I did not grow up a big fan of comic books. I loved collecting football cards, but I never got into comic books. Now I’m 40 years old, and for the first time I find myself thoroughly enjoying movies like Christopher Nolan’s Batman series and the recently-released Man of Steel. This article will highlight the refreshingly optimistic character Jonathan Kent, the earthly father of Superman/Clark Kent, played by Kevin Costner. (Jor-El, the biological father of Superman/Clark Kent, played by Russell Crowe, also represents a model for a good father, but in order to keep this article relatively short, I will only focus on Jonathan Kent.)
I have now been a husband for 11 years and a father for 9. As I watch films, I often look for the reactions and perspectives of the men who are in situations similar to my own. Sadly, television tends to portray men as bumbling idiots who consistently stumble over themselves and have little sense of responsibility. These men are passive and selfish, and the women in their lives are often more “manly” than they are. A few examples of such “men” are Doug Heffernan in The King of Queens, Ray Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond, and Jim in According to Jim. And the emasculated television star is not a new phenomenon, either; The Jeffersons had Mr. Bentley, I Dream of Jeanie had Major Healey, and Three’s Company had Jack. Here’s my question: Where are the men? Most of our role models are grown males who act like children. When will Hollywood give us real men to exemplify? Surprisingly, Man of Steel gives us an excellent model of manhood in Jonathan Kent, a man who closely parallels the biblical character, Joseph.
Joseph, the husband of Mary and the father of Jesus, has always interested me. The Bible tells us that he was a “just man” (Matt 1.19) and remarkably obedient to God’s instructions. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to call off the wedding, but an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to take Mary as his wife. The angel also told Joseph to raise Jesus, a son that was not his biological child, so Joseph led his family according to the traditions of his culture. By all accounts, he was a righteous man of integrity. I’ve often wondered what I would have done if were Joseph. Would I treat my wife differently if she gave birth to a son that wasn’t mine? How would I treat a son that wasn’t my biological child? What if I knew for certain that he was God’s Son? How would I raise God’s Son? What would I say? What would I do?
The parallel between Superman and Christ is fairly obvious (though it breaks down rather quickly). A few similarities include: both men being sent from another world in order to save the earth; both men using their supernatural powers for the good of mankind; and both men being raised by dads who were not their biological fathers.
Let’s look at a few lines from Man of Steel:
Jonathan Kent: “You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.”
Jonathan Kent (to Clark, age 13, about a UFO): “It’s not from this world, Clark. And neither are you.”
Jonathan Kent: “You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to ‘Are we alone in the universe?'”
Clark Kent: “Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
Jonathan Kent: “You are my son. But somewhere out there you have another father too, who gave you another name. And he sent you here for a reason, Clark.”
Look at those lines and imagine Joseph saying them to his son, Jesus. Those are likely some of the same principles, thoughts, and words Joseph may have said to encourage Jesus. Throughout the movie, Jonathan Kent is a strong man who is obediently raising and parenting his son to live for a purpose that is bigger than himself. Jonathan knows Clark is destined for great things. One scene in particular (the tornado scene) shows how Jonathan has raised Clark to be an obedient young man despite the circumstances.
Man of Steel delivers a powerful and entertaining film from a classic character. It may be my favorite comic book movie so far, and it was refreshing and enjoyable to see how it portrayed Superman’s father-figures. Jonathan Kent provides an excellent example for fathers, particularly fathers who desire to see their sons grow up and do great things. I highly recommend this movie for dads.