
Dual help of Alfred and Lucious picking him up off the streets and creating medicine for him saves Bruce. When he wakes up after three days, his view has been changed by his new knowledge of the drugs. He starts to piece together the plan for the destruction of Gotham. The Ultimate Boon comes forth when Ras al Ghul and the League of Shadows shows at his house for his birthday party. It is here where full awareness of the situation comes together and he knows how he can save Gotham from Ras al Ghul and his plan of devastation. His butler Alfred rescues Bruce after being trapped in his fiery house.
This act represents Campbell’s step Rescue from Without. Bruce, having a minor loss to his ego, is reminded of his father’s words: “Why do we fall? To pick ourselves up again”. After being saved from the fire he is able to return to Gotham and initiate a plan to save Gotham city. Bruce Crosses the Return Threshold when he defeats Henri Ducard in an epic battle to save the city. He is able to stop the train from heading to the middle of city where consequently drugs would enter into the atmosphere via the water system. The death of Henri Ducard also resembles the atonement of his father.
By standing up and fighting for the poor and impoverished he resembles his father’s ideals and legacy. The act of killing Henri, although necessary to save the city, was also killing his parents’ murderer and his idea of corruption. During the end of the film, his childhood friend and love finds out Batman’s true identity. In the Meeting with the Goddess Rachel refuses an intimate relationship but blesses him to continue on his personal crusade and allows Bruce self to find himself. Bruce becomes a Master of the Two Worlds continuing to live simultaneously as Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Becoming the master also allows him to have the Freedom to Live, the final step in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth stages. With Bruce’s ability to still fight crime and evil he is able to control his need to fight justice and make a difference. The ability to fight in turn gives him a sense of peace and ability to live. As shown, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth can be applied to virtually any hero story or myth including Batman in Batman Begins. Batman as a hero is strictly the same story as every other hero, modern or ancient, due to the monomyth.
Every hero goes through struggles and separation, trials and victories, and the return and reintegration into the community/reality. Modern and ancient myths all include an element of supernatural and excitement. Even though Batman may not have supernatural powers, his strength and abilities give an air of supernatural and sense of wonder. The heroic myth still continues to gives a broad appeal to all ages and sexes. People are intrigued by the stories of the supernatural and ancient heroes such as Hercules and modern heroes such as Batman and Spiderman.
People everyday see and hear things in their lives and on the news that are corrupt and evil, and simply want to find a fix. They want a better world. A hero is able to help fix our personal problems and problems on a grander scale. A hero is able to fix lives, represent hope, and more importantly a better tomorrow. A hero more importantly can represent us and in turn makes people want to make a difference and generate hope in their communities and their world. This aspect of common people being a hero has the greatest appeal to human kind.
The biggest difference found between antiquity and modern myths are the gods and their effect on the hero battles. Hero of antiquity are more known for being gods or either humans battling the gods. In most stories you find the gods interfering or helping a particular person/hero. This idea of the gods having an impact on who we are and our course of action is missing from modern heroes. For example in Batman, there is no god effecting Bruce’s emotions and actions. Although both heroes will experience the same elements of the monomyth a modern hero will make his own decisions based on his feelings, not due to a god forcing a decision on him.
Gods and this certain sense of divine is lacking in most modern myths. Modern myths in our films today provide a source of entertainment. Hundreds of years ago people retold their myths through story telling, their form of entertainment. In more modern times people seek new ways of bringing their heroes and stories to life, through films. A heroic story coming to life in a whole new way puts a different spin on the story and its impact on us. In current times of troubles, war, and corrupted people look to the movies and heroes to find hope and an escape from their troubles.
Modern heroic myths are built into our society and culture in the United States. Comics, cartoons, and movies are depicting certain heroes and villains battling everyday. This sense of the hero battling evil not only grabs our attention and makes for great entertainment but fulfills the need to see good will overcome the bad. A hero can fight battles we necessarily cant. This idea has transformed into a multi-million dollar industry. Kids every year for Halloween dress like their favorite hero and stand for something bigger then all of us.
Many modern heroes in American culture can be linked to modern issues and problems such as war, crime, and simply personal issues. This creates even a deeper connection to the hero, his trials, and what he stands/fights for. Joseph Campbell’s monomyth pattern can be applied to any myth, modern or ancient. His steps show the patterns and certain aspects of a heroes’ life. The hero has played an important role in not only modern times, but in ancient times for pure entertainment or to explain certain aspects of our lives and world. The monomyth allows people to see the similarity in all heroic stories, and possibly in our own lives.
No matter ancient or modern, a hero will always allow everyone to become a better person, to overcome any obstacle or trial in our way. The heroic story pushes us to look at ourselves and our decisions. It makes us pose the question of who is a hero and who we look up to. Do your personal actions make you a hero? Works Cited Batman Begins. Dir. Christopher Nolan. 2005. Warner Bros. DVD. Carlyle, Thomas. “Quotes. ” Book Rags. GlamFamily, n. d. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. . Jones, Paul M. “Batman Begins. ” Paul M. Jones. Word Press, 21 June 2005. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. .