Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Superman: Man of God?

Mrs. Nod and I watched the movie Superman: Man of Steel together recently.

One of the things I dig about her is that I never have to apologize for wanting to watch a superhero movie -- she's usually there ahead of me.

A pleasant surprise was the deliberate Christian religious allegory built in to the story. Yes, it is there in the original canon, but I appreciate the fact that director Zack Snyder chose to leave it in and even highlight it.

A few (mostly) non-spoiler examples:

When Superman is debating giving himself up to save the human race, he seeks counsel in a church from a pastor. There is a very clearly framed shot of Superman in front of a stained glass window of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His passion. Superman, like Christ, is sacrificing himself for a fearful and undeserving human race.

Superman also references the fact that he has been on Earth for "33 years" -- the same age as Christ when He underwent His passion.

Zod represents amorality and ends-justifies-the-means, while Superman represents restraint, compassion, and conscience throughout.

In the beginning of the film, Jor-El tells his wife that their son, Kal-El (aka Superman), will be "like a god" to men because of the incredible strength he will develop under Earth's yellow sun.  I'm not sure of the original etymology of the House of El in the literature, but "El" means "god" in Hebrew and other Semitic languages. The iconic "S" of Superman's family crest of the House of El means "hope" -- another messianic theme.

There is also a strong message against genetic breeding, biological determinism, and population control. The underwater chamber that all Kryptonians are born in is called the Genesis chamber; their lives and roles in society is predetermined. Superman's Kryptonian parents wanted their son to be born naturally and have the freedom to choose whom he would become.

Clark's biological parents and foster parents both emphasize strength of character as the defining characteristic they wish to instill in him. He, like Christ, is to be the model for all humans to emulate. Superman is also portrayed as a Noah figure, carrying the future of his people to safety in his "ark" while the old world is destroyed, as well as a Moses figure (baby in the bulrushes).  Noah and Moses are both archetypes of Christ.

So there is all that -- in addition to it being just a pretty awesome and well executed movie with lots of action and cool special effects. 


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Patrick said...

Here there be spoilers!

Except that SUPERman couldn't find a non-lethal solution to the big-bad. LAME. Jesus would have handled it WAY better. ;)

Nod said...

True, Pat, true. I was a little disappointed by that. That's what you get when you let the big-bad frame the debate.

But, it's allegory, not the Second Coming, eh?


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