Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: An otherworldly father sends his only son to Earth to save humankind… so, uh, are we talking about Superman or Jesus? According to a recent marketing campaign by Warner Bros. for the blockbuster Man of Steel, it’s both. Christianity doesn’t say anything about Jesus being faster than a speeding bullet (before his time) or flying (that we know of), but the studio for the latest Superman flick has targeted Christian audiences and even set up a website for pastors to use the film’s story in their sermons.
There was also an awareness campaign by Christian-focused marketing firm Grace Hill Media promoted the film to faith-based groups by inviting them to early screenings and creating trailers that focus on Superman’s religious themes.
This of course is bound to both confuse and creep people out, depending on where you sit on the religious spectrum. Realistically it shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprise. And not in a marketers-will-try-to-cash-in-anyway-they-can way, though we know that’s also true. It shouldn’t be a surprise because targeted advertising among interest groups is a proven and effective way to market just about anything. Procter & Gamble run their commercials during primetime TV but the company has also long-targeted and used Mommy bloggers to build momentum for its products. Marketing even a broad, well-known superhero is no different.
Besides, it’s not like this is the first time we’ve heard about Superman’s Christ complex. And Man of Steel even gives the kid from Krypton a beard. One look at the list of Grace Hill Media’s film work—The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (?!?)—also illustrates just how common a practice this type of faith-based targeting has become. Still, sermon notes?
Those were prepared by Pepperdine University professor Craig Detweiler, who responded to the expected criticism on his blog. “I acknowledge that Superman sermon notes are definitely not for every pastor or church setting,” he wrote. “But for those Christians trying to figure out how to respond to our cultural exile, Man of Steel creates a fascinating opportunity.”
Indeed, but if you really want to impress me, let’s see the sermon notes on Anchorman 2.