Over on Twitter, one of my “tweeps” and I sometimes get into some smackdown talk, thanks to our respective profile pictures. Sometimes he will use a Shepard Fairey-esque image of British actor Terence Stamp, in his role as General Zod. Since my profile picture is often one of me in Kryptonian attire, you can imagine the rather nerdy teasing that goes on.
If you’ve seen the classic 1980 film ‘Superman II”, you’ll recall that General Zod wanted everyone to kneel before him, but most particularly the Man of Steel, as the son of the man who had imprisoned Zod in the first place. Zod eventually gets what he wants, but immediately thereafter receives his comeuppance, in a now-famous scene that made both kids and adults cheer in the movie theatre back in the day. I’ll refresh your memory if it doesn’t leap immediately to mind.
Stamp’s performance is more reminiscent of the subtlety of Mephistopheles than the brute force of Attila the Hun. In this incarnation, as opposed to the latest version by actor Michael Shannon in “Man of Steel”, Zod is so self-possessed, so convinced of his own omnipotence, that to lose control would be as unnecessary a degree of overkill as swatting a fly with a 2×4. In setting himself up as a kind of god, he brings about his own downfall, because of course he isn’t God – he’s just Zod. And Supes knows that.
Faith in God is a subject that is sometimes touched upon in superhero films, e.g. “Daredevil”, “X-Men 2”, but is more typically ignored. Truth be told, in general it’s not absolutely necessary for understanding the motivations of the guys and gals in tights, in a way that it would be in a film about, say, the English Civil War. Yet at the same time, in the real world, even the most devoted fans of this type of storytelling are people, with beliefs which they act upon, just like the rest of us.
Take professional bodybuilder Andy Haman, for example, who a priest friend told me about. Recently, Mr. Haman dressed up as a superhero and went to visit a hospital for sick children (something which I’m working on organizing, myself.) He took the time while there to stop and visit the Blessed Sacrament in the hospital chapel. As you can see, although it does seem rather odd at first to spot Mr. Incredible kneeling in church, in truth he’s out and about performing an act, not of heroic physical strength or of strange, alien powers, but rather of Christian charity, taken straight out of Christ’s words in the Gospel of St. Matthew 25:35-40.
Whether or not the character of Mr. Incredible from “The Incredibles” was actually a Catholic, who knows. The point is, I like seeing that this particular Mr. Incredible is kneeling to the right person. Before he heads off to do some good, bringing joy and comfort to kids who often have none, he is putting himself in the right frame of mind to remember that he’s God’s instrument.
I think this is a great example for all of us, superhero or not. Too many of us are bowing down in worship to acts of selfishness, and to the pursuit of material things which will never make us happy, nor prevent us from having to face our own mortality someday. I suspect that more of us would be happier, kinder toward others, and more willing to admit to our limitations – our own kryptonite, if you will – if we took the time to simply pause, and reflect on the heroic acts of virtue we may be called upon to perform on a daily basis, with God’s help. For truly God, and not Zod, is the one to whom we should be kneeling.