Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 2

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

Today I want to take up the question that ended yesterday’s post: Is Superman the Übermensch?

As a host of commentators have pointed out, Superman’s conventional morals have never positioned him as the destroyer of societal norms that Nietzsche championed. In Man of Steel, our hero’s forbearance toward his human antagonists make it clear he isn’t about to super-speed beyond good and evil anytime soon. Yet all the loving compassion in Henry Cavill’s baby blues can’t erase the fact that humanity doesn’t want a mangy drifter for a Messiah, or even a clean-scrubbed-but-nondescript farm boy: it wants a demigod.

It’s telling that, in this revision of comic book history, the “S” on his chest actually represents the Kryptonian symbol for hope. Misinterpreting this, the humans dub him Superman. What’s a self-effacing savior to do?

Indeed, the cosmos itself seems hell-bent on forging Kal-El into Nietzsche’s prototype. The collision between Kryptonian biology and Earth’s atmosphere produces Clark’s horrifically heightened sense of perception, such that his childhood memories involve seeing his teacher as a walking skeleton. In his all-encompassing sensorial receptivity, Clark recalls the Overman’s capacity to absorb life’s totality, incorporating Dionysian chaos and Apollonian order into his being without missing a (goose)step. [Read more…]

Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 1

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

We may have taken Jesus out of our schools, but from May to September, you can find him at Regal Cinemas 13.

It’s hard to find a movie from the past few summers that isn’t an HD variation on the Passion, whether we’re dealing with Harry Potter’s death and resurrection, Bruce Wayne’s dalliance with the ultimate sacrifice, or Captain Kirk’s own saintly renunciation. Of late our boy wizards and starship captains have practically surged into battle with WWJD bracelets girdling their well-toned arms.

Into this pantheon of million-dollar Jungian archetypes careens the original Pop Messiah, faster than a speeding bullet. Man of Steel, the latest reinvention of Superman, eschews red underpants while preserving the character’s longstanding Christological subtext, thereby offering Warner Bros. an opportunity to pitch an ad campaign at evangelical pastors.

But closer inspection reveals a more complicated message than the Warner Bros. marketing department may want to admit. Piling still more philosophical and theological significance onto an already over-determined icon, Man of Steel winds up allegorizing Christianity’s agon with both its Classical predecessor and its Nietzschean inversion. By extension, this both aestheticizes and deconstructs America’s national mythology. [Read more…]