Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nicolas Cage Should Be In Jail

by Ben Howard

Today I'm going to take a bit of a break from the Who We Are Instead series because it's my blog and I can do that. Impenetrable logic, I know.

I want to take a break to talk to you about Nicolas Cage. More specifically, I want to talk about why Nicolas Cage should be in jail.

No, not the actual Nicolas Cage. I have no illicit information about the beloved (?) actor. I'm talking about his character Benjamin Gates from the National Treasure movies.

Over the weekend I watched most of National Treasure 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold Book of Secrets. Why did I watch this movie you may ask? was on. I think that reason is good enough.

If you don't know the premise, Benjamin Gates is a historian/treasure hunter who finds a major fortune in the first movie while evading the machinations of the actor who would become Ned Stark. In the second movie, he is tasked with clearing the name of his ancestor Thomas Gates who is implicated in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. However, in the process of clearing his great-great grandfather's name he learns of an ancient treasure (name check!) and goes off in search with his sidekicks/family in tow.

Here's the thing, in his quest to clear his long dead ancestor's name and in effect change nothing about the present, Gates commits or attempts to commit the following crimes: Breaking and entering, grand theft, trespassing, hacking, attempted manslaughter, attempted vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, breaking out of jail, kidnapping the President, espionage against a friendly government and some light treason.

I'm just saying it really shouldn't matter what happens at the end of the movie because according to almost any measure of justice, Benjamin Gates should go to jail and possibly worse if we stick close to the treason argument.

But he doesn't. Because it's a movie. And he's the hero. And the hero doesn't go to jail at the end unless he's Danny Ocean (but only for a few months).

It's really convenient that everybody in an action movie knows it's an action movie. I mean even the extras know how to avoid the cars in the chase scene or the stray bullets that never seem to hit the heroes.

I always wonder about this kind of weird mundane stuff. The things that happen after the adventure. How did the Congressional hearings regarding the Transformers turn out? Did someone decide to start watching the Watchmen? How did the revolution in V for Vendetta go? Will the Avengers face a lawsuit for destroying a city?

I think this is an important perspective to have, especially as a Christian. Not that I think these are actual serious questions, but the ability to have concern about the day to day existence of life once the adrenaline wears off. Everybody wants to be the hero, not so many people want to be the community organizer ten years after the hero saves the world.

When I was 18, I went down to Mississippi for a week to do relief work after Hurricane Katrina. One of the things I remember hearing was that volunteers are always around at the beginning, maybe the first six months to a year, but the real rebuilding can take five to ten years to complete. Not as many come down to help out in years five and six. The heroes are gone and they think the story is over.

This is actually something that has always bothered me about short term mission trips, especially for teenagers and college kids. It allows us to have this kind of Christian Hero Fantasy Camp experience, but then we return back to home and comfort with all the memories of “those cute kids,” but their day to day is probably the same as it was before meeting us.

I'm not meaning to sound cynical, but it's something to consider and something to think about. Do we know what kind of story we are in? Do we know why we are doing the things we are doing? Do we realize that this is real life?

Benjamin Gates is allowed to do whatever he wants with no regard for the long-term consequences because he knows there won't be any. His story will be over in about two hours.

We are not allowed the same luxury. We live in the real world. In the real world, action heroes are overrated and real heroes fight through the day to day grind to try and do a little better to try and help a little more. They know that they won't win, they understand that winning was never the point, it was always about trying, it was about doing justice and mercy even when it was hard and when it hurt.

We can be heroes, but it takes more than one day.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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