Welcome to our tenth Lord Snow Presides!
Man, I have got to get my shiney hiney over to the Essex Theater to catch Wonder Woman. If the buzz is anything to go by, it’s one of the best superhero movies made in a dog’s year–and maybe the best one ever, hands down. And it’s about a superhero I’ve liked ever since my childhood. (I still have my official branded Wonder Woman lunchbox with its color-printed thermos.)
But some Christians are unhappy about this movie! I noticed some trends in their reviews–and here they are.
This post is spoiler-free, but some of the links contain spoilers. Please be advised!
The Jesus Juke Reviews.
By far the most popular type of Christian review of Wonder Woman was the Jesus Juke review. Over on Religion News Service we can see a good example of the Jesus Juke in the wild.
The term was coined by the excellent writer of Stuff Christians Like, by the way. “Juking” means to yank a conversation back around to what the speaker thinks is more important–in this case, Jesus–but it’s also a way for the speaker to clearly signal that he or she is sooooo much better than the other folks who are doing all that meaningless chattering about less-important topics. Jesus Juking is meant to make the people hearing the juke feel like they’re shallow asshats for even daring to care about anything that isn’t Jesus.
Here’s how it works: two or more Christians are hanging out together in real life or online and one says something like “Man, I really want a soda right now.” And then the Jesus Juker sanctimoniously says, “I prefer to be refreshed in the Spirit by the love of Jesus!” The first Christian feels shame and rather a lot of annoyance, and the second gets to feel like a super-Christian for having demonstrated that he’s way above having human needs. As an added bonus, nobody’s allowed to call out the Jesus Juker because he’s just one-upped all the rest of them; out-hardcoring everyone else is a big part of what their religion’s really all about (and that tendency gets worse the further right you travel along the religion).
In this case, the review starts out sounding somewhat admiring of the movie and critical of the culture warriors in Christianity who no doubt will be frothing at the mouth over a heroine who is so deeply tied to feminism and paganism, and about the lesbian overtones of Amazons themselves and the view the Amazons have of men as destroyers of all that is good in the world.
But then the writer veers into the weeds by presumptuously insisting that really, everyone who sees Wonder Woman should “behold the gospel, the story of God-Made-Flesh in the talents, skills, and passions of the women who made the film” (and she goes on to include in this “gospel” that can be “beheld” the moviemakers and even the female viewers making the movie so popular).
As far as I can see, there is no Christian “gospel” going on in Wonder Woman, but that sure won’t stop a Christian from insisting that there absolutely must be one there, and from there shoehorning total strangers into that vision to try to elevate the discourse about a superhero movie that is already, from what I can tell, pretty goddamned elevated already.
Nor is this the only place you can find a Christian insisting that Wonder Woman is totally secretly about Jesus; Crosswalk, which isn’t one of the worst religious sites, Jesus Juked its readers by quoting the Love Chapter in the Bible and comparing Wonder Woman to its listed qualities. That one ended by reminding readers to enjoy this “example of the love God has called us to show our neighbor.” (They did like the movie though. Elsewhere they insisted that “If You (and your Daughter) See One Superhero Movie This Decade, See Wonder Woman“.)
The Federalist took a little time out from worshiping Donald Trump and shrieking about feminism, meanwhile, to write a review explicitly outlining what its writer saw as all the parallels between Jesus and Wonder Woman. (One wonders if that writer will ever figure out exactly why the myths about Jesus share so many things in common with tales of other heroes of myth and legend.)
I seriously think that most Christians would catch fire and explode if they found themselves anywhere except at the dead center of every single conversation in the world. But never fear: that is what the Jesus Juke is meant to prevent.
Need to drag that ol’ spotlight back? Gain the dominant position in any discussion? Make your Jesus Aura look super-shiny? Keep your Christian bubble’s walls intact? It’s sooo easy! Just deploy a Jesus Juke!
The Super-Hopeful Evangelist’s Review.
I had to laugh about one of CBN’s reviews of the movie. They liked it a lot, don’t get me wrong–in fact, most Christians seem to have liked it a lot, evangelical or no. But this really just leaped out at me:
One thing is for certain, [Wonder Woman’s] engaging and soon-to-be popular movie will get moviegoers around the world thinking about love and hope and where on earth to find it.
She means Christianity, if you’re wondering. It’s almost quaint to see a Christian assert that Christianity is any kind of font of love or hope, isn’t it? Has she actually talked to or seen any of her tribemates lately? Does she not know that most non-Christians are well aware that if they want love and hope, they sure won’t find it in her religion? (Actually, she might not. That’s one of the facts about non-Christians that fundagelical leaders try to obscure the most.)
