The God Condition: Son of Man, Alien of Steel

by on Apr.20, 2013

If the Greeks taught us that the gods are human, and Christianity teaches us that a human is god, what does the third trailer for Man of Steel teach us?

That the gods are alien, and that an alien is a god in human form.

We can look to the specific orientation of any god-alien-human nexus to tell us how the collective, conscious “we” self-identifies. In other words, our mortal narratives tell us where we are in the cyclic process of dimensional loss and renewal. Are we material subjects or are we gods, or are we gods trapped here as material subjects, with no recollection of having been anything else?

A straightforward linear god->alien->human orientation suggests a narrative of spiritual degradation, or dimensional loss, dropping us off in a reality in which we’re denied direct access to extradimensional input and must struggle to infer a larger context and make meaning out of sensory stimulation and our sense of time. This is the dominant orientation of systems like “science” and “government”, where knowledge is limited to a portion of the data field and subject to control by those invested in false consensus.

In the third Man of Steel trailer, divinity is posited as alien to this planet, and a god’s failure to convincingly identify itself as human is translated, or dimensionally reduced, into human terms: we are to take this failure as proof that we are not “alone in the universe” and that an alien form of life is something for us all to aspire toward.

In other words, to be human is to be alone, to be alien is to be not alone. This is “the god condition” here on Earth. In order to be together, we must not belong.

:, , , ,
8 comments for this entry:
  1. rRoss Sélavy

    Hi Dan –
    Do you read many comics? Because this would all feed really well into the whole deal with Jack Kirby’s 4th World (The New Gods of New Genesis and Apokolips) – I’m busy re-reading Final Crisis right now (trying to read all the tie-ins as well). Like, Superman is a kind of demi-god, but also opposes the divine aspirations of gods like Darkseid (though in this kind of fails, and then gets taken out of the universe, while Batman, a human, ends up having to deal with Darkseid).
    All of this also plays out in the final season (or seasons, I can’t quite remember) of Superman: The Animated Series.
    I’ve always found the New Gods story-arcs some of the most interesting in the DC Canon. Ostensibly they often speak about “the human condition” (Superman is “one of us”, the perfect immigrant, perfectly integrated into human (read: American) society – Truth, Justice and the American Way, the farm boy, the boys scout – but it also speaks so much to the trans-human, the post-human – the idea of humanity becomes incredibly blurry – especially when other entities like Braniac get involved, and cybernetics, alien viruses, transumanism as manafest in the idea of the “metahuman” (the DC catch-all version of ‘mutant’.

    But anyway, the idea of “a narrative of spiritual degradation, or dimensional loss, dropping us off in a reality in which we’re denied direct access to extradimensional input and must struggle to infer a larger context and make meaning out of sensory stimulation and our sense of time” could very easily be supplanted to describe Final Crisis, in which the New Gods ‘die’, the Fourth World Ends, but in doing so they ‘descend’ from their reality (which is a kind of separate dimension, a ‘higher plane of existence’) into earth, and take on human forms, but still have divine power, which they use to wage a kind of spiritual war, enslaving most of humanity through the use of the “anti-life equation” and nearly tearing the fabric of reality apart in the process (and rendering earth’s heroes pretty much impotent to stop them – which makes the tag-line of that new DC fighting game, “Gods among us”, seem somewhat redundant).
    I’m really not sure where I’m going with this, or what conclusions I’m gesturing toward, but there’s a hell of a lot of places to go from the superhero/divinity/(meta/trans)humanity nexus.

  2. Dan Hoy

    I have only cursory exposure to comics, for whatever reason, but I did find myself lost recently in a nonmeditative fugue in the subway staring at a poster for Gods Among Us. Looks like I have some reading to do. Curious how these stories reverberate against the ancient tales of gods warring in the heavens as a backdrop to what we are and how we came into being.

