One of my fondest memories as a child was the night the very first X-Men movie came out. I was only thirteen at the time, but like many boys that age I loved superheroes. The X-Men in particular were my favorite; a group of rag-tag misfits who protected the world with amazing powers. My parents had always been careful about what I was allowed to watch, so it came as a complete surprise when my Dad suggested the two of us go see it opening night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that mediocre movie would go on to shape my life in some surprising ways.
Fast-forward a couple years, and superhero films have now become a mainstay of today’s media. For the most part they’re still campy, action-filled, thrill-rides, but like that first X-Men movie, they can be important in their own way. This is especially true for Christian families with young children. Aside from being a great way families can bond, here are five lessons learned from Superhero movies.
Real Courage Demonstrates Compassion
In Captain America there’s a scene where Steve Rodgers sits down with a scientist friend and asks why he was chosen to become Captain America. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, in fact he came in last for almost every test. The doctor explains that strength and bravery are not the same thing. A strong man can become a bully, but a brave man remembers compassion. It’s a lesson many people have sadly forgotten.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality”. We live in a world made up of many battlefields. Sometimes courage means protecting others from violence and cruelty, but other times, it’s daring to reach out with a compassionate hand.
Your Actions Can Inspire Others
Everybody knows the origin of Batman. After witnessing the murder of his parents at a young age, billionaire Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl to battle crime under the cover of darkness. What few remember is that Batman wanted more than to just beat up criminals, he wanted to become a symbol that would inspire others. Furthermore, at the end of The Dark Knight, we see that it worked. When the Joker tries to turn the people of Gotham against each other, they choose to save one another instead.
Our actions, big or small, can have a profound effect on the world around us. Simply being a part of someone else’s life can lead them to places they would never have thought to go. This is especially true for Christians, who are called to share the Gospel of Christ with our friends and neighbors. When you live in a way that truly honors the Great Commission, the world takes notice.
Women Can Be Strong Too
Comic book movies are typically seen as a male pastime, but the defenders of Justice have more than a few women within their ranks. In fact, while some areas of modern media are still laboring to bring us positive depictions of women, superhero movies have become trailblazers in gender equality. Where would The Avengers be without Black Widow? Or Pixar’s Incredibles without Elastigirl? More than once it’s been a superheroine to swoop in and save the day.
Characters like these show girls everywhere that they can be strong to. They can be smart, and driven, and passionate about helping others. In the same way, Christian parents should encourage their daughters to live radically in a world that’s inviting them into shallow lifestyles. Whatever their talents might be, they can change the world.
Don’t Be Defined By What You Were
More than a few superheroes began their journey on the wrong side of the tracks. In Guardians of the Galaxy, audiencesgot to watch as a group of ne’er-do-wells discovered the hero in each of them. Sure, they’d all made mistakes and were a bit rough around the edges, but when the galaxy needed heroes, they stepped up and delivered. By the end of the film, their past crimes had been whipped away and they were free to start their lives anew. That sounds a lot like grace if you ask me.
In a way, we’re all a bit like the Guardians; broken, hurt, and struggling to make up for our past failures. Yet the cross stands as constant reminder that we aren’t defined by our past. As the Bible teaches, once we have accepted Christ we are a new creation, “The old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who knew you’d find that in a movie about a talking raccoon?
The Power of Self-Sacrifice
Sacrifice has always been a running theme in comic book films, a common trope being the lone hero who willing puts their life in danger to protect others. Look at Man of Steel, where Superman sacrifices his freedom to protect the people he loves. Look at Thor, where the humbled hero shields his friends despite being powerless. In the same way, Christians are called to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24), sacrificing our dreams, our reputations, maybe even our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That being said, these films also demonstrate that self-sacrifice is not the same for everyone.
For some, it means standing up for what you believe regardless of the cost. For others, it means refusing to succumb to your inner darkness. In a few cases it even means admitting when you were wrong. What matters is that all selfish motives are left behind. As Corrie Ten Boom once sagely stated, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”
What about you? Do you see spiritual lessons in superhero films? Be sure to check out our review of Marvel’s Ant-Man, in theaters this Friday.