The Passion of Clark Kent

Okay, the lens flare here might have been a bit over-dramatic.

Someone is going to get pissed off because of that title, just watch.

There will probably be spoilers for Man of Steel in this post. I warned you.

I’m not the most religious person in the world. I classify myself as a Deist, half because I think it’s a rational view of things and it fits with my own spirituality and half because I’m just really lazy about religion.

But I do know my Bible (won first prize in Bible trivia at my Christian school, 2 years in a row…in elementary school) and while I may not be a Biblical scholar, I do pride myself in recognizing Biblical references a lot more often than your average schmuck in a movie theater. Especially after seeing how little my peers (even the religious ones) knew about Biblical symbolism when reading The Scarlet Letter.

So upon my 3rd viewing of Man of Steel last night, I noticed a few things. (Yes, I’ve seen it 3 times and yes I’m aware it’s only been out for 3.5 days).

Let me start by saying that this is not one of those times that I feel offended by a comparison of a pop culture character to Jesus Christ. When some people do it *cough*Superman Returns*cough* I get a little annoyed because it’s heavy handed and really doesn’t apply, but with Superman: Man of Steel, it’s sort of fitting.

And now that I’m more than 200 words into this post, let’s talk about the actual topic.

There are numerous Biblical references in this movie. The most obvious of which is Jor El sending his only son to Earth, of course his original purpose was not the save mankind, but he does end up uttering the lines “you can save all of them” to Clark, about halfway through the film.  Also as Justin Craig at Fox News pointed out, Kal El had rather a “miraculous” birth himself, being as he was the first “natural  birth” on Krypton in centuries.

Two of the next ones come as a pair if you really want to understand them. When Superman “surrenders” to mankind he references his age of 33 years (Scientist:”You might be carrying some alien pathogen.” Superman:”I’ve been living here for 33 years, I haven’t infected anyone yet.”) which was the number of years that Jesus was supposed to have lived. During that time on Earth, Clark traveled extensively and performed several “miracles” (or “acts of God” as one character calls them). He saves a bus load of school kids when he’s around 12 or 13 years old (I’m approximating, as the movie never states an age), saves men working on an oil rig that is about to explode, and saves Lois Lane’s life, among other things.

Then at the end of that he decides to “surrender” to mankind in order to save them from General Zod.

Sound familiar?

The only thing missing is that he didn’t have his 12 best friends travelling around with him.

Now I approximated Clark’s age when he saved the school bus as about 12. This is partially based on way the actors in the scene look (and the insults they use…”dicksplash” is sort of middle school), but also based on the Biblical symbolism we see throughout the film. It’s at 12 that Jesus finds himself in the temple, talking to priests about his “father” and it is after this “miracle” that Jonathan Kent decides to reveal Clark’s own origins.

One of the final (and most obvious) of the symbolic moments is that prior to Clark’s surrender he visits a church to speak to a priest about his doubts. Behind him is a stained glass window depicting what seems to be Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to his father about his own doubts. The priest tells Clark, who has doubts as to whether the people of Earth can be trusted anymore than Zod can, that “sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first, trust comes later” which helps Clark make his decision to work with mankind, rather than hiding from Zod.

Thankfully that’s about where the symbolism ends. They did not pull a “he’s in a coma for 3 days and then he wakes up!” moment, a la Superman Returns…which was just painful, but the symbolism they do use of Superman being a guiding force for good and a person who, ultimately, is trying to inspire good in people who “stumble and fall” in following him, is the right kind of religious symbolism.

Also, FYI, before you leave me a message saying this was “boring” or “obvious” just be glad that I didn’t get into the political symbolism. That’s another post altogether, thank Superman.


(Yes, I’m aware that someone else has probably written a similar article to this one, but you’d rather read my writing right?)



  1. I would agree with all of this, the Christ/Superman comparisons have been going on for years…but what I think is interesting is this is the first time, at least in film, where I have seen this imagery put as lower than the Christian imagery. While there are parallels, you have Kal-El seeking council from Christianity which intentionally says “I may be like him, but I am not him.”

  2. I am that fifty-year-old gay man who only sets foot in a church if it’s a museum, and yet I have no beef at all with deeply religious people, even Christian fanatics. Hey, it’s a big wide, wonderful world and they make great casseroles…

    Never saw any of the Superman movies (they aren’t musicals) and yet your piece will probably get me into a movie theater for the first time in years. I am an expert in quite a few fields, and yet I am always humbled by scholars of the Bible and Shakespeare.

    So why would anyone gripe about Superman/Christ parallels in the first place, unless we’re talking about jackass liberal nitpicking. To hell with ’em. Art is art and so is making an honest buck. Cecil B. DeMille was right: in terms of entertainment and passion, it still is the “greatest story ever told.”

    I swear, this country needs to get a goddamned grip on itself, and quick.

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