|Posted by Ratin8tor on September 13, 2012 at 4:20 PM|
Hello and Welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now I admit I've already written about why Captain America would be the best superhero Jesus, and how pretending Batman was is a laughable idea. But then my Theology essay reared it's ugly head and suddenly I got thinking: Could the Dark Knight and the Crown Prince of Crime be good interpretations of Jesus and the Devil?
And yes, I know it may seem lazy that I'm posting the first draft of my essay here, but it says I need 60% print resources to pass. And since comic books are a print resource (despite the fact that one of my tutors doesn't think they are for some bizarre reason), I need to find loads for them in order to justify using movies and online material. Since people on this site are generally far more intelligent then me, they'd probably know some good examples of comics that give evidence of my claim (that and they can tell me if my random idea actually makes any sense). Without further ado let us delve deeply into the subject (well, as deep as you can go in only 1500 words).
Q)Choose a Biblical character or character group and discuss the way this character or group is presented within a Biblical text or book, and how it is interpreted and portrayed within popular culture.
If there is one culture that dominates over New Zealand, it is the Western culture of superheroes and other American ideals. A good example of the dominance of the culture is the popularity of Batman1, who has appeared in wide variety of multimedia sources. Most significantly, he is one of the longest running fictional characters within the printed world of superhero comics. However is there truth to the idea that he is a modern day interpretation of Jesus? Furthermore is the Joker2 the modern day interpretation of the Devil, with the interactions between the two of them reflecting the characters in the Bible?
Batman made a vow after his parents are shot in an alleyway by a mugger: “And I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.”3 This begins Bruce Wayne's life-long crusade to bring criminals to justice. Jesus says something similar, saying he is here to save those that would have sinned (Luke 19:10 NIV)4. Or, to put it another way, to stop criminals from being punished for their sins in hell; and instead repenting and finding the true path. So both Batman and Jesus have goals that are in some ways similar. They both want to stop crime from happening, whether through punishment or from saving them. Another similarity to Jesus is that both Bruce Wayne and Batman have died for the sins of others. Jesus died on the cross so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV). Jesus' sacrifice was so people could be saved after their death and go to Heaven. Bruce Wayne 'dies' for the opposite reason, to save people from dying. He gives up the chance of having a normal life in order to protect Gotham citizens from being killed by various supervillians. Following from that, Batman also 'died' to save everyone when he shoots the supervillian Darkseid to stop him taking over the world.5 But not only have both of these characters have died to help others, they have both come back to life (Batman in the mini-series The Return of Bruce Wayne6 and Jesus in Mark 16, NIV). A third way that Batman is like Jesus is how he has power over death. When Jesus' dies he travels down to Hell to free the pure from torment, latter claiming to 'hold the keys of death and Hades' (Revelation 1:17). Batman has the power over death since he has the ability to save the lives of those caught in the villains clutches. While he does not have complete control over death, his skills and abilities allow him to give life to those that would have otherwise lost it without his intervention. So Batman can be classed as a modern interpretation of Jesus for a number of reasons.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime. Here is a character that enjoys causing as much death and destruction as possible. His story also shares parallels with the story of Satan in the Bible. Firstly the Serpent taunts Eve with the forbidden fruit of knowledge (Genesis 3:1-6 NIV). However by doing so she incurs God's wrath and is banished into a lifetime of pain and misery (Genesis 3:11-12, 16, 23 NIV). The Joker does the same thing when he tempts Dr Harleen Quinzel with the knowledge of his past and how he became the monster he is. However she falls for his temptations and gets caught up in his snare, becoming his lover and the supervillian Harley Quinn7. Another way the Joker is similar to Satan is in relation to the story of Job (Book of Job 1:1-42:17). Satan and God make a wager that Satan could make Job renounce God by destroying the man's life (from razing his cattle and servants to killing his family and ruining his possessions). The Joker has done many similar unspeakable crimes to Commissioner Gordon. The Joker has killed Gordon's second wife8, nearly killed Gordon through poisoning him with Joker venom9 (Joker Venom is a powerful venom that gives its victims the appearance of the Joker's face as they literally laugh to death) and shot his daughter (Barbara Gordon), paralysing her for life10. Furthermore he kidnaps the Commissioner and, in the hopes of driving him insane, shows him pictures of his bleeding daughter in various states of undress11. All this was in an attempt to get him to give up on his sanity and the justice system, similar to how Satan wants Job to give up on his faith of God. However both characters stay true to their beliefs, despite the powerful forces trying to crush them down. A third way the Joker is the modern representation of Satan is the way both characters ultimate goal is to corrupt people into sin. Satan is described as a 'roaring lion looking for someone to devour' (1 Peter 5:8, NIV), meaning he is trying to take those that are sinful. The only way to stand against him is not to give into the enticements he offers. A similar thing exists with the Joker, since getting close to him often ends with death and despair. The graphic novel Joker12 is about a young man, Jonny Frost, befriending the Joker after he is let out of Arkham Asylum. As the novel goes on, Jonny gets more and more into sin as he finds just how evil the Joker really is. It ends with Jonny committing suicide after the Joker, using him as a meat shield against Batman, shoots Jonny without a second thought. The novel provides a good example of how getting too close to the Joker can wind up leading down an unchangeable path of sin, the same path that Satan makes people walk down. Overall there are many similarities to that of Satan and the Joker.
In the Bible, Satan and Jesus have one major encounter that help characterise both of these powerful beings, where Satan gives Jesus three trials (Matthew 4:1-11). The first is for the hungry Jesus (who has been feasting for forty days) to turn the stones into bread to feed himself. However Jesus argues that the word of God is more important. A modern example of this can be seen when Batman is tempted to kill the Joker to get revenge. The Joker has killed many people that Batman had loved (the second Robin Jason Todd13 and his old childhood friend Thomas Elliot14) as well as crippled others physically (former Batgirl Barbara Gordon was left in a wheelchair after he shot her) and mentally (killing Batman daily when he gained God-liked powers15). Like Jesus, Batman is tempted to use his powers to kill the Joker off to get some sort of revenge for what has happened, coming dangerously close to doing so in the storyline Hush. However he still believes in Justice, the same way that Jesus still believes in God, allowing him to gain control over his temptations. The second temptation is that Jesus should jump off the cliff and let the angels catch him, to prove that he is the son of God. However Jesus is wise enough to know that one should not tempt God, so he does not comply. Batman is offered a similar proposition by the Joker: if Batman kills him, he will no longer be able to threaten the citizens of Gotham. While Batman is indeed tempted by this offer, he knows that it will prove the Joker right and make Batman seem like a monster. Because of this, Batman knows that he could not kill the Joker without violating the very thing he stands for. Finally Satan offers Jesus all of the lands if he were to bow to him, to which Jesus angrily rejects. The Joker's purpose is to make Batman corrupted, to become a freak just like the Joker. He claims that they are two similar people who have had 'one bad day' and all he wants is for Batman to just admit that he is insane16. However Batman refuses to give into the Joker's torment; and overcomes it. So the story of Jesus and Satan meeting draw strong comparisons between that of Batman and the Joker, strengthening the argument that they are a modern day interpretation of the Biblical characters.
Batman is a popular fictional character who has been in print for the last 72 years, impacting a lot onto the Western culture. He is also a good representation of a modern day Jesus; and finds his own version of Lucifer in the Joker. These two characters have helped portrayed the ideas and characters found in the Bible in a more modern pop culture setting.
Categories: In Too Deep