There are few lines that lead me to geek out quite as quickly as Lieutenant James Gordon’s closing monologue about Batman in the 2008 blockbuster film The Dark Knight:
“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
As I watched the marvelous depiction of Wonder Woman on the silver screen, I was surprised to hear a different take on the heroes we deserve.
Warning: minor spoilers to follow
Even as a child, Princess Diana of Themyscira was told that the world did not deserve her. And yet when she learned the world was in trouble, she chose to leave a lush island paradise to save the world of men.
As the plot unfolds we see how spectacular Wonder Woman really is. Her brute strength was quite a sight to behold, but Diana’s goodness was even more powerful. We’ve seen tough superheroes before, but Wonder Woman is more. She’s tough and tender. She doesn’t run into a monsoon of ammunition for personal glory, but to protect the weak and vulnerable. She does it for love.
With a heroine like this, it’s no surprise that near the story’s end Wonder Woman is reminded that the world did not deserve her. And after she realizes that the brokenness of humanity isn’t a problem outside of us, but a problem inside of us she begins to believe it. Maybe the world of men doesn’t deserve her after all.
As much as I love that closing monologue in The Dark Knight (which incidentally may be the last truly great DC film before Wonder Woman), I’m inclined to believe that the voices in Diana’s life are right and Lt. Gordon is wrong. The truth is, we don’t deserve these heroes.
What we deserve is exactly what we have. A broken world filled with broken people doing broken things. What we deserve is what we ask for with every decision to live for ourselves, to live in fear, to live for the glory of self. You could say every moment of goodness that we enjoy in this life is a moment that’s better than what we deserve.
In the end Wonder Woman is the hero we need, but not the one we deserve. Because she learns it’s not really about what we deserve. It’s about what we believe. It’s about the simple message that concludes the film: “it is only love that can truly save the world.”
And the good news is that love has. And love will. The truth is that the toughness and tenderness of Wonder Woman is just a faint echo of a far greater Hero. A Hero we could never deserve. A Hero we desperately need.
“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” — 1 John 4:10 (NLT)