Superman Returns: Superhero Still Needed?
Does 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.