Aerosol can with
spider web fluid
A postmodern blend of good and evil
by Berit Kjos <www.crossroad.to>
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"Raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter Parker is a kind-hearted 15 year-old who tried to make it through every day of his high-school career without getting picked on too badly. But Peter has a secret. At night, he sheds his studious trappings and dons the garb of the city's mysterious new protector: the amazing Spider-Man." The online version of a Marvel comic book.
"My 10-year old daughter went to see 'Spider-Man' with her grandfather this week, and they were both excited to see it... It's kind of a fanatical fan base, and it crosses all age groups." Ken Sherer, New York Times.
"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment..." Philippians 1:9
The record-breaking movie opens with a scene showing Peter Parker, a quiet and nerdy high school student, running to catch the school bus. Taunted by his peers, the embarrassed youth climbs on -- only to be tripped by a bully, mocked by his peers and humiliated in front of the girl he loves. Not much of a start for a superhero!
But his troubled life changes when he is bitten by a genetically altered spider during a field trip. Overnight, his arms grow muscles and his sight clears. He sheds his glasses, beats one of his tormentors, but struggles to control the strange spider web goop that shoots from his hands. "You're weird," his peers tell the budding superhero as they turn away.
Real-life students across the country can identify with Peter's fears and humiliation. And his lowly stature makes his triumphs all the more satisfying. Nine-year-old Tessa Williams illustrates the adoration of the younger set. Wearing a rub-on tattoo with his image, she saw the record-breaking movie twice on the weekend it opened. According to Mike Zapler's article on 'Spider-Man', she "plans to see the movie '10 billion times.'"
The first film ever to top $100 million in its first three days, Spider-Man has raced past other fast-selling movies such as Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. It hit the $200 million mark in record time: nine days. A social phenomenon with power to influence culture and values, this PG-13 feature begs the question: what message does it communicate to the masses?
Compared to the Harry Potter and Star Wars movies, its score looks good. It doesn't teach witchcraft or other occult practices. Instead, the movie models kindness, gentleness, a heart to listen and the courage to fight evil. While self-effacing Peter (Tobey Maquire) gives a rude response to his uncle's final advice, he soon shows remorse. And he doesn't forget Uncle Ben's words of wisdom: "With great power comes great responsibility." To the contrary, they become a beacon of inspiration guiding the quiet youth through many a fierce and thankless battle.
That memorable phrase might even encourage Christians to live with greater commitment to God. Remember, Jesus told His followers that "to whom much is given, from him much will be required." Luke 12:48.
At the end of the movie, Peter affirms his commitment to self-sacrificing service. His willingness to serve the world models the degree (not the kind) of focus and faithfulness we, as Christians, would want to show our Lord and King. God tells us to persevere in battle, endure suffering and remain faithful to His call even when all others turn away. Indeed, the historical record is full of saints and martyrs who would rather face torture and death than betray the God they love. Yet such devotion is rarely considered in our postmodern world.
Be alert to the problems
In light of Hollywood's usual low standards, anti-Christian suggestions and corrupting values, it's hard to criticize a movie with such a noble message. But we can't ignore the negative impact it might have on children -- the countless young fans who won't wait until they are 13 to watch the captivating character now pictured on toys and games as well as in theater ads around the world. Prayerfully consider these warnings from the perspective of God's high calling, not through the deceptive filter of the world's relative values:
1. Sexual suggestions: In a culture saturated with sexual images, a few glimpses of passionate kissing and near nudity (a thin wet shirt that leaves little to the imagination) may seem insignificant. Yet popular Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Durst), adored by Peter, models her seductiveness to millions of young girls. Mild by Hollywood's standards and today's relative values, her sensuality still conflicts with God's guidelines. Psalm 101:2-4
2. Violence and murder: Spider-Man's nemesis, Norman Osborn, alias the Green Goblin, is more obviously evil. The rich, ambitious and revengeful military-industrial chief played by Willem Dafoe swallows a chemical potion developed in his laboratory and is transformed. But he soon discovers the high cost of superhuman strength: his personal freedom. The power he sought and won is linked to an evil personality with its own will and emotions. The story tells us that the power came through chemical means, but notice the demonic tone and temptations behind the words of the murderous master-mind that now rules Osborn:
Deep, mocking voice: "So many good things happened for you -- all for you, Norman."
Osborn: "What do you want?"
Voice: "To remove those in your way."
Osborn: "The board members! You killed them!"
Voice: "We killed them."
Voice: "Remember your little accident in the laboratory? Bringing you what you always wanted: power beyond your wildest dreams. And it's only the beginning. There's only one who can stop us. Or - imagine if he joined us. Hahaha!"
The "one" who can stop them is Spider-Man. Unlike Darth Vader, he refuses to join the evil side. That's good! What's bad are the gripping images of deadly violence and evil -- scenes that seem to imitate the sinister actions and personalities involved in demonic possession. Like Star War's super-popular villain, Osborn feeds today's craving for dark, mystical thrills. Ephesians 5:2-17
3. Cruel schemes. When the mocking voice of his tyrannical master tells him to "attack [Spider-Man's] heart," the reluctant Osborn sets out to destroy the people Peter loves. This brutal psychological plan used to torment dissenters in totalitarian regimes, is also used by child molesters to secure a young victim's silence. Consider the impact of this suggestion on a youth culture already desensitized to violent cruelty and often torn by jealousy, rage and search for revenge.
