Superman Returns: Superhero Still Needed?

Written by Rusty Wright

supermanreturnsDoes the world still need a superhero?

Watch out, bad guys, as Superman Returns … fighting movie villains, rescuing the imperiled, desiring Lois Lane (now a single mom), saving the world.

The guy is everywhere. Superman’s promotional ties include Burger King, Duracell, got milk?, even a dating website. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has a Superman logo tattooed on his arm.  Archvillain Lex Luthor hacked Superman’s website, linking to his own MySpace.com webpage. Marketers work every angle.

Why has the Superman story remained so popular? What is it about the Man of Steel that captures the public imagination?

In the 1930’s, the Great Depression had the world slumping. Fascist and Nazi menaces haunted Europe. Two Cleveland teenagers dreamed up a hero who would rescue the troubled, inspire hope, and set things right. The story was born.

In the new film, Daily Planet editor Perry White instructs his staff to cover everything they can about Superman’s return. He especially wants to know, “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?”

He does, and that’s one reason Superman’s appeal endures. Some – probably many – want to identify with someone bigger than themselves who embodies what’s honorable, a hero to admire or emulate.

Look, up in the sky!

Lots of people need rescuing these days from crime on the streets and in the boardrooms, troubled relationships, terrorism, war, disease, nuclear threats. Superman has power. He cares for distressed people.

And he’s humble.

Plain, ordinary Clark Kent could be everyhuman. His mild mannered disguise hides phenomenal abilities.  Ever dream of your peers, your foes, or the world glimpsing the real you, the one with more to offer than ever gets appreciated?

My childhood heroes included Superman, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. I wore their costumes as I watched their television programs. Their struggles for good energized my youthful imagination.

Of course, not everyone believes the world needs saving. The new Lois Lane says, “The world doesn’t need a savior; neither do I.”  Superman tells her, “But every day I hear people crying for one.”

Superman’s biological father, Jor-El (voiced by the late Marlon Brando), prepared counsel for his child, Kal-El, whom he launched into space as their planet, Krypton, exploded. Of earthlings: “They can be a great people, Kal-El. 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.”

My only son …

Spiritual parallels have not been lost on media observers. Rolling Stone feels Brando’s words “establish … (Superman) as a Christ figure.”  Jesus, of course, referred to himself as God’s “only Son” sent to rescue the world: “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.”

Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish. “El” is a Hebrew word for “God.” The biblical Moses’ mother hid him in a basket in the Nile River to save his life.

Superman Returns director Bryan Singer, who is Jewish, acknowledges that biblical imagery – both messianic and Mosaic – have influenced the Superman saga. An adopted only child, picked on in youth, Singer says he’s often felt like an outcast.

How does Superman inspire him? “I think most people do believe in that kind of integrity and virtue,” Singer observed in a documentary. “They want to see goodness. People have a deep need to believe that it exists out there.”

Superhero – a real one – still needed.

Anyone out there “still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?”  Anyone qualify as “the Light of the world”?

Light for your world?

Could your world use some light? Maybe you struggle with a broken relationship, perplexity about an important decision, or the disappointment of rejection. Perhaps you can relate to my own story.

In high school I found success through athletics, academics and student government. Our track team was undefeated. I was a scholar and student leader at one of our nation’s leading secondary schools. President John F. Kennedy was an alumnus.

Yet my success had not brought personal satisfaction. I was an introvert, sometimes afraid to introduce myself to a stranger or ask a young woman for a date. Guilt, anxiety and a poor self-image often hindered me from taking risks or from being vulnerable in relationships.

In university, I met some students who seemed filled with love, joy, and enthusiasm. They accepted me as I was. I didn’t have to try to impress them, though they were sharp, attractive, and successful.  Even in dating I didn’t feel the normal pressure to display a macho image.

They said they’d found a personal relationship with Jesus. I couldn’t accept all that. I returned to their meetings because I was curious and – especially – because it was a good place to get a date!

A real friend

My new friends told me that God loved me unconditionally, but that I was separated from him by a condition of alienation called sin. They said that he sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and rise from the grave to offer new life. When I placed my trust in him, they explained, he would enter my life, forgive me, and begin to produce the fulfillment I’d been looking for.

They quoted Jesus as saying, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Just as in the Superman story, Jor-El sent his only son, Kal-El, to rescue the human race, so the biblical God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die in our place. If I had a traffic fine I couldn’t pay, you could pay it for me. Jesus’ death paid for our sins.