So yeah, she seriously thinks that someone will walk out of a theater going Huh, I wonder how I can find the same kind of hope and love that Wonder Woman had in this totally non-Christian movie with her totally non-Christian outlook… I know! That totally misogynistic, inequality-celebrating, ignorance-glorifying, revengelust-addled church down the street!
CBN’s other review went with the most blatant Jesus Juke I’ve seen yet, incidentally. It’s kinda late as I type this and my laughter woke the kittens up. I earned a glare from Botherlet. But what can I do but laugh in response to a Christian who lists all the Bible verses that he thinks describe Wonder Woman in an effort to make her sound totally Christian-compatible?
The Surprisingly Even-Handed Review.
Imagine my surprise to find that one of the most even-handed reviews came from–of all places–The Gospel Coalition blog site. Its author writes,
The superhero stunts are fantastic, but ultimately, for this viewer, they were a sideshow. What’s memorable about this version of Wonder Woman is that women and men both have something to offer for the greater good, and that lifting each other up only makes them stronger.
Yes, this is pure complementarian trash; the bit about “both have something to offer” is a dogwhistle for that doctrine. It’s a sure bet that the writer doesn’t wonder why Christian culture has so much trouble avoiding a worldview that turns men and women into enemies who fight bitterly to the end to gain the upper hand over those of the other side.
But she doesn’t want to fight that battle. She doesn’t see that constant warfare as optimal or divinely-commanded as so many other Christians in her tribe do. She wants to keep the complementarianism and somehow lose the “battle of the sexes” stuff that keeps inevitably erupting in Christian circles. She hasn’t figured out yet that it’s impossible, much less wondered why it’s impossible. So she writes movingly about a story that manages to avoid that fight, and she wishes that her tribe could pull off the same stunt.
Of course, a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ immediately came along to get mad about her yearning, half-spoken vision in the comments there.
I guess you can’t have everything.
What Christians Really Don’t Like About This Movie.
It’s really hard, reading the reviews, for me to avoid coming to the conclusion that what Christians really don’t like about Wonder Woman is that it isn’t an overtly Christian movie at all, but they still loved it.
There’s a certain subset of Christians who see this movie who can’t enjoy it without somehow relating it back to their religious twaddle, and that’s really hard when the story’s about what sure sounds like a Greek demigoddess saving the world. They’re not allowed to like something just because it’s awesome, especially when it’s this dangerously alien to their entire worldview; it has to be tamed through the laborious process of edification.
But that isn’t the entire problem.
Wonder Woman is also stunningly popular despite the fact that it doesn’t deal with Christian themes, apparently has few to no Christian characters that the culture-war crowd would be happy about, doesn’t have any sort of “edifying” elements, and doesn’t appear to give a wet fart if religious people are unhappy about its story.
In short, it doesn’t pander to Christians.
And yet it speaks to Christians just like it is speaking to millions of people around the world.
There aren’t like a ton of complaints about this movie out of them, but of the ones I’ve seen, I detect more than a little taste of sour grapes in their reviews. And no wonder. Wonder Woman is fifty zillion times more popular with the public than anything Christians have ever shat out onto movie reels. It’s also exponential levels above and beyond anything they could have dreamed up. NOBODY is flocking like this to anything Christians are making, and you sure aren’t hearing about schoolchildren reacting in total wonder to any Christian movies. (Horror? Yes. Panic? Fear? Dread? Yes. But wonder? No.)
But its popularity and high quality isn’t the whole picture either.
I mean, Guardians of the Galaxy was both extremely good and it did bangerz numbers and I didn’t notice any rush of Christians comparing Rocket Raccoon to Jesus or hoping that people seeing that movie would come to Christianity through Star-Lord’s heroic journey. But Wonder Woman gets them working in overdrive to somehow corral, sanitize, and rein in its heroine and its story–and to try to turn both to their religion’s benefit.
We’ll revisit this topic sometime later after I’ve actually seen the movie…. but for now, I’ll just laugh again at the idea of someone actually thinking that anybody thinks Christianity is totally where people can find hope and love.
Let Bother glare at me and wonder what I’m doing. Some stuff is just too funny for words.
Gentle Reminder: Please try not to spoiler in the comments, okay? It’s still such a new movie that we all haven’t seen it yet. Be careful about discussing exact plot points. Use the HTML spoiler tag to hide anything you can’t avoid (to do this, you type <spoiler>blah blah blah spoilerrific text</spoiler>, so that someone has to click the spoiler in your comment to see it). Anything in the trailers, interviews, and other such officially-released media is fine 🙂
Lord Snow Presides is an off-topic post so feel free to discuss the topic I brought up here–or talk about whatever else strikes your fancy. Lurkers and newbies are welcome! Our community rules are right up there at the top, called the Rules of Engagement. We don’t care what you believe as long as you’re good to be around.