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So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Growing up, I lived in a house attached to the hotel that my parents owned and operated; you could see our kitchen from the front office. Next door was an empty lot ever since the Pizza Hut burned down, so when my parents finally sold the hotel (after many years of scrubbing toilets) the building was knocked down and a new, much nicer hotel was built in its place. It’s an abomination, or at least it is to me. It’s not something I think about all the time, but going home for Thanksgiving was a definite reminder. The space where my home used to be is now filled up with something wrong.
The idea of “home” and whatever it may mean is important. It may be some biological, Darwinian imperative to do with tribes, nesting, and security, but I got a film degree so I have zero authority to speak to that. Instead, I couldn’t help but notice that Home, Going Home, Saving a Home, was an important theme in some pretty big movies this year.
Apparently James Bond and I have a lot in common since a fire led to the destruction of our childhood homes (Note: I did not start the fire, nor get into a subsequent gun fight). In Skyfall, he reacts to his family’s worldly possessions being sold off with a stoic blink. When the house get burned down only says “I always hated that place.” Sure it was cold and dreary (though I assume there were more amenities when people actually lived there), but it was where he grew up. The thing is, Bond has found a new home, a place where he is most comfortable and can truly be himself: MI6. As powerful as having a home can be, sometimes we get to choose it ourselves.
Which makes Bruce Wayne’s dedication to Gotham even stranger. If home is a place where we belong, well, Gotham ain’t it for Bruce. In the Nolan Batman trilogy he’s never truly accepted by anyone outside one or two downtrodden cops and the occasional child still capable of wonder. But Bruce cares, deeply, about his home city. Not only that, but it’s common knowledge. The crux of Bane’s psychological torture of Bruce is his love of home and distress at not being able to save it, even when no one there wants him to. It’s a strange omission from The Dark Knight Rises that no one rose up to say “where is the Batman?” A few covert chalk drawings as wartime code, sure, but no ordinary citizens banding together to decide that, you know what, there is a time and a place for a vigilante thug and that time is now, please. Bruce returns again and again to save an ungrateful population for the city his father built. Not just the buildings but the infrastructure, the subways the veins of the city as surrogate for the father no longer living, and the people are the blood.
The Dwarves in The Hobbit aren’t quite so selfless. They feel the injustice of their expulsion from their home acutely. It’s understandable, since it’s harder to vilify a confused population of Gothamites than a giant, fire-belching, freakin’ dragon. Thorin is the most upset. As prince and heir to the throne of Erebor, it’s hard to fault him for that. The rest of the Dwarves have moved on. Even the ones that join in the quest had to be gathered together and convinced. Though many have moved on with their lives, once asked to defend their homeland, they sign up immediately; even a few that are too young to really remember it. The desire for a place with a sense of security is so strong even Bilbo can understand it. It seems ironic that the dwarves’ quest for home is precisely what disrupts and expels Bilbo from his, but Bilbo is an unusual Hobbit. He grows to like adventure and, as we see in The Lord of the Rings, he chooses a new home for himself in Rivendell. In The Hobbit he’s on a quest to find the place where he truly belongs, he just doesn’t know it yet.
So when you’re stuck on a plane, train, or bus in the next few weeks, just pretend your seatmate who can’t chew with their mouths closed is really just Bombur and you’re on an adventure. When your family gets into the nog and starts ranting about politics, think of Anne Hathaway in Italy. And when you burn your house down… don’t do that. But if you aren’t traveling, are having a small Christmas, or just keeping to yourself this holiday season, remember home is wherever you want it to be. Even a movie theater.