Within the context of the movie myth, these dark scenes makes sense. Since exciting stories tend to bypass mental scrutiny, viewers don't question the effects of the violence or the source of the evil. Most simply absorb the impressions. Galatians 5:19-26
4. Mocking God's truth? Osborn's first victim is Peter's beloved aunt whom he assaults just as she is praying, "and deliver us from evil." Was this an overt mockery of Christian faith and prayer? We don't know. Earlier, uncle Ben had alluded to his faith in God, but a profane expression included in the same conversation raises some questions. Galatians 2:7-8
5. Pseudo-science versus reality. While most children claim to "know the difference between fantasy and reality," many are far more familiar with the mythical worlds of today's popular entertainment than the actual world they inhabit. As one study discovered, "children were better able to identify characters from the Japanese card trading game than their own native species."
It's fun to dream about the out-of-the-world suggestions behind science fiction. We have seen all kinds of amazing scientific advances during the last half century. Some are good, some are questionable, and some may prove very bad -- especially in the hands of unscrupulous leaders. But in a culture that emphasize dreams and imagination more than facts and logic, few children recognize the limits of science -- the boundaries beyond which even the greatest scientist cannot go. Consequently, fantasies may play with their minds until the myths seem true and the truth becomes too boring and contrary to even consider. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
6. A potential gateway to the world of super-violent games and comic books. Though many details differ, Marvel's new series of Spider-Man comics generally agrees with the movie. But children searching for the Spider-Man title among other popular comic books or computer games may well be confronted with an enticing and unforgettable assortment of dark, decadent and occult images. Rom 12:2-9
Guard your mind and heart
God's Word tells us to "...be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
Whether you see the evil forces behind the murderous Green Goblin as chemical or demonic, the real battle we face here on earth is spiritual. Among the timeless enemies to faith and peace in Christ are the timeless and seductive myths, illusions and deception that crowd into our minds as we live in the world. To recognize and resist these tempting images and suggestions that so easily sway our values and twist our beliefs, we need to accept the reality of satan's existence and understand some of his schemes. To win the victory we must realize that an invisible war is raging around us so that we take and use the resources God gives us for victory. (See also Unequal Contenders in the Spiritual War)
In other words, we need to (1) know God's truth so that we can recognize today's enticing myths and (2) receive the encouragement and reminders God gives us to trust Him, follow His ways, endure hostility and serve Him in this world -- no matter the cost.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having
girded your waist with truth
put on the breastplate of righteousness
shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace...." Ephesians 6:10-18
There are three more pieces to "put on." To understand the simplicity and significance of wearing each piece, please click on the Armor of God and prayerfully study the Scriptures that show the meaning behind each one. Together, they provide a shelter and refuge against all the mental strategies of the evil one. Remember,
"...though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ...." 2 Corinthians 10:2-5
1. Ken Sherer, New York Times, May 7, 2002.
2. Mike Zapler, "Hollywood's box office superhero: 'Spider-Man'", San Jose Mercury News, May 6, 2002.
3. See "There is no sin or evil" and "Why girls are bullies" (the last link may soon become obsolete).
4. See "Harry Potter and the Power of Suggestion" and "Entertaining Ourselves to Death": "Movies are fun. Like most entertainments today, they excite the emotions rather than stimulate the intellect. ... The problem is that we are spending so much time with movies, video games and TV that we tend to become addicted to exciting electronic images. Worse, we become addicted to excitement itself, and we have difficulty distinguishing artificial entertainment from reality...."
5. "Children 'identify Pokemon more easily than animals."
6. Professor Jim Kakalios, who teaches physics at the University of Minnesota, helps validate this illusion. In his popular course, "Everything I Know of Science I Learned from Reading Comic Books," he asks "Is Spider-Man's web really strong enough to support him as he swings from buiding to building?" His calculations showed "it could support a couple of tons." The link to the source is now obsolete: "Superhero science: Professor uses comic books to teach the fundamentals of physics."
7. Mike, a fan of the Animorphs books (published by Scholastic), visited our site. Then he wrote us a note saying, "Real science can never reproduce that shown in a book? ... Sure, science now can't create shape shifting, but wasn't that also said about Cloning? ... It is plausible for shape shifting to actually occur. Maybe not the exact way shown in Animorphs. They touch an animal and absorb its DNA, and then are able to become that animal. If... your DNA was able to form into that of an animal, programmed into the subject while still retaining the knowledge to return to being a human, then Shape Shifting is possible." [See Animorphs and scroll down to "Mike."] Cloning has become a reality and all kinds of medical advances prove the consequences as well as the rewards of today's research. It fits within the domain of genetic research that humans can manipulate. But shape shifting, like Spider-Man's superpowers, is confined to the realm of imagination, occult myths and spiritual illusion.
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