The New Green Hornet
Last night my wife and I watched the new Green Hornet with Seth Rogen. While I new better than to expect something that remained true to the original Green Hornet, I was, nevertheless, severely disappointed. Not only did Rogen’s adaptation fail to deliver the essence of the Green Hornet as the purposely misunderstood hero who’s alter ego is the intelligent newspaperman, but he also failed to understand the purpose of heroes in society.
What Makes Rogen’s Hornet the Hero?
While heroes come from different kinds of backgrounds and upbringings, Rogen’s Hornet is the spoiled child of a mean, if not otherwise mostly virtuous, widower. Growing up he becomes a rather unintelligent, hedonistic loaf who becomes the head of a media empire after the death of his father. Through a variety of circumstances he and his martial art/engineering expert partner pose as bad guys to fight crime. First they do so in order to “stick it” to Rogen’s old man. Then they do it in his honor, once they understand him better.
What Didn’t I Like?
Rogen’s Hornet is selfish. Until the end of the movie he fights for selfish reasons. He refuses to listen to his partner Cato and does not have the intelligence to have any reason not to do so. Rogen’s Hornet is a bumbling idiot who fights for something, but it is difficult to figure out what. Is it justice? Is it the memory of his father? Is it to be cool? I’m not sure, but mostly the latter with a mix of the first two seems to be the case.
Also, I could not stand the sheer amount of violence and death that took place in this film. In their first outing, Cato causes at least one gang member to be shot and killed. The others seem either to be dead or unconscious. Either way, violence, the ability to better beat or kill your opponent is seen as a virtue. The rid themselves of the two main villains by killing them. One get stabbed in the eyes and the other is crushed by half of car falling from about 30 stories. This I cannot stand. It seems to me, that Rogen in his attempt to make a slapstick superhero movie missed the purpose of the hero rather than truly parodying it.
What are Heroes supposed to Be?
Rogen’s heroes fight for themselves or at least for some semblance of an idea of justice. This is not what the hero is supposed to be. The hero stands for societal values. The hero inspires societal values. The hero is someone both the individual and the society as a whole can say, “I want to be like that person. That person is better than I am and makes me want to be better than I am.” Heroes also cause some aspect, or aspects, of the divine to be brought down to the human level.
Upholders and Creators of Societal Virtues
Heroes, true, mythic heroes, are representations of what a society values. They embody the ideals and can even go beyond the current ideals of a society in order to encourage and inspire those who are not heroes. If we take a look at comics from the 30s, 40s and 50s, those heroes may have had flaws––save Aunt May or save the world? Always be Superman or take time to be Clark Kent? Take out your anger on the villain or help them get better––but they served to inspire. They taught the children of those ages that truth was better than lying; that justice meant doing what was right no matter the costs; that freedom for all meant the eradication of oppression. Captain America, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Thor these characters filled a much needed niche. They taught us to be better. In someways they even showed us new virtues. A society built on capitalism might make us think that ends justify the means, Superman taught us never to lie (except about your secret identity).
Incarnating the Divine
Heroes also serve to show us God. Its true, many of the heroes I listed above were not made by professing Christians. Nevertheless, when they show us things that are true, that are virtuous, they are showing us aspects of God that we might not see or understand otherwise. God does this often. In fact, the Incarnation, God the Son becoming a human is perhaps the ultimate example of that. God knows that for us to be truly human, to reach the goals he has set for us, we will need not only his help internally, through the Holy Spirit, but we also need the example of other men and women. Sometimes it is hard to think that we can ever be like Jesus, he was perfect, infallible; we are not. But maybe we can be a bit more like Paul or Timothy or Polycarp or Augustine or John Cassian or Catherine of Siena or Mary the mother of Jesus. Perhaps these people whose faults we can see we can be like, while they also try to be like Christ. Rogen’s Hornet does none of this for us.
The New Green Hornet and American Virtues
The new Green Hornet seems to be saying that violence, sex, some misguided sense of justice and intelligence are what we value as a society. As Christians, even as Americans, we must reject these values.
Who are Our Heroes?
We need to return to better heroes. We need to be reminded of the virtues and values that all societies ought to stand for. As Christians we need to baptize the heroes our societies do have so we can use them to show people the light and truth that is Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Teacher, our Model, our Hero. We also need to rediscover some of our own heroes from Christian history and learn from and follow them as they followed Christ. Finally, we need to every day become heroes ourselves so we can inspire those around us to be better, to become more like Christ and give their lives over to him. The only way to be truly heroic, to be truly human, is to be like Christ.