Stretching Superman

Father figure: Marlon Brando in 'Superman: The Movie'Jim Emerson directed me to this fascinating article from The Journal of Religion and Film.

The piece is remarkable less for its topic — a comparison of Superman to Jesus Christ — than its approach. In its analysis, the thorough, sometimes smart, and often laughable article uses the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies as its text for the Man of Steel. That’s akin to using the movie The Last Temptation of Christ as the authoritative source on Jesus’ life. It comes across as really lazy, a corner cut to avoid having to read decades of comic books.

The abstract states:

“Holy subtexts abound within the popular cinema. Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1981) were examined as a protracted secular analogue of the Jesus story.”

In fairness, one premise of the article is that director Richard Donner specifically wanted to reference the Christ story in the movies. But this ignores that Donner was merely tapping into motifs that were already firmly established in the comics. When author Anton Karl Kozlovic states that “Kal-El was the son of Jor-El just as Jesus was ‘the Son of God,’” he’s implicitly giving Donner credit for something that’s a narrative given with Superman.

And then the howlers come:

“The Lord once claimed that: ‘I am Alpha and Omega’ ... , and so it is significant that in Superman II, Luthor could only track Superman using his alpha-wave detector.”
“Perry White ... considered Clark Kent to be the fastest typist he had seen in 40 years in the journalism business, and claimed that Clark had a ‘snappy, punchy prose style.’ Yet, we never see any actual professional writing from reporter Clark, let alone Superman. This resonated with the fact that Jesus never left behind any writings directly authored by him (as opposed to many reports about him, and the sayings attributable to him).”
“Christians today usually wear crosses around their necks, a stylised symbol of the Roman instrument of Jesus’ slow and agonising death. Likewise, Superman was slowly being put to death by Lex Luthor when he exposed him to lethal green Kryptonite. A chain with an attached piece of it was placed around his neck as both the cause and sign of Superman’s slow, agonising death.”

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