Finally, through a simple, silent attitude of my heart, I asked Jesus to forgive me, enter my life, and become my friend. There was no thunder and lightning. Angels didn’t rise in the background singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” and I didn’t become perfect. But gradually, I developed a new inner peace that didn’t fluctuate with circumstances. I found a freedom from guilt and a new purpose for living. I saw my self-image improve and felt freer to take risks, to love others less conditionally.

Life has not become perfect. I’ve had my share of domestic strife, job conflict and minor health issues.  But I know I have a friend who will never leave me. You can know him, too.

What about you?

Would you like to begin a relationship with God? Perhaps you’ll want to express something like this to him right now:

Jesus Christ, I need you. Thanks for dying and rising again for me. I want to accept your free gift of forgiveness. I open the door of my heart and invite you in. Please become my friend. Give me the fulfilling life you promised.

Did you just communicate something like that to God?  If so, I encourage you to click the “Yes” button below. You’ll discover how to get some very useful information – similar to what my friends in university showed me – to help you grow in your new spiritual life.

12 Responses to “Superman Returns: Superhero Still Needed?”

  • […] imagery is not surprising, given the Superman story’s roots and recent film treatments, Superman Returns (2006) and Man of Steel […]

  • Shelley says:

    Interesting article as I responded before my response.

  • Shelley says:

    Dear father God.
    I pray that we choose Jesus as our Saviour and not our super hero of life. I pray that we get down to the basics of the life that He has given to us. in Jesus Mightyname amen

  • […] were reading their biases into the popular tales.  Then I looked deeper; they were right.  Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes.  Man of Steel is full of […]

  • […] were reading their biases into the popular tales.  Then I looked deeper; they were right.  Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes.  Man of Steel is full of […]

  • […] were reading their biases into the popular tales.  Then I looked deeper; they were right.  Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes.  Man of Steel is full of […]

  • […] were reading their biases into the popular tales.  Then I looked deeper; they were right.  Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes.  Man of Steel is full of […]

  • […] were reading their biases into the popular tales.  Then I looked deeper; they were right.  Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes.  Man of Steel is full of […]

  • bubbles says:

    @warren – to think that Superman is more well known than Jesus is naive, and moronic coming from what appears to be a bible knowing person – not to mention the fact that when you compare fictional characters, logic and arguments are only limited by one’s imagination.

    @samuel – i’m glad that spending a few hours watching a dumbed down TV show (targeted at pubescent girls) makes you believe you have an understanding of the mythology of the DC superhero universe, but take my word for this, the show does a horrible job of portraying the character and his humanity.

  • Warren says:

    Hello Samuel,

    the whole point of the article is to give those who don’t know Jesus at point of reference. There are more people with intimate knowledge of who Superman is than those who know Jesus. Even Jesus was human he still had power over the physical (he healed people; Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:28), the natural (he controlled the weather; Mark 4:39) and the metaphysical (he drove out demons; Mark 5:10-15; read minds; Mark 2:8). The scripture you quoted from Matthew 26:40-42 was directed at the disciples who fell asleep instead of praying like Jesus did. He was just as tired but knew the importance of focused prayer. Again, this article is all about pointing someone to Jesus who does not know who He is.
    Thanks

  • samuel says:

    well..in the spot light..the problem i have with this line of reasoning is that too many people believe in fictional characters..its called hero worship..despite the fact that superman is a well known action figure..he’s only a childhood fantasy man..no one has super human strength..even Jesus, the Son Of Man battled with human weakness.. Scripture says, n i quote, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”..superman has a weakness to..she’s called loise lane..worse still..he can’t stand a chance against cryptonite..if i watch Small vile..notice how he reacts to the red cryptonite..it makes him evil..a super villain..imagine living in a world where men had unstoppable fury!!! how about the green one?? sucks the energy out of him!! now..what do you think of superman?? if the man of steal has weaknesses after all..why would you want him for a hero?? real heroes know the limit of their powers.. real heroes need no alter egos..why should superman hide behind the mask of Clark Kent?? real heroes lay down their lives for those the love and those who hate them..there is only one man who fits this description..he’s name is the Son of Man..a great hymnal goes,”looking unto Jesus, who is gone before” only the Son of Man can set the captives free.. can superman die on the cross and rise up in victory?? be careful who u choose to call a hero!!!

  • […] Superman Returns: Superhero Still Needed? by Rusty Wright Lots of people need rescuing these days from crime on the streets and in the boardrooms, troubled relationships, terrorism, war, disease, nuclear threats. Superman has power. He cares for distressed people. […]

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