My dad LOVES superhero TV shows. Naturally, the moment he found out about the new Supergirl show on CBS, he told me about it every time I saw him (which is quite often). He even promised to tape it for me (the Hubby and I cut the cable and even the rabbit ears three years ago so that we could focus more on pursuing our dreams). I was visiting on Wednesday and asked if we could watch the show (since he had taped it for me, right?); but somehow he and Mom accidentally deleted it. Never fear, SuperDad came up with a plan—see if I could watch it online. And, thankfully, I could. Now I’m hooked because (because! because! because!): Supergirl is a kick-butt female Christ figure!
As I watched the pilot, I took mad notes on Evernote. There are sooo many biblical parallels packed into that one episode. Granted, the most recent Superman movie is just one big Bible study—but I digress. I struggled over how to present my notes in an understandable form in a blogpost and have resolved to a disjointed, but hopefully thorough, list. I hope you enjoy. 🙂 (Warning, this is rife with spoilers.)
1. Superman as a symbol of Christ and God.
In the show, Superman is already known and at work saving the world. Kara (Supergirl) was supposed to come to Earth before her younger cousin Kal-El. However, her ship was derailed and she got stuck in hyper-sleep (I forgot the exact term that was used), so when she does arrive on Earth, Kal is already a grown-up, well-known hero; and she’s a 12-year-old girl.
Kal leaves her with a family (Danvers) that helped him. They have a daughter, Alex. From that point on Kara never sees her cousin again. She has superpowers but eventually stops using them to pursue a normal, human life.
We are then fast forwarded to Kara’s present. She works for a media company, and a new employee—the photographer that first took her cousin’s pictures and who is on speaking terms with him—arrives. Kara sees the print of that first photo of Superman flying and is transfixed. James Olsen (photographer) starts to talk about Kal and refers to him as “the big man.” He even tells Kara how much she looks like him. Kara hangs on to his every word. She sooo wants to know her cousin.
Here we find two allusions to Superman as a God-figure. First he is referred to as “the big man” and spoken of with awe and reference by James. Second we see Kara’s inward desire to know him better, in a very reverent and loving way—not unlike that of any Christian desiring to know God more.
Another allusion is in both Kal and Kara’s names. They both come from the House of El. El is the generic word for a god. God is referred to as El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam, and Elohim.
2. James Olsen a symbol of John the Baptist
As we learn later in the episode, James (the photographer), was sent by Kal to help Kara. He even steps in and saves her job. John the Baptist was sent by God to pave the way for Jesus.
John also baptizes Jesus so he may begin his ministry. James doesn’t literally dunk Kara in water but he does give her a cape that came as a gift from Superman. The cape (which was Kal’s baby blanket and is bullet proof, where as hers is not) is a covering that symbolizes the beginning of her firmly stepping into her role as Supergirl—not to mention the “innocence” associated with a baby blanket, or the new birth, etc.
3. Kara as both a Christ figure and a Christian Everyman figure.
Bare with me, there is a lot in this section.
- Supergirl’s first act is to save her sister and a plane full of people from crashing. We know from her own confession that she had a deep desire to make a difference in the world, to help people, to save people. However, though she saves all those lives (taking a dunk in the river to do so), a news reporter says she is either a guardian angel or a wrecking ball. How does this make her a Christ-figure? He was also met with such divided skepticism when he first stepped into his ministry. People either thought of him as a great prophet or as a servant of Satan.
- She has come to protect people from the alien convicts (her mother being their judge and jailor), who were thrown down to earth when Kara arrived. The convicts are highly symbolic of fallen angels (demons) who were thrown to Earth when they tried to overtake God (their judge). Christ voluntarily came to Earth to save us from the destruction these fallen angels are bent on bringing.
- These convicts (demon figures) are working to try and bring about Supergirl’s death in a bloody and public way. Christ’s death was bloody and public and brought about by those who were opposed to God. The only way these convicts can get revenge on Supergirl’s mom (another God-figure) is to kill Supergirl—the only way Satan and his followers can get revenge on God is to hurt his Son.
- “It’s over,” Supergirl said when she defeats (but doesn’t kill) the convict sent to kill her. Her line is reminiscent of Jesus’s, “It is finished.” The convict replies, “You think I’m a threat? You have no idea what’s coming.” Which alludes to the many struggles of Christ’s followers over the years since his resurrection. Though it is finished, salvation has been brought to all mankind, there are still the enemies of God (fallen angels) that must be subdued and many people still to save.
- Shoots flames from her eyes. A symbolic reflection of a description of Christ in Revelation.
- “I have the same powers he does…” Kara is referring to Superman, but she also admits she hasn’t used them in a long time. In the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples that they will do what he has done and more. At Pentecost, the believers are given the Spirit of God, which contains the power of God.
- In stepping out and following in Kal’s footsteps by saving the plane, Kara undergoes a symbolic baptism. She is literally submerged in the water, and then comes out to helicopter lights shining down on her and recognizing her as being like Superman. James later tells her that saving a plane was also the first thing Superman did. As Christians, the first thing we are called to do when we decide to follow Christ’s path is to do what he did first—get baptized. And through this baptism we show the world whose steps we are going to follow the rest of our days. Alex, Supergirl’s sister, even confirms this declaration by telling Kara that she has exposed herself and can’t take it back.
- Kara has a saving-people thing. James even tells her that is what Superman was born to do, and that is what she was born to do. Similarly, Jesus was born to save; and when we decide to follow him that is also what we are born to do—to follow in his footsteps and help save people. At the end of the episode, Kara declares that Earth doesn’t just have one superhero anymore, not it has her, now it has Supergirl. Every Christ follower (Christian) is another Christ here on Earth continuing Christ’s work—loving, saving, and serving people. Earth doesn’t just have one Christ now, it has many little Christs now (the meaning of Christian).
- Kara makes the choice to follow in Superman’s footsteps. At a low moment she asked James, “He wanted me to do this? Why didn’t he just tell me?” And James responds, “He wanted you to choose it for yourself. Same way he did. That’s what makes a hero.” Christ, God, gives us a choice. We don’t have to follow Him, even though he wants us to. But when we do make the choice to follow Him, it is so much more powerful than if he just told us what to do. It is the choosing that makes all the difference, that makes us like his Son—a hero.
Phew, I still have more notes (Alex as a disciple-sibling, General as Satan, etc.), but I think this is a good start. Have you watched the first episode? What did you think?
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little bit like a Supergirl myself—or, at least, I want to be. 😉
Up! Up! And away!