  3. Kim G

    I like superman in the gender-nexus-plexus, like he’s so potent he’s impotent, which maybe allows his integration, even though he’s really more of a terrorist (that boston bomber, in that picture with the hair, doesn’t he sort of look like a really hip poet/model?) Does superman even have any sexual organs? It would have to be constantly erect. It would be a kind of contradiction if he did, or maybe he has a weird blurry alien cock. Oh well.

  4. Dan Hoy

    KG — I’ll leave the question of DC’s body beyond organs to experts like rRoss, but to play along — a cock so potent it’s impotent is a cock that can’t cum, as if gendering a god is the quickest way to cut off its access to the orgiastic realm. I’m assuming here I guess heaven is some kind of gonadic, proto-fluid field.

    To your point, his cod piece IS a throbbing red.

  5. rRoss Sélavy

    @Dan – Grant Morrison is record as essentially saying that the Justice League of America and the Greek pantheon are pretty much equivalent, which is interesting. And it’s also interesting how the Greek gods come into things via Wonder Woman’s backstory, whereas in the Marvel universe you’ve got Thor and the Aesir (a friend of mine writes a Captain America fan comic, and there’s a great one where Cap is thinking to himself about how he never thought that a military career would lead to having to think as hard about theology as he does when he’s dealing with Thor). Which adds another (sub)-level of theology to things – you have the old gods, the New Gods, then the as-good-as or semi-Gods like Superman.

  6. rRoss Sélavy

    @Kim – I think it’s canon that Superman and Lois have sex. Though sex in comics tends to happen discreetly between panels. And in Smallville (which isn’t mainline continuity, but still illustrative, I think) Clark and Lana sleep together.
    But the so-potent-he’s-impotent thing does work on a metaphorical or symbolic level – because Clark is definitely kind of emasculated, and carries a lot of that baggage over to the Superman persona (it’s also interesting to think about who is more ‘real’, Clark or Superman?) – Superman is hella awkward around women. There’s a really interesting issue that is largely one long ‘man to man’ between him and Jimmy Olsen, in which Jimmy tells Superman that everyone just naturally assumes that him and Wonder Woman are an item, and Superman just can’t handle that, not to mention the speculation about their sex life.

  7. Kim G

    I always somehow blurred out when it came to those intimate Lois + Superman moments, either that or it went to commercial, which points to the divine problem I guess, if you can get hard then you can’t get soft again, or maybe with some sort of reversed kryptonite lube!

    This of course ties in with Lara’s Pop Corpse. Is it fair to consider superman as a kind of merman of the skies?


  8. rRoss Sélavy

    @Kim – yeah, that’s an interesting thing… I’ve always had a kind of vague purely mechanical curiosity about how sex between someone as superhuman as Superman and a ‘normal’ human like Lois or Lana ‘works’, or if there would be physical danger involved, or if Superman could actually feel anything (as he seems to be largely impervious to pain).
    The merman thing kind of works, in a backwards kind of way – Aquaman is literally a merman, and, as I’ve never really warmed to the character (except in his comic-relief incarnation in Batman: The Brave and the Bold), I’ve disparagingly referred to him as “just a boring male undersea version of Wonder Woman”, and Wonder Woman is very much like the female ‘version’ of Superman (though she is a fantasy character based in Greek myth, rather than a sci-fi alien). Though both mermen and aliens fit broadly under the umbrella of ‘metahuman’.
    re: “if you can get hard then you can’t get soft again, or maybe with some sort of reversed kryptonite lube” – I think that also plays into another interesting thing about Superman – how many of his stories revolve around him either losing, or losing control of his powers (and often by extension either his sense of self, or his literal self). Which complicates the ‘divinity’ thing, and in a less intentional way, complicates the idea of him being the ultimate saviour figure – he becomes unreliable. There are also all sorts of stories about shadowy government agencies set up to deal with a situation in which Superman “goes rogue”, that’s a large part of what both Project Cadmus and Checkmate are about – and the Kryptonite ring that Superman entrusts to Batman.