Last night I attended a press screening of the latest installment of the Superman franchise, “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder and produced by "Batman" director Christopher Nolan.
An avid comic book fan, I expected one of two portrayals of Superman.
Jewish or Jesus.
There’s been a fair amount of discourse on whether the superhero created by two Jews in the late 30s was in fact a Jew. He’s an immigrant, he an outcast, he’s a golem, etc. It’s no surprise that Jews love to call Superman Jewish. (You can read more about that theory here, here or here.)
Then there’s the notion that Superman is Jesus, which tends to eclipse the character’s similarities to Jewish immigrants of the 30s. The 2006 film, "Superman Returns" (directed by Bryan Singer) depicted the man in blue as a godlike savior, sacrificing himself for the good people of Metropolis. The audience is even treated to that classic snapshot of Superman in the clouds, like an angel in heaven…or something cheesy like that.
So how does Superman fare, religiously, in “Man of Steel?"
Well he’s not Jewish…that’s for sure. In fact, he’s as non-Jewish as the Pope is Catholic.
And here are the top six reasons why. [WARNING: Spoilers ahead]
1) Holy Trinity. There’s a strong father-son theme in this movie between Superman (Henry Cavill) and his human father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner). Throughout the film, repeated flashbacks recall this relationship, establishing context for Superman’s morality. Later, Superman is introduced to the holographic consciousness of his biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe). In this incarnation, Jor-El offers guidance and a sense of clarity to Superman (known by his Krypton name, Kal-El). It’s even hinted that Jor-El is like a ghost. So here we have it, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
2) Superman goes to church, seriously. In a moment of uncertainty, Clark Kent finds himself in church seeking advice from a minister. Furthermore, you can see a stained glass Jesus in the background of a close-up on Clark. Real subtle.
3) Superman is willing to die for our sins. In the film, General Zod (Michael Shannon) requests that the people of Earth deliver Superman in exchange for not destroying the planet (Seems legit). Superman, of course, turns himself in. Such a mensch.
4) Superman LOVES to pose like Jesus. There’s a scene where Superman leaps from a spaceship outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Instead of taking a confident nosedive or cannonball, he falls backwards from the ship with his arms extended, mimicking a “cross.” I’d say it’s a coincidence, but this poses happens twice (at least).
5) Immaculate conception. Or rather…the only conception. In this story, Superman is actually the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries. Other babies are born via some Kryptonian harvest that grows infants out of pods. (It’s like “The Matrix” meets “Children of Men.”) Why don’t Krypton women give birth anymore? Probably because Krypton’s Sunday morning farmer’s market has the freshest babies in town. That…or Jor-El forgot to buy Kryptonite-coated condoms.
6) Superman is 33 and unmarried. If he were Jewish, his mom would be ALL over that.
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