Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Superman and Messianic Connotations

It's nice to have an excuse to blog on the forthcoming Superman Returns and as regular readers will know, I insist on a NT related excuse before I'll blog on something. On Filmchat, Peter Chattaway (Let us now compare Jesus and Superman . . .) notices an Associated Press article:

For Some, Man of Steel Has Messianic Echo
First there were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Now, for many Christian moviegoers comes another gospel.

As the hype machine shifts into high gear for the upcoming release of "Superman Returns," some are reading deeply into the film whose hero returns from a deathlike absence to play savior to the world.

"It is so on the nose that anyone who has not caught on that Superman is a Christ figure, you think, `Who else could it be referring to?'" said Steve Skelton, who wrote a book examining parallels between Superman and Christ . . .

. . . . Many simply see the story of a hero sent to Earth by his father to serve mankind as having clear enough New Testament overtones. Others have taken the comparison even further, reading the "El" in Superman's original name "Kal-El" and that of his father "Jor-El" as the Hebrew word for "God," among other theological interpretations.

"Superman Returns," which premieres June 28, has been drawing its own comparisons to biblical accounts, especially after the appearance of its trailer earlier this year.

The preview shows the hero with his eyes closed as the voice of his father Marlon Brando's, courtesy of 1978's "Superman" tells him he was sent to Earth because humans "lack the light to show the way."

"For this reason," continues the voice, "I have sent them you, my only son."

Online message boards and Web logs quickly latched onto the biblical resonance of those lines . . .

. . . Not everybody welcomes the Superman-Jesus comparisons.

"It's a misrecognition," said Amy Pedersen, who is writing her doctoral thesis in art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, on superhero comic books.

Pedersen said Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who introduced Superman in 1938 in a comic book, were Jews who were inspired by the Old Testament story of Moses and the supernatural golem character from Jewish folklore.

The Christian allusions are recent innovations that compromise the integrity of the Superman myth, she said . . . .
Good article -- gets the balance about right. Echoes, allusions and motifs there, part of the stock from which everyone draws; don't get your knickers in a twist about them.


crystal said...

Fun post. I noticed the same sort of thing when the TV series Hercules was on ... the son of a god, but also human, a hero to the people :-)

eklektekuria said...

One can put together a host of parallels from the original Superman movie (1978) as well, just for fun.

(1) The arrival of the child is announced by a star in the heavens (Matthew), and/or this person comes from heaven (John). In Superman, the child comes from outer space in a capsule that comes to earth like a shooting star.

(2) The hero, as a child, is endangered and must flee to another country/world (Matthew). The parallel with Moses is even closer: the child is placed in a small ark by the parents and sent to another place where he is adopted and raised by someone else.

(3) The narrative storytelling falls into three sections: relating the birth and babyhood of the boy, relating an episode when the boy was a pre-teen, and then skipping ahead to him as a young adult (Luke). The 1978 Superman movie similarly relates the birth and babyhood, the teenaged life, and then the adult life of Superman.

(4) Jesus in orthodox theology has two natures, divine and man. Similarly, Superman has two sides to himself -- his frail humanity as Clark Kent and his unearthly powerful nature as Superman. Jesus keeps his divinity in cognito in a few of his resurrection appearances (Luke, John), similarly, Clark Kent's friends do not recognize who he really is.

(5) Jesus works miracles and saves people (albeit in a theological sense). Superman does mighty deeds to save people.

(6) For example, Jesus brought his friend back from the dead (John). Superman brought Lois Lane back from the dead.

Anyone can think of any other good ones?