I saw this film with my kids the other night, and I absolutely loved it. There’s so many things about it to discuss… but, I wrote about it on my parenting/media blog.
So, my kids and I love comic book movies. We love superheroes. We love the genre and imaginative fascination of it all. It’s simply great fun.
But, there’s more to it than this.
I’ve written before on how desperately our children need meaning in EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO. And I stand by that. Mere entertainment, on a daily basis, is like having pizza for every meal. It’s fun and just fine now and then, but as a steady diet, they won’t ever want the deeper, higher nutrient things.
No matter the budget of a movie, indie film or blockbuster, movies have immense cultural implications. The form is self perpetuating. We buy the neat new movie, they make new ones because we bought the last one, and in the midst of it, some of those writers grab hold of the pulse of our culture and they sell far more tickets because it touched our hearts, and, for that two hours, we had some amazing and tangible metaphor to grab hold of and take solace within or vent frustrations throughout.
Superhero stories are wrought with backbone and metaphor. The reality is, they’re filled with metaphor whether their creators like it or not.
Just as vampire movies, as they become increasingly shallow and sexual are a caricature of themselves: the immortal, insatiable quest for satisfaction in the flesh… leaching blood (life) from the veins of victims. It’s a metaphor for life without God. You can’t dress it up and make it different… it just is. The art reflects the truth.
But on the positive side, right now we’re in a golden age of superhero stories that are both being cranked out and driven by creativity and greed. It’s funny… on one hand, you’ve got the movie companies wanting to make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with business, providing jobs and living wages for countless individuals. (did you know that the upcoming batman/superman movies are offering thousands and thousands of steady jobs to out of work folk in Michigan? Yeah, it’s worth noting) Some actors get paid wayyyy too much. I have no comment… they’ll have to account for themselves.
But the other side of this, that truly makes it a golden age of superhero cinema is that the bar is now set very, very high. Marvel Studios alone has truly set a standard for the craft that grabs the heart, is entertaining, and remains clean enough for the family to enjoy it together. (whether it will stay that way remains to be seen) But Marvel, as well as others are beginning to bring in more and more “little-guy” indie film-makers to make massive budget flicks.
Yes, they’re grabbing the small time artist and giving him a lot of cash and saying, “Make something seriously fun with a lot of heart!” I love it. We’re seeing more and more attention being given to the heart and soul of stories like this than ever before.
So, is this a big deal? Is it imperative to teach our kids?
I think it’s a big deal to teach our kids to dig in and connect their emotions, heart and conscience. Entertainment is great, but constant entertainment teaches our children to compartmentalize their lives. “We have thinking time and we have dumb time where we check out our brains”
This is a bad habit. Don’t teach your kids this habit. Have you taught them this? Then lets un-school them and get them thinking differently. (maybe you’ll unlearn it too!)
So, we’re going to grab a select amount of superhero stories and dissect the art and heart behind them. Many of these are the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Very seldom have these two just made up a character without emotional or social intent. They create with purpose.
So… here’s the rules for our venture: Before we watch a flick we look up and learn why and how that character was created, what incarnations has it taken over the years, and how did it end up on our screen now. We watch, stop, discuss, think about what we’re seeing.
Then we ask the questions. Was this a faithful telling? Did the authors/directors expound and expand the heart of the story, or did they rob it of its meaning and just try and make a buck? What did we walk away with from this story.
Honestly, we’ve never, ever had these conversations in our house without it transitioning into time with God and the scriptures. It always goes there.
It’d be fun if others were joining along with us. And this won’t stop with just the superhero stories, we’ll be interjecting in other works of animation and beauty as well.
We’ll hope to be sharing it with you along the way!
I’ll be the first to admit that I love a well written comic book story, let alone my blatant adoration for the fun escapism of comic book movies. They’re a blast, and typically, they have loads to talk to the kids about.
I believe in using stories and well crafted mythologies to illustrate our walk and struggles with out God. This is a great tool, and honestly, it’s been used since the dawn of time. We, however, get the benefit of seeing it on TV and big screens.
But Warner Brothers has crossed the line for me with their new film, Man of Steel.
Have I seen it? No. Will I? Probably not anytime soon. I’ll wait for the redbox and watch it sometime later. I’m not blowing $50 on this flick.
That’s why. Go ahead, click the link. Then come back… I want to tell you how I’m going to use Man of Steel to teach my kids about Christ.
