[personal profile] wingedbeast
Full disclosure: Though I was raised Methodist, I am an atheist. My opinions about religion in general and Christianity in specific are those of a former believer and current outsider.

That said, this isn't about religion, but about a problem in fiction.

Having been born in '78, my ideas about the most iconic of superheroes were formed in the 80s, with the Super Friends. Flight, heat and x-ray vision, super strength and speed, this was all a part of the basic framework of Superman to me. That and constantly taking battles out of the city in order to avoid collateral damage and people caught in the crossfire.

Some of you already have a clue as to where I'm going with this.

Before we go there, let's go back farther, to the origins of Superman, back to a time when jumping over a tall building was still impressive of Superman. He couldn't fly. The exclamations of jumping over that tall building, being faster than that speeding bullet, and being stronger than that locomotive weren't just exclamations. In a way, they were the limits of his super power.

And, Superman, himself, wasn't just less powerful. He was less worshipped. This wasn't a perfect man and the icon to which all superheroes should kneel. He was an immigrant orphan, raised by American farmers, who wanted to make his home a better place using what he took with him from his place of origin. It's now a joke, but Superman is an immigrant and when he fights for Truth, Justice, and The American Way... that American way is the fact that he was not born of us, but he is one of us.

At least that was the way it was in the beginning. As I said, my first exposure to Superman was in cartoons in the 80s. By that time, he was the first among superheroes and the good guy by definition.

Now, in that time, good guy by definition meant that he would never do the bad guy things. He wouldn't steal. He wouldn't kill. He would save the life of his enemy, because standing by and letting even an enemy die would be the same as killing them oneself.

But, by this time, we're also getting the first set of movies, with Christopher Reeves and with Marlon Brando playing Jorell. "They can be a good people, they wish to be. They only need a light to shine the way." We're into Jesus Mode, now. And, this is a problem.

The problem is that Superman's goodness, up until very recently, hadn't come from his Kryptonian heritage. It wasn't an inborn instinct of just being such a great guy. It was John and Martha Kent that raised young Clark to care about people, about the law, about empathy, and never to respond to a question of letting people die with a "maybe".

This all becomes setup for two movies, Superman Returns and Man of Steel. Both of these movies present a superman that shouldn't be given the credit that the writers give him. In Superman Returns, Superman does return (let's give the movie credit for fulfilling the title's promise), and instantly starts to harassing Lois Lane into carrying back with a relationship that he had abandoned. Oh, and he's framed as being loving and caring for having no relationship at all with his biological offspring, who is being raised by, arguably, a much better man than he is for being there to raise said child.

Man of Steel has deliberate property damage and petty, truck-wrecking revenge. Again, this is framed as stuff the good guy does. Heck, the neck-snapping is less objectionable.

That is the Jesus Problem. And, you can see it in modern depictions of Jesus, too. For a big example, check out Fred Clark's deconstruction of Left Behind. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/tag/left-behind/

The Jesus Problem is that once you identify a character as inherently the good guy, the relation of actions to good guy changes. The thing a good guy needs in order to be a good guy, as it should normally be, is to do the good thing. That, by the way, is a tall order. The good thing isn't easy even with the full range of Kryptonian super powers.

But, the Jesus Problem takes that normal relation and reverses it. The actions are good because the good guy is doing them. Superman is a good example. So is Jack Bower. And, for an amazingly blatant example, look for the unaired Wonder Woman pilot.

Moral perfection is a moral hazard.
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