“Man of Steel” has recently hit theaters and as I discussed yesterday, the religious media are abuzz talking about how the film was filled with religious references. As it turns out, the last Superman film “Superman Returns” actually have more religious symbolism in it.
Despite the overly religious symbolism of “Superman Returns,” I found it to be a much better film. I wrote about the film when it came out. What follows is my article from back then titled: Does the World Need a Superman?
In Superman Returns, the title of Lois Lane’s winning story was, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” While Ms. Lane was writing about the Man of Steel, some would say that the real “super man” of the movie is Jesus. Brian Singer, the movie’s director, was clearly playing to Hollywood’s increasing interest in spirituality—namely Christianity.
In the movie, Superman (the only begotten son) is sent by his father (who art in Heaven) to Earth to be our savior. When Superman confronts Lois about her winning story, he says that he hears millions of people crying out for a “savior.” When Lex Luthor’s thugs beat up Superman, it was very much in the style of the “Passion of the Christ.” Our “savior” is then stabbed through the side with a piece of Kryptonite, symbolic of the fabled Spear of Destiny, used on Jesus in the Bible. Finally, when Superman pushes Lex’s “island” into space and falls back toward the Earth, he does so in the exact pose of Jesus on the crucifix.
Even though the movie had a lot of Christian symbolism, that does not necessarily mean that this was a Christian movie. In fact, I find it very interesting that when Lois begins work on her new story titled, “Why the World Needs Superman,” she can’t think of a thing to write and ends up leaving the screen blank. Much of the story deals with Superman’s absence and abandonment of Lois, their son, and the world. This is symbolic of God’s direct absence from the world. God seemed to speak directly with so many people 2,000 years ago according to Christianity, yet he only speaks to schizophrenics and our Republican politicians today.
Ms. Kitty asks Lex if he wants to be a God. Lex’s answer is that Gods are selfish beings that fly around in red capes and don’t share their power with mankind. Lex sees this as the problem with Superman, but he doesn’t have a satisfactory solution. All he has to say on the matter is that he would share that power… being sure to take his “cut.” It is that second part of his statement that makes him the villain of the story; but does that necessarily make Superman the hero?
Does the world need a Superman? Yes and no. In the very beginning of the movie, we hear the voice of Superman’s father, Jor-El: “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.” With this statement, Jor-El seems to be opposing the traditional Christian dogma that humans are sinful in nature and at the same time places Superman into the “What Would Jesus Do” philosophy of many Christians. However, the movie isn’t actually about Jesus as all. It is about heroes in general. Superman appears to be the ultimate hero who stands for “Truth, Justice, and all that other stuff.” And in that sense, the world does indeed need a Superman… a hero.
On the other hand, the world does not need a “savior”; sometimes we just need a hero to inspire us and be the light to show the way. This is most represented in the movie by Lois’s fight to quit smoking. When we first see her attempting to light up, Superman blows out her lighter multiple times. By the end of the movie, Lois puts the cigarette in her mouth and stops short of lighting it on her own.
However, the real hero in this movie wasn’t Superman at all. Who was it that came to save Lois and Jason when they were sinking on the ship? Who was it that didn’t let his jealousy cloud his judgment when he turned his plane around to save Mr. All-Powerful? The true message of Superman Returns isn’t that Jesus has returned, but that we don’t need him to be our savior. Richard White, Lois’s boyfriend, was much more of a hero then the Man of Steel. In fact, we are all capable of being heroes. Gods and messiahs are no longer needed in the world, for the children of the Earth have grown up and can now save each other and themselves. The world still cries out for heroes, but we no longer expect them to be selfish beings that fly around in red capes.
- ‘Man of Steel’ Is Not About Jesus (skepticink.com)
- Media fingers wrong ‘Man of Steel’ character in Jesus analogy (skepacabra.wordpress.com)
- The Fear of Fiction (skepticink.com)
- ‘What Is Wrong With The World?’ (skepticink.com)