I read an interesting and informative article on TwitchFilm, which I won’t link to for the fact that it’s incredible explicit in it’s language content. But regardless, the article detailed the origins of the Superman mythos. To sum; he was created by two high school Jewish immigrants during Hitler’s rise to power. They dubbed him the Übermensch, inspired by the ideas of Nietzsche. He was the ideal to come forward in the absence of God. God is dead, and we need a hero. We need a Goliath to fight for us. But this Goliath would have a mild mannered persona by day, hiding among us, by night, fighting the fight for justice and dealing with evil.
Such a wish, as you could imagine, was a balm in light of their struggles as a people. I cannot blame them. Elie Weisel put forth similar thoughts when he spoke of how God died as he saw the boy hung. It’s horrible, and in no way am I trivializing this fact. But the reality is that Superman was not meant in any way to be a Christ figure, but more of an opposing figure in the absence of God… God won’t back us up, so we we’ll do it ourselves.
But in our new movie here, we have a massive media corporation doing what they do best. I know, I know… movies are meant to sell. The only reason that they give artists the money to make these huge, cool things is to make more money. It’s the dollar. I get it. But here we have something that Christians should feel offended by. There’s a weakness this movie company is blatantly exploiting. We’re being played for fools here, because we don’t know what our Lord looks like anymore.
Seriously, we should be offended by this load of nonsense. Superman has, over the years, morphed into Christian culture… he’s taken on the poses and people make the goofy parallels. Here, with Man of Steel, Warner Brothers is pushing these comparisons to a completely new depth by launching the website that I linked to above. If you didn’t go, what is is a site for pastoral resources so that pastors and parents can teach their kids about Jesus by taking the kids to see the movie. Pastors can preach from these notes, put out by Warner Brothers, preach about how Jesus was the first “superman” and all that.
But none of this is what you should be offended by. Really? No… not one bit.
The offense lies in what we have allowed to happen to our picture of Christ. You see, this article I read on TwitchFilm also spoke of another film. It’s called “This Is The End.” The film is an exposition on what might happen to Jews after the rapture if the whole Evangelical idea of the rapture that’s come about in the last few hundred years is true. The answer, they’ll be graphically and explicitly abused and tortured by Satan.
Now, this movie is a comedy. And the whole point of it is that there’s some ideas Christians have that are nonsensical and ignore scriptures through and through… for example, many so-called “believers” don’t realize just how much John, in 1st John states that it’s what we do that shows that we’re sons and daughters of God. It’s right there… read it. And this movie also goes on to talk about the same thing, that being a jerk to each other is a bad way to live. That’s decent sentiment.
What does our Man of Steel teach us. Kick the living snot out of your enemies.
Superman is Goliath. He is the mighty warrior. He is the Christ in armor hanging on the rich walls of cathedrals that St. Francis was appalled by and caused him to strip naked and leave it all behind. Why? Because that Jesus didn’t know the real Jesus.
Behold, our king comes riding a donkey. Meek and mild.
“…he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man;
his form was so marred he no longer looked human
so now he will startle many nations…”
“…he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention
no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
He was despised and rejected by people,
one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness;
people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.
but he lifted up our illnesses,
he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,
crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well…”
We could go on and on. The picture that the Gospels paint of our Lord, as well, certainly don’t show the chiseled Goliath that is Clark Kent.
Christians, don’t let them come in our doors with their lies. Look at your savior. He takes the victory by opening his arms and absorbing the blows to the point of death. We’ve got a messed up picture of what actually wins.
This is so upside down that we shouldn’t need to even explain it. Put Christ back in our churches. He was no Superman, in fact, he would have been annihilated. He put down Peter’s sword. He showed us a much different way that Kal-El and Warner Bros have to offer us.
Christians, be offended that you’ve let the real Christ escape your view so much that you fall for this.
So, go see Man of Steel. Have fun teaching your kids exactly what Christ doesn’t look like. Show them the Gospels. Compare the teachings of the early church to the behavior presented in Man of Steel. How did Christ deal with evil vs. how does Kal-El deal with evil?
Hmmmm…. maybe I will take my kids to see it. Could be fun.
But people, be the real body of Christ. The world needs to see a Jesus that doesn’t kick the ever-living crud out of things.
So, I’m finishing the holiday with my family and household watching the third season of The Last Airbender series. I know, it doesn’t sound festive, but we’re loving it. It’s 1130 at night, the kids are wide awake, and this story is seriously addicting.
If you’re not familiar, it’s a kids show, geared to the 8-13 crowd, about a fantasy world. There’s 4 nations, each with an element; earth, air, fire and water. The fire nation is trying to take over the world.
Each generation there is a leader called the Avatar. He bridges the gap between the spirit world and the physical, and his job is to keep balance and harmony among the people.
