Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Recently, Bnonn did a provocative post on whether the superheroine is consistent with Christian theology:

Actually, most of his post was a conventional defense of traditional complementarianism (although there's a token complementarianism promoted by the likes of Carl Trueman that's making the complementation label useless). 

That in turn generated a Facebook debate involving examples like Jael and Buffy Summers. This gives me a chance to take a break from fluffy posts on Trinitarian metaphysics to something truly meaty. There are two separate issues:

i) The social roles of real women

ii) Superheroines

Let's take these one at a time.

1. Jael

To begin with, she's exceptional. But there's also the question of how we should visualize her. Is she a shieldmaiden, a la Brünnhilde? A female counterpart to Viking warriors? If you were a director, filming Judges, would you depict Jael like a Valkyrie? 

What if Jael is more like Mata Hari? It's not a trade secret that some women can penetrate a man's defenses in a way that no man can. To begin with, a man doesn't expect a woman to be dangerous. 

In addition, a man will drop his guard around an alluring woman. He's automatically receptive to her advances. So she can come within striking range in a way he wouldn't allow a warrior from the opposing army. 

I once saw the pilot episode of a short-lived crime drama. There was a male murder victim and two homicide detectives. As I recall, the murder victim was knifed from the front. The male homicide detective was puzzled by how the killer was able to get within range. Since most killers are men, his unquestioning assumption was that the killer was a man.

But his female partner conjectured that the killer was a sexy woman. That's why the unsuspecting murder victim let the killer get so close. 

2. Buffy

It's been many years since I watched it, and I never saw the entire series. With that disclaimer out of the way:

i) Because Buffy has superpowers, she's credibly the physical superior of normal men. However, some female characters are given superpowers so that they can replace the male protagonist in actions films.

ii) Some superheroines fall flat because a pretty ingénue with no acting chops is cast to play the part. Buffy works, not just because the character is well-written, but because of Geller's performance. Same thing with Faith.  

ii) However, Buff retains her femininity. She's sassy, but some women are naturally sassy. And she's emotionally vulnerable. 

iv) However, her vocation comes at a cost. Since no human male is her equal, her boyfriend is the vampire with the heart of gold. In one sense they're a match because they both have superhuman abilities. But they're classic star-crossed lovers, so that can't last. 

As I recall, her fallback boyfriend is a defective supersoldier, so that doesn't work out. And in any event, the series orbits around the Buffy/Angel axis. So she's never able to strike the right balance. 

v) Faith is the rival Slayer. More than Buffy, she illustrates the instability of the superheroine hybrid. It's too damaging to her feminine virtue. 

No doubt there are fans who can expatiate more learnedly than I on the Buffyverse. My interest level is decidedly limited. 

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