by Hanajun Chung.
“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders, to let him know the world hadn’t ended.” – Batman/Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
On November 15, 2013 in San Fransisco, CA, something spectacular happened affecting the entire nation.
Miles Scott, a five-year old leukemia survivor, got his wish when he asked the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation to become Batman for a day. What followed was more than a few costume changes. Scott ended up experiencing a day of total immersion as San Francisco momentarily became Gotham.
Accompanied by an adult (Batman), Scott became a hero and proceeded to rescue damsels in distress, stop iconic villains, and received praise and rewards from actors, pedestrians,and even city officials.
It was the day of Batkid.
A successful and already touching story then grew into something incredible. All around the web, people began uploading their thanks to the Batkid, showing support and pride for the young hero. He also got some big names who congratulated his efforts. You would think compliments from former Batman actors, Michael Keaton and Christian Bale, would be enough. Oh no, since there was also President Barrack Obama’s message for the miniature Caped Crusader.
It was tough not to shed a tear after reading the many tweets and stories covering the event. As a film geek, this makes me happy. Whether or not Scott became a fan of Batman and superheroes through comics, cartoons, or film is something that many outlets glossed over, an oversight that many could assume was due to his age. It’s cool that he decided to go with one of the most beloved, recognized icons in the history of comic books, one that’s centered around sacrifice, pain, and tenacious commitment. More than meeting a hero, Scott needed to become one after his unimaginable struggles.
His effect on the public, on the surface, is heart-warming, but it also reveals an idea that’s been around for ages, but finally coming to widespread fruition: our heroes might derive from fiction, but their legacy is quite real.
It’s an idea that geek culture is all too familiar with. Gone are the decades in which the Vulcan “Live long and prosper” or the line “May the Force be With You” are synonymous with a single story, they transcend it to have greater, metaphorical meaning. It’s no longer a reference, but instead a sentiment.
Batman isn’t alone in inspiring sentiments. Spiderman has probably the best, most recognizable line involving heroics: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” But even before our friendly webslinger, the idea of heroics has been recycled and readjusted throughout the decades.
Joseph Campbell’s seminal study on The Hero’s Journey or the monomyth is probably the most popular explanation for the constant repetition and resurrection of the idea. The hero’s steps in his journeys has been used by writers for ensuring structure, but at the end of that cycle, there is a hidden epilogue to many stories. Campbell’s cycle ends with the hero returning home, changed and ready to progress. I always thought it was weird that Campbell ended the journey with the hero returning home, but it makes sense. Because the change has already happened to the character. And that change becomes more significant when it starts to resonate in others.
On the local level and in the view of this publication’s audience, there are many instances of heroism that have happened. On campus, I saw it in a student writer who put himself in the thick of controversy for the sake of journalistic integrity and duty, and a student President who’s fighting back against what’s perceived as an injustice. It relates in countless ways.
While the action is brave and admirable, the impact becomes noticeable, not only when fellow students and staff voiced their opinions through different outlets, but when decisions are made because of the inspired participants. And now? The efforts of these individuals not only have been heard in their own personal journeys, but it’s drastically opened the floodgates that can bring about massive change to their environment.
In hindsight, the Batkid event might simply be remembered as a week in which America was really nice to some kid who defeated leukemia. It’s a welcomed event, something that should be topped for each child undergoing a daunting struggle. Recently actor Ben Affleck’s (who also gave Batkid a shout-out) casting as the next Batman was the latest thing in the news involving Gotham’s hero. But the last time the public consciousness and Batman were connected , it involved a mad gunman shooting a theater full of people.
The Batkid event inadvertently healed the public’s relationship with that character. All in all, I hope there are many more instances worldwide involving pure altruism, especially now in areas like the Philippines, since I can say from first hand experience, that a typhoon as devastating as what they’d experience calls for all the help they can get.
Come this thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll say when time to say thanks. But I feel like there’s one more that’s deserving: Thank you, Batkid. You’re the batkid we don’t deserve, but the batkid we all need.
You’re my hero, man.