Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 17th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Batman V. Superman = Calvin v. Wesley

Superman: Red Son

Superman: Red Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over on a my facebook wall, someone posted a link to the trailer for Batman V. Superman movie due out next year. Most of you know I am a comic book nerd and I love my superhero movies. I am also a huge fan of the Batman.

In Batman V. Superman, there are supposed to be some callbacks to a Frank Miller storyline wherein Batman returns after years away to find a very different world, one where Superman has become the fascist leader we have always expected him to be. In the end, Batman defeats Superman.

In the middle of all of this, is critical theory and, I think, something to do with Mimesis… a rather natural mimesis where we see motifs replicated in various ways. Because of this, I think I can see in Batman V. Superman various theological points. This is pretty clear in Man of Steel. (Rodney has a four part review up).  So, here are some thoughts on Superman and Batman and how they as characters relate to our Christian theology.

Superman is the symbol that pushes is to a better humanity — but there is an equal danger of having humanity rely upon Superman. If we rely only on Superman, we will grow apathetic. We must take the little bit of order and safety he gives and work to expand it and make it our own. Batman is the reality which we face but there is a danger in accepting this reality as the only worldview. We become cynics and suppose we can impose our vision of justice in the absence of justice. Then we become the villain when we take away the objective system and replace it with a subjective one. Superman’s power is tempered by his refusal to do everything for humanity. In that regard, Superman is rather weak because he is limited. He is, one may suggest, Arminian, whereas Batman is almost Calvinistic because he decides fates. He is almost all powerful, because he will find a way to solve any problem, even if the end is rather extreme. Batman’s limits are challenges to overcome.

The question is rightly raised about whether or not the world still needs Superman (a recurring theme in both the comics and in Superman Returns). I would think so. Even with his powers that are godlike, and almost silly in light of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy not to mention Netflix’s Daredevil, we still need Superman. Why?

Why couldn’t Superman just end it all, take over the planet and restore order? If you have ever read Red Son, then you know why. Because, the human spirit is ended. Superman has become very much the answer, even via pop culture, to the question of why doesn’t God just end evil. Because, we couldn’t then be human. Our human experience would be meaningless. Salvation is meaningless if we aren’t human.

 

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

One Response to “Batman V. Superman = Calvin v. Wesley”
  1. I’m unqualified to talk Frank Miller or Superman canon – regardless, you’ve accurately described the deep field (as usual). You remind me that reading – and comics and graphic novels are extremely relevant especially at times in film form – reading – (which only means layering more symbols into your personal lexicon) this adds to what we’re able to experience in life, it expands the horizons of true experience. Yes, I am definitely saying that all children might do better to read comic books and fairie stories to gain an experience of life. With the withdrawal of education from the humanities… comics, film, and fiction may be the last hope to sneak in some richness.

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