A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the Incarnation Figure as an archetype in storytelling. There are obvious connections between this and the Christ Figure that w are so familiar with given that the Christ that the figures tend to emulate began being Christ through incarnation, the embodiment of something greater in than our world in our world. But the difference that I pointed out is that Christ Figures tend to have death and resurrection or sacrificial element to them and Incarnation Figures don’t always express that.
As intriguing and powerful as Christ Figures can be, I find them troublesome at times. I have seen too many Christians try to grade a story’s value on the presence or lack of Christ Figure. If it has one, it’s a good story, if not it fails. And this is whether the story is told well or the characters are believable or if there is any suspense to make us care what happens.
The other problem I frequently see is when a Christ figure is imposed in attempts to co-opt a story and make it a Christian tale. Take “The Matrix” for example. Certainly there is the element of sacrifice on Neo’s part as he stays behind to let the others escape. And there is something of death and resurrection. But did he really die? OR did he simply, finally understand the Matrix well enough to know that he didn’t have to die there? To me this story is more about faith and finding out what can happen when you truly believe more than it is about a Christ figure and the redemption that follows.
People often describe Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as a Christ figure. Again there is a certain validity to that in terms of his death and resurrection. But as much as he is a Christ Figure, he is also an Odin Figure, at least up until the resurrection point. It’s almost as if Gandalf starts as Odin and finishes as Christ. And that’s not much a of a stretch given that Odin is a bit of Christ Figure himself, sacrificing himself unto himself.
But my favorite example of the failings of the overstressed Christ Figure is Hell Boy. In the second Hell Boy movie, the story follows the typical Christ Figure arch, as he sacrifices himself to save another, descends into the pits to eradicate the forces of evil and save all the Earth. Powerful stuff. But how many Christians stumble on this because he is a demon – and not just any demon, Satan’s son who’s true destiny is to bring ultimate destruction on the Earth? Is such a character an acceptable Christ Figure?
I think this is one of those examples that parallels the story of the Bronze Snake from scripture. God commanded Moses to make a bonze statue of a snake. This statue heals anyone that looks at it. The odd part is that most times that snakes appear in scripture, they are symbols of evil, demons or Satan himself. Jesus later tells us that the snake was an image of him. The image of evil expresses the ultimate good. Perhaps Hell Boy falls in this same category.