There are people out there who worship superheroes.
I am not one of them.
But after having watched the new Wonder Woman movie, twice, one could almost…,
Oh, I’ve heard all the rationalizations, the misapplied references to Jungian archetypes, the quotes lifted reverently from Joseph Campbell’s books, the endless suggestions that the gods are merely manifestations of the collective consciousness, and that the superheroes, having achieved iconic status within western culture are every bit as valid a target of our mental energies as any of the “old gods”…,
I’m not buying it.
But if that’s your gig, the writers and marketers are certainly happy to sell it to you.
No, the superheroes are not actual gods, but when handled correctly they do have the power to inspire us, to lift us up from our own troubles, and to free us from the limitations which society and gravity would impose upon us, if only for a little while.
And, for a long time now, Wonder Woman has been my favorite.
Oh sure, I started out pretty firmly in the Superman camp.
I mean, what little boy doesn’t want to discover that he has amazing powers due to his secret alien parentage?
But we grow up a bit, we become angsty, our worldview darkens, and we glom onto the Batman, reveling in his trauma induced war against a bizarre criminal underworld.
Or, anyway, that’s what happened with me.
And I still buy his books, along with those of the Green Lantern and a smattering of other titles.
But it gets expensive pretty quickly.
If you’re one of the popular superheroes, a Superman or a Batman, you’ve probably got a dozen titles with your name or image on the cover, including monthlies, crossovers, and one shots.
Wonder Woman really only has the one title.
They say it has to do with marketing decisions, and the difficulty in writing a female lead who will be interesting and popular among young boys. And sadly, that’s probably a big part of it.
But it’s not just the woman in the title.
The gods are in there too.
And I think that scares the crap out of them.
I love Wonder Woman because, even before they revamped her origin and made her a child of the gods, she was a gift from the gods. Sculpted from clay by her mother the Amazon queen, she was given life by the Olympian gods, and sent to the world of men as an ambassador of peace.
I have always been perplexed that, in a medium where literally ANYTHING is possible, comic book writers almost never treat the gods as actual gods. They are invariably aliens with magic seeming technology, livings in some dimension, removed from our own. Or they are creatures of limited power, created by human thought and belief, languishing in a universe that no longer prostrates itself before them.
The gods are almost never written as actual gods.
Except in Wonder Woman.
For a long time, I thought this must have something to do with the publishing houses not wanting to rankle a largely Christian audience. But I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard any of my Christian friends complaining about the presence of Hera or Apollo in a Wonder Woman comic.
Mostly they just seem put off by the fact that she doesn’t wear pants.
“She’s dressed like a whore,” one of them told me, a few years back.
Yeah, you try to think the best about a person, and then they make an idiot remark like that.
But for a while there, the artists gave us a Wonder Woman in pants. And it looked terrible.
Oh how this new movie must be making their heads spin!
So I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new movie, and for the most part it has exceeded my expectations. But the revelation, in the first few minutes of the movie, that Ares has murdered all of the other gods of Olympus…,
It seems as if the bravery of the comic did not translate so completely to the silver screen.
If the gods are dead, we don’t have to write for them, we don’t have to explain them, we don’t have to be worried that people will be offended by their presence.
Maybe Ares was right, and we don’t deserve them.
But it’s not about what we deserve.
It’s about what we believe.