Friday, May 14, 2004

Just too interesting not to talk about. 

Pop culture Christians talk about The Punisher movie:

I discovered three days later why I had walked out of the theater liking this movie. It helped me see things from God’s point of view. He has given each of us the capacity to understand Him, because we are made in his image. The immediate desire for Castle to punish the bad guy proves that we have an innate sense of God’s justice: protection for the innocent and a lesson for the sinner. The frustration of watching Castle finish the job in the last five minutes proves that we have an innate sense of God’s mercy: not wanting the guilty to suffer more than is necessary to change his mind. It’s strange to have a sense of God’s character. It’s even stranger to imagine the intensity with which God must feel these two things equally and powerfully. If we feel it in part, He feels it in all of its fullness.

I'm not into reflex-bashing on religion. I'm not a religious person myself, but I think if something can hold billions of peoples' interest for 5000+ years, there's probably something important going on there worth taking seriously. Some of this analysis is fairly interesting, some of it's not too far off the mark from the character's central concept, and some of it... well.

Spacker Dave is a skinny, meek young man who is covered with piercings. In one scene in the movie he makes a tremendous sacrifice to save Frank Castle from certain death, in many regards he becomes a Christ figure. While we have seen him love and dance, fellowship and comfort, we see in one scene his willingness to give himself for one he knows little, Frank Castle. I was reminded throughout the torture that involves his piercings of another that was pierced for us, the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only son.

God, I'd love to hear Garth Ennis's take on that.

Saying someone is a "Christ figure" in a story has become a little too easy for people, of late. Everyone from Superman to (as of now) Spacker Dave gets the comparison, because it sounds impressive and since little enough is known about Christ the man, you can shoehorn just about anyone into the role. Same thing happens when you give comic book fans words like "decompression": They just run haywire with it with no real concept of what they're saying.

Then there's this little snippet, showing in bright colors that our well-meaning, witnessing friend doesn't understand basic irony in storytelling:

I don’t believe it is any accident in this movie that the primary evil character in the movie has the name "Saint." Early on, we see that the club and business that he runs is named “Saints and Sinners.” I will guarantee that there will be many a Christian who bashes this movie because of its obvious intent to blast Saints (Christians). But we should be reminded of the fact that Jesus himself stated that there will be many who call him Lord that will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Right... or it's "irony." Writers like to give characters significant names all the time (his Americanized last name is Castle, for god's sake! Is that not a clear statement of the man's psychological make-up?!), which is why half of all fiction ever written has some guy named "Cain" or "Kane" or "Caine" in it. It's not a greater damnation of the Church or its literature; it's cheap metaphor.

The sad thing is that while Frank is looking at punishment for those who killed the ones he loved, and later on for all rapists, murderers, thieves and more, I was reminded of the fact that in comparison to God and Jesus Christ, we are all evil and deserving of death. The movie in many ways actually helps portray this concept.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
- Romans 3:23 (CEV)

Along the way Frank, while caught up in punishment, loses all that was good about him. He turns to the bottle, drinking Wild Turkey whiskey as if it is iced tea. He loses compassion and concern towards any that he may come into contact with.

(This guy's pretty big on quoting Romans, but you could do worse than referencing Paul.)

I buy it. Castle pretty much has to believe in some kind of Almighty because of that ridiculous "supernatural avenger" angle he had for awhile there, so I would say that Mr. Witness isn't too far off the mark. Ennis's Punisher pretty much feels the way stated above, lacking in compassion and love, completely incapable of anything but his punishment because he, like Paul tells the church in Rome, feels that humans have sinned and fallen short. Of course, Paul has not lost his compassion and concern, so he feels that his flock is always worth saving.

Castle, to put it lightly, disagrees.

Hmm. Better stop now before I start sounding evangelical.

(Link via The Punisher Archive.)

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