Why Superman is a Better Jewish Messiah than a Christian Messiah: A Mythic Movie Review of Man of Steel
I got to see Man of Steel just before vacation (I stood atop a Mayan pyramid - about as close to a ziggurat as I'm gonna get, being a Jew, so that was awesome) and now I am ready to comment on it.
Much has been made about the christological spin given the Superman mythology in this movie, and I found much of it quite moving, if somewhat heavy-handed (I'm thinking of the "surrender yourself" come-to-Jesus moment with the priest, where a picture of Jesus is hovering right over his shoulder). It certainly shows how a really, really good myth can be the bearer of many vectors of meaning. The screenwriter(s) foregrounded some nice elements of the Superman mythos that resonate with the Christ story. Good christ-figures fill popular culture, from Klaatu to Gandalf, and only a first-class whinger would complain about bringing together two great western mythic tales ("Chocolate!" "Peanut Butter!" "Wait, they taste great together!").
I must observe, however, that the Man of Steel as the Prince of Peace is, IMHO, an awkward fit. The narrative proves Kal El = Christ to be something of a case of Procrustean bedding (Sorry to throw in a third mythic tradition here). And here's why I think this is so:
For while the plot contrives that Kent must surrender himself for the good of humanity, he neither has to suffer death at the hands of the people he has come to save, nor does he die, crucified or otherwise, by anybody, not even General Zod (Yea, Michael Shannon!), the Prince of Darkness. Indeed, he actively works to escape his fate, and does so successfully. The only two people who willing and successfully sacrifice their lives are his father (the Joseph stand-in) - who does so for the ethically questionable principle that it is better for others to die than for his son to prematurely reveal his true nature - and the Air Force colonel who does, in fact, destroy himself for the sake of saving humanity, but in a way that is more Torpedo Squadron 8 (look it up) than Jesus of Nazareth.
Why am I reviewing this tangential matter? Because of a revealing conversation I had with a campus minister back in the 1970s, in which he declared Superman to be a cunning pop culture avatar of the anti-christ, a pulp-fiction blasphemy meant to mentally prepare mankind for the coming to the real satanic savior, the ubermensch bearing the the "mark of the beast." This preacher, immersed in Christian myth, intuitively detected this "Jewish" cast to Superman, and then deconstructed him through his the prism of his Christian len and, whola, he is revealed to be anti-christ. Or, Superman = Jewish Messiah = anti-christ. My experience of 40 years ago is hardly isolated; see this Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/superman-jesus-figure-or-anti-christ/2013/06/27/3093f5be-df64-11e2-8cf3-35c1113cfcc5_story.html
So while I enjoyed Man of Steel, his ret-con (look it up) as a Christ figure is ultimately a triumph of marketing over innate narrative affinity. Superman is, and remains, more like Menachem ben David, "Comforter, son of David" rather than Christ,
"...eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."
To learn more, look up the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism available at Amazon.http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050/sr=1-1/qid=1159997117/ref=sr_1_1/002-7116669-7231211?ie=UTF8&s=books