Wonder Woman a social commentary

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I finally got my act together and went to see the long awaited and much anticipated film, Wonder Woman.

The DC franchise is my favourite. ‘Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice’ raised the bar, it was superb and had several philosophical and theological themes under the narrative that I discuss in more detail in the link above (for those that are interested).

I think I am the last person in the world to have seen Wonder Woman, so a “spoiler alert” is probably not necessary.

Wonder Woman (played by the phenomenal Gal Gadot), is Diana, princess of the Amazons, who lived a privileged and protected life on a tropical island created by Zeus, where despite (her mother) the queens restraint, trained to be an unconquerable warrior.

An American pilot (Captain Kirk – Chris Pine) crashed into this closed ecosystem by chance whilst escaping from ‘ze Germans’. He then informs Diana of World War 1. Convinced that Ares god of war is behind the atrocity, she feels it is her destiny to stop the threat. Diana leaves her home for the first time, fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, where she finally discovers her full potential and true destiny as the “god killer”.

David Thewlis is one of my favourite actors and I was surprised to see him in the film. Knowing his type cast, it sadly made the “twist” predictable. He played the aging freedom fighting politician and supporter of Wonder Women’s crusade – but he turns out to be…….you guessed it!

The film was excellent, but I did leave disappointed as the obvious plot made it somewhat slow. (It still gets a 9.5/10).

There were some idiosyncratic moments where Wonder Women questions the American pilot during a bathing scene on how “men are governed by such a little thing” referring to his watch and of course the obvious “no-man’s land” triumph. But there was a more profound theme (outside of the justifiable women’s lib comments) that I would like to discuss.

The film is about Wonder Women’s personal journey to find out her destiny. She embarks leaving the protection of the island to save mankind from evil (echoes of Christ’s condescension). Wonder Woman fights in a ruthless war alongside a band of misfits (an Apache Indian an Arab and a Scott) and learns about the reality of evil. To her surprise it does not simply come from a single source (Ares god of war) but is innate to every single human being. (Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10).

Wonder Woman quickly learns the tragedy of the human condition. Those fighting against the evil of ‘ze Germans’ are also the very same people that were committing awful genocide to the Apache’s kin. She witnesses geopolitical effects of evil in the gassing of a town and the ramifications of evil to self, in the deceit of Sameer (Arab) and the social problems of Charlie (the Scott).

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Throughout the journey Wonder Women witnesses the total depravity of mankind, but during this turmoil experiences love from the pilot, charity from the Apache, sacrifice from Sameer and a chorus from Charlie. She learns that these uniquely human qualities are worth saving despite our innate evil. This realisation drives her on to battle Ares, who takes the opposing view that creation would be far better off without the human race. Wonder Women wins the battle, but the fight for evil continues!

As a viewer I was bought in (momentarily) to Wonder Woman’s naive view of evil and faced the same dichotomy shared by all humanity. That evil is not simply from a single source but innate to every human being, even the best of us.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn puts this innate sickness of man perfectly in his book the Gulag Archipelago.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

The film reminds us of the truth of our total depravity which contradicts our capacity to love. This paradox is beyond our comprehension so as a species we deal with it in mythology, telling stories that try to articulate the spiritual truths of our very being in a digestible way.

This is why millions of people flock to the cinema’s to see such tales unfold, because they express the reality of the complex battles within. Battles that secularism does not and cannot answer, as they are beyond the empirical, they are metaphysical. Which is why when we (as a society) face the reality of such paradoxes, during times of crisis, where good meets evil, it is the church that is often turned to, and prayer that is requested, because secularism does not have the answer. The atheists worldview of existence being time+matter+chance cannot explain love and grief.

The truth of our inner conflict between; the physical and spiritual, determinism and morality, love and hate and our fight for justice cannot be justified without divinity, a being who created existence for a purpose. For if there is no creator, there is no meaning, so concepts such as justice, morality, love, fear and grief do not exist, they are as much fiction as Wonder Woman herself, meaningless conditions evolved from the complex neurons of advanced apes.

So why adhere or uphold them? Why pay to see such concepts materialised in film?

Like all superhero films, Wonder Woman conjures up such mythology and audiences have rushed in to see it because they are based on a truism. Yet our churches who battle with the very same story of good versus evil each week will remain empty this Sunday….why?

One of our countries greatest academics (and former atheist) C.S. Lewis answers this question.

If I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story (such as Wonder Woman) I didn’t mind it at all: If I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself/herself. . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: the idea of a dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) moved me, provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

What C.S. Lewis was saying is that the fiction of Wonder Woman is enjoyable because it demands nothing from you the viewer, you simply pay your money and be entertained by her victory against immorality (portrayed to be beyond your grasp), meanwhile the truth of her battle (good vs evil) lives on in your personal journey and in the world around you.

In contrast the reality of the historical person of Jesus the Nazarene and His real defeat of evil on the cross requires you “the viewer” to grasp this battle (Matthew 16:24), you have to change, you have to love your enemy, you have to commit yourself to helping the poor and sick, you have to live a life of faith, go to church and worship, you have to be a force for good in your world – which seems to be too much effort, especially on a Sunday morning for the masses!

Wonder Woman highlighted the propensity of evil in mankind, an undeniable truth that can only be logically explained (in light of the paradox of our ability to love) by humanities transgression from a loving creator, an explanation given clearly in the Bible.