The show fairly consistently explores a lot of Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu… and whether the creators meant to or not, Christian themes. One of the underlying ones is passivity verses action… detachment/enlightenment verses being attached, and emotional, and fighting for what’s good. *** (see below to understand what I meant there)
Well, we’re watching an episode called ‘The Painted Lady,’ where our heroes are trudging along on a tight schedule to defeat the fire lord before he kills everyone but his own kind. (very hitler-esque)
They’ve got a lot to do in a very short amount of time. But on their way, they come across this river village who’s been totally oppressed and run down by a factory just up river. Their water is so polluted that they’re all malnourished and dying.
Katara, the main heroine of the story takes pity on them. Her heart breaks and she wants to help. But everyone else wants to keep moving. They’re “…working for the greater good” they all say. They’re trying to take on the big problem, and they don’t have time to worry about each little village they come across that’s in pain.
Katara simply can’t hack this. She sneaks off at night and steals food from said factory and delivers the food in secret to the villagers.
Now, the villagers, not knowing who has done this, decide that their tribal deity, The Painted Lady, has helped them in their distress. Katara finds out, and takes on the persona. And the story unfolds.
Eventually everyone finds out the truth, her friends have mixed reactions. Some are furious that she would jeopardize their trip to do her own thing. Others join in right off, seeing that it’s probably a good thing to help these poor folk. They need hope, and they’ve got hope to give.
In the end, she triumphs. But she receives some reassurance that she had done the right thing. The real painted lady comes to her in secret to thank her for liberating her people, and her as well.
Now, this post isn’t about the Avatar series… it’s about a concept within it.
We can get going on the big things. We can be set on the ‘greater good’ that we’ve got to do. Basically, we can get serious tunnel vision, and miss the people who may need us right under our own noses.
I suppose that we can all find ourselves in this situation, where you have to actually fight to do what’s good.
In doing good, real and actual good, there is seldom smooth sailing. This story is a great picture of that. As Katara’s friends confront her about her lack of concern for the greater picture, she get’s in his face and says, “I will always help people who need me!” And she makes her stand.
We have a thought we try to teach each other here in our village, that ‘the people are more important.’
It’s a big deal. A very very big deal.
There is no issue, doctrine, agenda… nothing higher than loving people. Sometimes to help them means to give a buck or two. Sometimes to listen and give them a safe place to freak out. Sometimes it means giving a word that they absolutely don’t want to hear.
Katara, in the story above, was willing to set aside their whole agenda to help a handful of people.
I know, I know… it’s a cartoon. But I don’t care.
I think that there’s things that God just really likes. And taking time out of our agenda, the big picture, to love on someone, has got to be at the top of the list. You know, that whole thing in Matthew 25 that He talked about. Oh, and then there’s that description Isaiah gave of what real religion is, to care for the widows and orphans and such.
I think it’s on God’s heart. And that makes me think that I need to ask Him to put it on mine far more often.
“God, please give us eyes to see need around us.
Give us the grace to step out of our selfish will and be the answers to other people’s prayers.
God… help us be like you.”
****Regarding the religions explored in the above mentioned series, for those who are squeemish and too religious to take a look, I really think you oughta. It’s pretty neat the conclusions that they draw and the outcome of the entire story.
There’s a good reason that in every single ‘religion’ you can find amazing stories of amazing people who have risen above, and led the way in compassion and expressing God’s heart for taking care of the hurting in the world, and throwing off the chains of oppression.
The whole point of the Avatar series is that Aang is faced with the weight of the world. At one point, he has the opportunity to become enlightened… detached and free, and spiritual energy could flow through him. But Aang, our hero in this story, chooses to remain attached. He chooses to remain with the weight of love and so forth on his shoulders.
He cannot simply separate himself. His life is for the people, (as is ours) and he will not disconnect. At first, this appears a mistake, but in the end, we find it to be his greatest strength.
And just a side, that I don’t feel like turning into an entire post on it’s own; if you’re a Christian, you’re not to be part of a religion, you’re to be part of Christ. So don’t be afraid to grab hold of the teachings of others. You’ve got a good measure to hold them up to. We have nothing to fear in hearing out what people out there exploring life, love and faith have to say.
For example, I believe that the Avatar series is a sweet and precious gem in culture filled with nastiness. It’s amazing that a company like MTV, who owns Nick, allowed them to make something so deep and rich, with great moral aim. (the creators thought so too) The show is genuinely deep, with every episode leaving me with something to talk with my kids about.
Now and then it’s a little more romantic than I’d like for my kids, but other than that, (and only that) we love this one, and will enjoy it for years to come.
Anyhoo… that’s my two cents.