Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Movies Do Christians Want? Part VI - Super Hero Movies

In continuing the multi part series about trying to understand the Christian film market, particularly after the success of film like the Passion of the Christ, there has been a continued effort and awareness of the Christian demographic in film promotion and marketing.

People of the Christian faith obviously see a variety of films in the theater. Some, more conservative Christians might swear off the film industry all together, while other Christians may be more selective in the film choices.

But when it comes to a genre of film that captures the attention of a large sector of the Christian film going public it is the superhero movie.

Some might wonder why Christians are interested in this type of movie claiming that Superhero films are a form of idol worship, or perhaps superhero abilities acquired by extraterrestrial incidents or evolutionary mutation might not neatly fit into Christian theology.

Characteristics of many Superhero movies that connect with Christian film audiences:

1. Good & Evil. They often deal with clear lines of morality. There are good guys and bad guys. It's a black and white world that escapes ideas of plurarily and relativism that are common themes in many films and stories.

2. Flawed but God Wins Out. Even if the superhero has some personal flaws, his opportunity to choose goodness and virtue connects with a Christian film audience.

3. Evil Is Ugly. Sure some evil characters might have some seductive appearances (Cat Woman comes to mind) but generally the bad guys are always ugly, whether it's Doc Ock, Scarecrow, The Joker, Sabertooth), while the heroes are usually attractive and lack these external flaws.

3. Free-Will. Most heroes have the option to fight for the good guy or the bad guy, and as audience we always see the benefit of being on the good guys team, regardless of what temporal joys, freedoms, and opportunities the evil team might offer.

4. Relatively Family-Friendly with Good Fight Scenes. Most superhero films might be a little dark, have weapons, and fight scenes, but general Christian audiences seem less concerned with violence* than they do with sex, nudity, profanity. The expectations for the most recent super-hero movies are pretty clear in terms of content, perhaps that only added to the surprise that many viewers discovered when they went to see Watchmen opening weekend.

5. Characters with Secret Identities: While some Christians demonstrate their faith regularly my carrying their bibles, wearing their necklaces, and wearing the religious message T-shirts, many Christians are more reserved and timid about revealing their very real and active faith, and they might easily connect the film characters desire to do good and do something about it, with their own secret identity as a Christian.

6. Christ-figures. While some superheroes connect to a call for Christ-like-humanity, sometimes Superheroes can also have a perfect Christ-likeness. This is particularly true for Superman, who's almost-immortality makes him have a Christ-figure status.

There are probably even more reasons than the one's that I've listed, but in conclusion of this post, I will leave you with some interpretable quotes that could be and surely have been used in a Christian context.

Some Interpretable Quotes From Recent Superhero Movies
  • "Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility." - Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
  • "Uncle Ben meant the world to us. But he wouldn't want us living one second with revenge in our hearts. It's like a poison. It can-- It can take you over. Before you know it, turn us into something ugly. " - Aunt May, Spider-Man 3
  • "Well, you start by doing the hardest thing: You forgive yourself. I believe in you, Peter. You're a good person. And I know you'll find a way to put it right." - Aunt May, Spider-Man 3
  • "Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It's the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what's right." - Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3
    "When an individual acquires great power, the use or misuse of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good? Or will it be used for personal or for destructive ends? Now this is a question we must all ask ourselves." Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men: The Last Stand
  • "Thank you for saving me." [Stark] "Don't waste your life." [Yinsen] - Tony Stark and the dying Yinsen, Iron Man
  • "You will travel far, my little Kal-El, but we will never leave you-even in the face of our deaths. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father. And the father, the son." Jor-El, Superman Returns
  • "Its not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

*Examples of films with violence that are favorites among Christian audiences: Passion of The Christ, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings trilogy , Saving Private Ryan

* In Part I I began a response to the Entertainment Weekly article about movie studios looking for ways to market to the Christian audience
* In Part II I looked at the last 10 years and see how this sub genre is developing.
* In
Part III we looked at two Christian motivations for this film genre: insulation and influence.
* In
Part IV we discussed the sub-genre of Prairie-Christian film/tv, and the established tradition of this "encouraging" and "family friendly" genre, and it's lack of transferability to the theatrical screen.
* In
Part V we pondered if there really is such a thing as "Christian movies" and if Christians really like those that are labeled as "Christian Movies"


meg said...

Ah the superhero, we've all seen Jesus as the greatest one of all, so why not go support the lesser of these?

Karen said...

Superhero movies are pretty awesome. You made some good points.

crackers and cheese said...

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

I always thought Uncle Ben was sorta paraphrasing this verse.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Man on Fire.

Anonymous said...