Accepting Clark Kent as your personal lord and savior.

Disclaimer: the following blog post compares Jesus to Superman for entertainment purposes only.  If you’re either offended by this or you take it seriously, this blog post is the least of your problems.  Please direct all death threats to the United States Senate.

Man of Steel, the new Superman reboot, is a terrific tent-pole summer film in that it’s got plenty of flash; there’s absolutely dazzling set-pieces, the scope is massive, and it features Henry Cavill in skin-tight spandex.  There’s also a lot to love in there if you’re a DC Comics reader or a fan of the original Superman movies, especially with the way the planet Krypton and its culture are developed; however, you’re probably going to get the most out of Man of Steel if you’re prepared to accept that Superman is just Jesus Christ with the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

As an academic, I have literally years of training in seeking out contextual symbolism in different texts and laying it bare, but pointing out the messianic themes in Man of Steel is high school AP English-level work, as anyone with a functioning pair of eyes can see it completely clearly: the only son of a benevolent, far-off entity is imbued with supernatural powers and sent to act as the savior of the human race.  Man of Steel takes this rough framework and runs with it into the endzone through some pretty heavy-handed reinforcement throughout the entire film; this may or may not ruin the movie for you if things like this bother you (by the way, there are SPOILERS ahead, so be warned!).

Poor Clark Kent.  He grows up knowing he’s completely different, but not understanding why he can’t just be normal like all the other people in the world – why is it his responsibility to control his powers, keep them in check, refrain from hurting others, and safeguarding the world?  This conflict is only intensified in the film when General Zod arrives in Earth orbit and demands Kal-El to surrender himself or watch humanity be destroyed.  Why does it end up being his responsibility?  Why does he have to sacrifice possibly everything for a people as cruel and capricious as us, with our Jersey Shore fixation and Justin Beiber mania?

Wracked with doubts, Clark seeks advice at a local church.  Watching the scene carefully will reveal that in one shot, Henry Cavill is in the foreground while behind his shoulder, softly out of focus, is a stained-glass window featuring an image of Christ, all while Clark voices his doubts as to whether he should submit to Zod’s will.  This echoes strongly with Matthew 26:49, where Jesus prays: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” as he seeks for a way to avoid whatever fate awaits him.  Now Jesus as we all know ends up letting himself be nailed to a piece of wood by the Romans while Superman not only goes to war with the Space Romans  Kryptonians but wins; however,the correlation between Superman and Jesus is still there, and it resonates very strongly.

As if that wasn’t enough evidence of a strong, purposefully-made link between Superman’s portrayal in Man of Steel and Jesus, there are other reinforcing factors as well. In the interrogation room scene, Clark tells his ‘captors’ that he is 33 years old, which is the same age of Jesus at the time of his death.  On top of that, cruciform symbolism is rampant throughout the film, with one scene in particular standing out: Clark is standing on the deck of the Kryptonian ship, looking out through a hull breach as Lois Lane’s escape pod careens out of control towards Earth. His father’s hologram tells him, “you can save her; you can save all of them,” and Clark, after a short moment of consideration, holds his arms out, closes his eyes, and swan dives out of orbit towards Earth, silhouetted in such a way as to connote Christ at Calvary – or maybe Scott Stapp at a Creed concert.

I don’t know why Zack Snyder chose to bring so many strong echoes of Christianity into his film, nor do I know why he decided to make the Biblical allusions so heavy-handed and obvious.  Whether he was playing to the lowest common denominator in that Christianity is a major world religion that many Americans count themselves as, or was he simply embracing the “American” nature of Superman by reinforcing his status as a messianic figure, it may not be known without tracking him down and asking him what the hell he was thinking.  Let’s ignore the more ironic measures here in the Man of Steel universe: the acceptance of the Last Son of Krypton’s existence puts an end to the whole The Earth Was Created By God In Six Days and the We are God’s Chosen People theories, but that’s not the point really. The important thing is that a blatant truth is  out there and can’t be taken back – in Man of Steel, Superman is portrayed as Jesus with good hair, six pack abs, and the ability to beat the shit out of anyone who gets in his way.  So much for turning the other cheek!

Romans be trippin'.

Judas, do you even lift?

 

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7 thoughts on “Accepting Clark Kent as your personal lord and savior.

  1. Clearly, Superman is the messiah–and least in the DC universe; this is bound to upset some, but the components are there even though I have really never examined why I enjoyed reading the comics and watching the movies. However, our collective subconscious must have known this; it explains why Suoerman continues to be such a compelling and enduring character for so many of us.

  2. The whole thing about Superman is, unlike other heroes, you really can’t make his powers a center piece; he’s a freaking unstoppable powerhouse. Make the movie about his powers or his capacity, and it’s a boring slog. Some of the fights proved this, as one “One Kryptonian throws another Kryptonian at something” seemed the be Dragon Punch of Kryptonian martial arts.

    As such, you have to make it almost entirely about the character, or it fails. When you have a highly moral, god amongst man style character? Well, it puts the cards pretty heavily on the table.

    When my wife pointed out the numerous Christ metaphors, my take was that you are almost certainly going to have some Jesus/Superman parallels no matter what story you tell; it borders on unavoidable. If that’s the case than, you might as well own the shit and play it to the hilt.

    • That was pretty much the only criticism I had of the film, as well: the Kryptonian fight scenes where they’re beating the shit out of each other with, well, each other were sometimes extremely goofy. I winced every time someone grabbed Clark by the cape and swung him around like a rag doll.

      • My biggest complaint was that the film was a little too busy for it’s own good; there was a LOT of stuff to cover and sometimes it felt like it didn’t take it’s time. It’s an origin movie, also saddled with needing to have a plot that does more than cover an origin, so I’m pretty forgiving of that.

        The shaky cam on every action scene, however, was something I did not appreciate at all.

  3. I wonder if ancient cultures wrote similar reviews of Jesus, comparing him to the various figures throughout history with the same/similar theme. Jesus is just the latest in a LONG line of characters who have the same origin story, and evoke the same core truths.

    As Joseph Campbell would point out, all of our myths (and superman most certainly qualifies as a modern myth in my book), need to feature certain archetypes, and the familiar – but ever satisfying, “hero’s journey.”

    Anyway, we also have to remember that Superman’s REAL LIFE origins were as part of a time when Americans were in between or involved in major world wars.

    The Man of steel was IIRC meant in many ways to be a positive icon, a kind of Organic Propaganda to give people hope.

    Giving people a messiah is one of the best ways to do that.

    Anyway – Dave you really need to read (or listen to the podcasts) of Union Dues.

    It sparked my interest in the more traditional kind of superhero –

    Check it out. Not sure how long they will be available, they almost became a TV series, but as all things potentially awesome – it fell through and the author has fallen into obscurity.

    The Pod Cast Escape pod still has almost all the series – as read by some awesome people, I actually really like these pod casts. So try it this way first 🙂

    http://escapepod.org/2005/11/10/ep027-iron-bars-and-the-glass-jaw/

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