Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Passion

From Superman is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish American Way by Harry Brod:
By the time we reached the 2006 Superman Returns film that brought Superman back to the big screen after a long hiatus, Superman's de-Jewification had proceeded so far that he was not only the ultimalte all-American, he was even being claimed as a Christ figure. Another nice Jewish boy was being resurrected as a Christian god. The Warner Brothers/DC Comics publicity machine launched a two-pronged campaign before the film's release, one aimed at the usual action-adventure crowd, and the other aimed at conservative Evangelical Christians and flying under the general cultural radar, specifically positioning Superman Returns as the next Christian blockbuster, hoping to cash in on the trend following The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Strictly speaking, of course, casting the Big Blue Boy Scout as a Christ figure would make him more Jewish, not less. But many Christians forget that very thing.

The film's sub rosa marketing as a Christian blockbuster isn't a surprise. To the extent there was a messianic theme, though, it hurt the movie. Superman does indeed seem to be carrying the sins of Mankind in Superman Returns. This doesn't leave him with much chance to enjoy, or be enjoyable. The 1978 Superman knew enough to get out of Christopher Reeve's way and let him be his charming self, which also jibes with him being Superman. Brandon Routh doesn't get the same opportunity, always having to stick to the margins and deny himself. It's a shame, because the one scene - after an airplane rescue - that allows him a little twinkle shows that he's good at it.


susan said...

The only Superman movies we've seen were the ones starring Christopher Reeve back in the days when there was no hint (that I noticed) that Superman was anything other than a great live action version of the comic book hero I loved as a kid. Jewish? Does that mean someone else promoted the view that Wonder Woman was a thinly disguised version of Joan of Arc? I miss all fascinating speculations..

Ben said...

Christopher Reeve was a very charming actor and could make movies watchable even when they weren't very good. His first Superman movie genuinely was good, though.

Brod's not exactly saying that Superman is literally Jewish. It's more a matter of the character being based on Jewish symbolism. Some of the essay is a stretch, but it's an interesting argument.