Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Last night the Baby, the Little Woman and I watched the 2006 movie Superman Returns, directed by Brian Singer. The movie has Superman returning to Earth after an absence of five years spent looking for his home world, Krypton.

In his absence, Lex Luthor is released from prison and resumes his evil ways. The legal explanation is clumsy, but no one other than lawyers are likely to notice. Luthor finds Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, steals the crystal and creates a new continent made partially of Kryptonite. Despite that, Superman manages to throw it into space, practically killing himself.

Superman then fell to earth and laid in the hospital for a few days, before recovering and resuming his super ways.

The movie was pretty entertaining, although I found it more interesting for its symbolism and irony than for the action.

The first irony is that Superman isn’t. He is not a man at all, in the sense of being human. He is an alien from another planet. He is not one of us, although he looks like one of us.

The second irony is that the theme of the Superman myth is that his father sent him to Earth and told him humans had a great capacity to be good, they just needed someone to show them “the light”, whatever that is. However, Superman spends all of his time fighting evil, for which humans seem to have an unlimited capacity. In fact, in this movie, while Superman is gone, Lois Lane wrote an article entitled “Why the World Does Not Need Superman”. The movie then goes on to prove, and she later admits, the world does indeed need him, and not to show them the light, but to keep the darkness from overwhelming them.

The story is heavy with Christ symbolism. Superman is sent to Earth by his Father, Christ was sent by his. Superman is perfect, Christ is perfect. After Lex Luthor creates the ultimate evil (in this case a new continent that will flood America and kill millions), Superman took in on himself at the cost of his life. Christ took sin on himself at the cost of his life.

Christ dies and was buried. Superman fell to earth and lay in a great crater, then in a hospital bed with no life signs. Christ rose on the 3rd day. Superman rose after a few days (it may have been three, but I was getting sleepy by then and did not count).

The movie started me thinking (I know, uh oh) about how much and why we like super heroes. The movies are full of them. Superman has been the subject of many movies. Comic book publishes made their industry thrive on a variety of super heroes. They are on television and in novels. Even the current object of fascination, vampires, have super human capability.

I think people realize that the world really does need someone other than man or woman to fix things. They often think politicians will do it. You see this reverential, messiah like context with President Obama. They used to think the United Nations would solve everything, at least before they became major child molesters, rapists, and thieves in their projects.

There is, of course, no Superman. Almost all who have claimed any superiority have been felled by scandal. The Pope, for example, who used to be untouchable, has been tarnished by the continual revelation of child sexual abuse by priests.

What the world needs is Christ. He is the one who sets things right, who takes sin and evil and bears it to deliver us. He gives us the light, the capacity to do and be good. But, most people do not seem to want him. Why would you want Superman and not the God Man? I think it is because Superman does not make moral judgments about the common man. Sure he fights the super evil, but he does not sit down with Lois Lane and say “Lois, you are a sinner. You need to repent and believe in me.” He just dazzles her with his flying and manly good looks. He takes care of all the problems and asks nothing in return.

Christ, on the other hand, demands worship and obedience. He says he is God, not just a man. Plutarch wrote "The answer of the seventh philosopher to Alexander's question, how a man might become a god, was, 'By doing that which was impossible for man to do.'” Even in Roman times, man needed a hero to deliver him.

Christ does not say you are good, you just need a little nudge to get better. He says you are bad and only he can make you good, and then only by paying the price for your badness and having his Father declare you are good and can now spend eternity with Him.
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