First off, I hated the TV series by the same name. So this is in no way related to that.
Last night, I came home from a particularly depressing day at work to find that Warner Brothers' was screening Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins at the 10:30 slot on their new television channel WB. Having seen the sequel at least a dozen times on high definition print and being the zealous fan that I am, I sat through the entire film for what must have been the sixth time (at the end of it, my flatmate commented that I knew the dialogues from the film as well as the exact intonations with which they were said). At the end I couldn't help but compare certain aspects of the second film to the first. I wouldn't say that either was better than the other but there was one recurring theme in both.
You see, the concept of a hero in most people's minds has to do with sacrifice. Most contemporary heroes are those who indeed do just that. Take for instance the highly cliche examples of firemen running into burning buildings, police and army men laying down their lives for the safety of their community, even the industrious businessman who has risked so much and put in so much time and effort to build something that will outlive him and provide employment to thousands, if not, millions.
Towards the end of Batman Begins, the protagonist, Bruce Wayne, comes face to face with his enemy, Ra's Al Ghul during his own birthday party and has to "explain the situation" to his guests, that is, get them out of his house as fast as he can so that their lives are spared from the crossfire. Bruce feigns drunkenness and very rudely ejects his guests out, calling them all sorts of names. He vilifies himself to save innocent people, even though those are the same people that say that "the apple has fallen far from the tree", referring to Bruce's philanthropic father whose memory he has now tarnished.
While Bruce Wayne has become the billionaire playboy, the spoilt brat, his alter ego, Batman, remains the masked crusader for justice.The Dark Knight however, sees Batman taking on the mantle of a murderer in order to cover up the actions of Harvey Dent, who was driven insane by the movie's villain (and personal favourite) the Joker as part of his scheme to plunge the city into chaos and anarchy and suck all hope out of the city. Batman vilifies himself to save the city, even though it is the city's police force who now hound him.
The point in both these stories is that a hero is more than a person who runs into a building or takes a bullet or burns the midnight oil. These people at the very least had glory on their side. They gave up their lives, but not the memory of their lives, and were lionised into something greater than what they gave up. Not so the Batman and Bruce Wayne, who gave up their very reputations and staked more than their lives for the greater good.
The closest real life analogy that I can think of is our parents. Whenever a man or woman is successful, we rarely think about the toil that his or her parents must have gone through, the sacrifices that they would have had to make, for their child. And the glory goes completely to the man or woman alone. I think everyone's parents deserve a lot more credit than they get. And instead of looking up to the sky to catch a glimpse of a hero, maybe we should just take a look at the person who stands by us through everything, the person who catches us when we fall.