Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ghost Rider

I just borrowed the movie, Ghost Rider, from my brother-in-law. I have to admit, I never read the comic book and a movie about "the devil's bounty hunter" where a man "sells his soul to the devil" and then tries to "beat the devil and win his soul back" is not something I'm going to pay money to see. From the onset, I know that this is premised on theological fantasy. However, I also know that cartoon characters are generally fantasy and that people generally can tell the difference between the fantasy world of the cartoons - oh, excuse me: graphic novels [cough] - and that perfectly entertaining stories can be told where the typical moral tension in any good plot can bring to mind considerations of good things or bad things while the fantasy remains simply fantasy.

With most of the cartoon superheroes, the fantasy lies in scientific speculation. You have the science fiction genre, but I would classify this as science fantasy. Superman got his powers because he's an alien from outer space and some difference in the light from his sun of origin and our sun causes him to generate super powers. Spiderman go bitten by a radioactive spider and the qualities of a spider change him genetically somehow. The X-men are simply human mutations, relying on a flawed understanding of Darwinian evolution (which itself is flawed).

Other superheroes are simply speculations of the capacity of natural man to achieve great feats of skill and strength. Batman learned great martial art skills and combined them with great feats of engineering. Doc Savage was simply a strong, intelligent man with a crack team. Captain America was a military hero with great skill. I'll call this humanistic fantasy.

Then there are the few who have super powers that were derived "supernaturally". I call this theological fantasy. For example, Captain Marvel summons his power from ancient Greek mythological gods. Ghost Rider belongs in this category.

In theological fantasy, and Ghost Rider in particular, It doesn't bother me that the theological foundation is erroneous. After all, the fantastical is accepted as being mere fantasy. What bothers me is that the minds of watchers of the movie or readers of the comic books can easily end up dismissing TRUE theology as fantasy. In the "making of" bonus material, the writer said that he wanted to take elements of "Christian mythology" to write the story. I would consider that theological considerations are either true or not. If it is true, it belongs in Christian doctrine. If it is not true it doesn't. It is true that there are extra-Biblical stories and doctrines that are the product of human invention. These are not Christian. Neither can they be considered "Christian mythology".

Ghost rider - it's a fun story, but beware that true theology doesn't appear to be mere fantasy.

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