Superman: the modern Jesus.

Posted: July 2, 2006 in Comics, Movies, Religion

With the recent release of the movie Superman Returns, the supposed messiah theme apparent in the character of Superman has been highlighted quite a bit. Does this theme truly exist? Is it a load of bollocks? Or is Superman really the modern Jesus?

To start with, were there messiah/saviour themes and links within the 2006 Singer movie? Yes, there were a few, including the following (watch out for spoilers!);

  • 060628_tall_superman_208.jpgJor-El sends his only son to act as a guiding force for the people of Earth with the words “They can be a great people, Kal-El, if 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.”
  • Superman states that Earth may not need a saviour yet he hears constant appeals for one.
  • Upon throwing the land mass into space, Superman falls back to Earth in a pose very similar to that of the classic crucifixion (arms out, feet together, knees bent).
  • Superman is near death for what seems to be a couple of days before rising again.
  • Superman gets stabbed in the side, much like a certain religious figure did just before he snuffed it.
  • Kal-El vanishes from Earth for a period of time and no one knows when or if he’ll be back. Five years later, the second coming of Superman happens – bringing apparent salvation to the planet.
  • Clark Kent lives his early years out as a reasonably normal human being, before accepting his other-wordly attributes and attempts to save the world.

So the links are definitely there but do they mean anything? Or more importantly, why are people seeking such links in the first place? As science and reason help in the decline of traditional religious beliefs it could be argued that some people find themselves lacking someone who represents how they could/would/should lead their lives. The mythical figure of Jesus Christ is becoming less important in the everyday lives of ordinary people, almost to the stage where lip service is paid even by self confessed Christians but that’s really about it. People may believe there’s a god but he’s become almost irrelevant to a lot of even those people – for example, ask a random person in the street to name the books of the New Testament (in or out of order) and see how they go. Most people will get a few but probably no more than six of them, let alone in any sort of order. Is this decline a good or bad thing? That’s a subject for another day but numbers do show that religious belief certainly isn’t what it once was.

large-msg-113557003298-2.jpgThe gap could certainly be there so alternatives are sought, alternatives that are more appealing and that have a greater connection to modern society. Turning water into wine isn’t winning any credibility favours simply because a) it seems like bullshit b) it’s not as important as it would have once been. People are far more likely to identify with a mythical, heroic figure performing acts like saving a falling plane or putting out fires simply because those are the disasters that matter today.

So in 1932 a couple of teenagers created the character of Superman (who was then quite different to his modern incarnation) and from his first comic book appearance in 1938 he was championing the cause of the little man – dealing with crooks, corruption and crime faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. Those sort of acts really mesh with what modern age society wishes for on an almost daily basis. Everyone, it could be said, has a little bit of the unlucky Clark Kent in them as well as the wish for the mankind to reach it’s potential that Superman embodies. It’s that potential that should be the goal for each and every person on the planet, what is the point of living out a life if it’s not the life that brings out your best in whatever your chosen fields may be?

The character of Clark Kent is a decent enough figure; he’s kind and considerate to his friends and even to strangers – yet he lacks confidence and is sometimes a bit of a coward. This is a direct opposite to that of his alter-ego, Superman; who certainly does not lack that confidence and pushes himself to the limit to see that Truth and Justice prevail. In many ways Clark Kent is us, the everyday normal members of society, while Superman is an example of what we could be like at our very best – a guide to show us the way to a much better world. Superman is arguable the mythical, iconic figure of the modern age – in the modern society we find ourselves in, you’d most likely have an easier time finding someone on the street who knows the story of the Man of Tomorrow than someone who can properly inform you about the life of well known religious figures.

The world would be a truly remarkable place if we all shared the ideals of the Man of Steel; tirelessly and selflessly always looking out for your fellow man. Of course, Superman isn’t real (then again, biblical Jesus probably wasn’t either) but that is not important since it isn’t the person or the character that is vital; it’s the message and ideals that they embody – and the ideal they represent is the most important one of them all.


Further Reading:

  1. Reg Manzer says:

    You missed one other item from the Superman Jesus connection. Superman is of the house of El. He is Kal-El. Jesus is also of the house of El, his father is El or God in English.
    Another interesting connection.

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