'Man of Steel': Superman as Christ

One wonders what the original creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel,, would have thought of such a thing. As Justin Craig points out in the opening of the column excerpted below, both men were Jewish and created Superman as something closer to a Moses figure who was meant to represent the struggle of Jewish immigrants here in America.

There is some Christ-like imagery planted throughout “Man of Steel.” One blaring symbol occurs during a climactic battle: Superman jumps from General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) ship and hovers in the sky with his arms out-stretched like the crucifix. Freeze-frame it and you can have your own Superman prayer card.

Kal-El says he is 33, a not-too-subtle reference to the same age as Jesus Christ when he was crucified.

The Passion of Superman. Kal-El is more than willing to sacrifice himself to save the people of Earth. Originally reluctant to reveal his identity and powers to the world, Supes decides to turn himself over to Zod to save humanity from annihilation.

When things get tough, Clark Kent seeks advice from a priest. Visible in the background is a large painting of Jesus so you can see Supes and Christ side-by-side. …

And finally, don’t forget the Holy Trinity. Jor-El returns to Kal-El on Earth as a ghost, guiding his budding superhero son on his journey to salvation. Before Jor-El sends his son off to Earth baby Moses-style, he tells his wife that, like Jesus, “He’ll be a god to them.” With Superman’s seemingly invincible powers, he is.

Using the basics of the story -- the ghost of a father, the self-sacrifice -- you could make the claim of a Christ allegory even if that wasn't what the filmmakers meant. But the details listed above are not an accident. In an interview with CNN, Director Zack Snyder eagerly admits to this:

"When we started to examine the Superman mythology, in the most classic sense, I really wanted to press upon the film the 'why' of him, which has been 75 years in the making," Snyder told CNN. "The Christ-like parallels, I didn't make that stuff up. We weren't like, 'Hey, let's add this!' That stuff is there, in the mythology. That is the tried-and-true Superman metaphor. So rather than be snarky and say that doesn't exist, we thought it would be fun to allow that mythology to be woven through."

Snyder starts with the arrival of an infant Kal-El via a miracle birth on his home planet, Krypton. All the other Krypto-babes are genetically engineered, groomed by a process of selection that predetermines their function in society, but Kal-El was made the old-fashioned way, with love.

The disappointing "Superman Returns" (2006) also had a number of references to Christ. I didn't see any of that, though. The wounded disappointment at an anti-American film that portrayed Superman as a metrosexual peeping tom, blinded me to anything else.

 

Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC      


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