In the final clash Ares god of war tempts Wonder Woman with the beauty of a world without humanity (echoes of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness Matthew 4:1-11). This was a final attempt to convince her that our innate evil warrants our extermination. As Wonder Woman delivers her final blow she says “only love can save the world”. This is a truth that we all embrace and know deep down, it is not based on fiction, love does conquer all. And I can tell you in light of this reality that love did save the world!

Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this,that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

It is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:17-18)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1)

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Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

I recently went on a rare trip to the cinema to see Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice. (a fitting end to our Superhero Training Academy)

I do enjoy the DC and Marvel films; they give me everything I want from a cinematic experience; however I do not take them seriously enough to delve into the myriad of back stories and cross-over’s between characters.

This nonchalant approach to the film could have caused some difficulties on the night, fortunately I went with a dear friend who has an extensive knowledge of such things and my son who is a Marvel/DC geek. They both kept me updated throughout the film so I did not miss a thing.

I am sure there are plenty of online forums filled with “comic book guys” currently critiquing the film, but with my limited knowledge on the subject, I must confess that I loved every minute of it!

(Before reading on, if you have not seen it yet – SPOILER ALERT)

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The film was filled with Christ symbolism, openly in the script and suggestively in various scenes.

If my memory serves me well, Superman was referred to throughout the film as the chosen one, the saviour, divine power, sent from above, the hope of the world. People would crowd around him just to touch his garment (Mark 5:27).

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At Superman’s ‘death’ we see him weak and lifeless cradled in the arms of Lois Lane with his dearest around him, mourning amidst the rubble of his sacrificial fight with evil (embodied in the monster called Doomsday).

At this moment on the top left of the screen, steel girders remain from fallen buildings that make the shape of three crosses on a hill subliminally reinforcing the Christ-like imagery. The scene reminded me of the below painting by Rogier van der Weyden (Pieta).

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This constant association throughout the film between Superman and Christ gave me mixed feelings.

Many watching may be inspired by the film to seek the realities of the historic person that it alludes to, God in the flesh Jesus Christ. Or, I fear, people will assimilate the clear fiction of Superman and apply it to the historic person, God in the flesh Jesus Christ and thus dismiss Him as such. I pray it is not the latter.

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There is a scene in the film where Lex Luthor (the villain) meets Superman face-to-face on a helipad overlooking metropolis. In typical Hollywood style Lex divulges his evil plan to Superman.

Lex shows Superman pictures of his kidnapped mother, the cost of her release, Batman’s head.

The film continues to its conclusion and I will not divulge anymore.

What caught me during this dialogue between Luthor and Superman was the below statement:

If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good, and if he’s not all powerful he can’t possibly be god.” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

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This line resonated with me throughout the film as I feel it is a rather succinct way of putting across what many people have against religion.

What Lex is getting at here is essentially a point of view that many share.

“If God is sovereign He can’t be all good all the time, because at some point He will have to make an unpopular decision.”

What we have here is the ‘ye olde’ paradox of Love and Justice that has baffled unregenerate humanity throughout history. (1 Cor 1:25)

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Mercy or forgiveness is the opposite of Justice, how can God be both? “If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Religions throughout history have tried to deal with this conundrum by creating rites of passage or levels of; piety, status and wealth, alongside many other deeds that mankind can work towards to please said deity and thus remain just in their site. This way condemnation would be justly given to those that do not follow suit, so, it is argued that their god remains loving (but only to those who deserve it).

But this man-made, man-up ‘religion’ remains illogical in the face of the paradox that Lex Luthor puts forward so perfectly, as it limits the love of God.

If salvation could be earned there would be no need for Mercy, there would be no need for God’s Love.

If God only showed love to those who deserve it, then He is not a loving God.

Love is not based on a reward system (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love patient, love is kind, it is not self seeking, love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Think about it.

If we had to meet the standards of an all powerful god, we would all fail, because none of us are ‘all powerful’ and if we came to that all powerful god that only rewarded us for his decreed works, then he would not be a loving god at all and because we could not achieve said works anyway (none of us are perfect), we would all be doomed. – Make sense?

So the question remains;

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Well there is an answer!

An answer so perfect that it could only come from God Himself, because mere men could never have dreamt it up! And it is unique to Christianity (because Christianity is uniquely from God).

The answer to this paradox is found on the Cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

On this Cross we see God’s Love and Justice meet….and it all makes perfect sense!

On this Cross the illogical becomes logical.

On this Cross the paradox is perfectly fulfilled in God the Son Jesus Christ.

Why?

Well because on this Cross God remains perfectly just, because the sentence we deserve for our crimes was issued and the punishment was carried out in full.

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On this Cross God remains perfectly loving because He sacrificially took the sentence (which we deserve) on Himself (God the Son).

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” 1 Peter 3:18

In faith of this truth, you are saved.

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good”. Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Well Lex, yes He can, in Jesus Christ.

Look to the Cross.

Christianity is not a religion of works, it is not a philosophy or a moral law, neither is it about what we can do to please God. Christianity is about having faith in the historic fact of what God has already done for us, so perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel! Join us on Sunday to find out more

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:10

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Image sources (in order)
From Google Search
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice/
http://comicbook.com/2015/12/01/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-sneak-peek-detailed-analysis/
http://screenrant.com/batman-v-superman-zack-snyder-cut-dark-scene/
http://moviepilot.com/posts/2867036
http://www.comicbookmovie.com/batman/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-a127760