Monday, October 24, 2005

Why the Blessed Virgin Mary Is Better Than Wonder Woman or My Mom Can Beat Up Your Feminist Icon

While I was visiting the St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, I was treated to one of the patronal feasts of the Dominican Order, namely the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It was delightful to see the Marian piety so central to the work and identity of the brothers along with the energetic preaching of the wonders of the Rosary. In the priory chapel (which was beautiful in its own right), there is a large statue of Our Lady. Now, I need to explain what the statue looks like for you to understand where this post is going. The Blessed Mother is standing and leaning forward just a bit, and therefore it conveys the sense of forward motion. Elevated and toward her left shoulder, Mary holds the Infant Jesus who has His hands extended in a gesture of joyful excitement. In His hands and threaded into Mary's mantle is a very large white Rosary. I don't know where this came from, but, the position of the Rosary suggested a lasso or lariat, and that was when it hit me. Mary's got her own "magic lasso" and it's the Rosary. And then I started cracking up as I imagined Mary chastising Wonder Woman, probably for immodest dress.

It's funny how in a culture there are always archetypes presented for our assimilation. This is not to suggest that Jung was right, quite the opposite. Instead of having universal images, a culture enshrines what it thinks is the ideal and then goes about making sure that everyone gets the message. It's the same way with art. Art is not about self-expression; it's about communication and can be evaluated on that point. When it comes to heroism and feminity, I think every faithful Catholic has got the popular culture beat in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here are the top ten reasons why Mary is better than Wonder Woman.

10.) What kind of sense does an invisible jet make? Face it, an invisible jet makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. You'd be constantly losing it at the airfield, not to mention a fair number of bloody noses from "bumping" into the body of the plane. Furthermore, the comics have Wonder Woman with the power of flight, so isn't this jet a bit redundant? With Mary, she is simply everywhere the Church is, as she is its pre-eminant member. This doesn't include all those times she appears for the benefit of the faithful.

9.) Mary serves the one True God; Wonder Woman works for anybody. Here we have the classic problem of turning from cleverly concocted myths to the worship of the True God. Mary has got WW beat hands down. Not only was Mary in on the First Covenant, she is the sign of the Covenant coming to full flower when she bears her son, the Covenant Between Expressed in Living Flesh. She is the first Christian. Wonder Woman will work for Olympians or the U.S. Government or the Justice League or whomever will keep her in Aqua Net. Heck, she even shilled Hostess cupcakes at one point in her career.

8.) One word: modesty. I must confess a puerile crush upon the Lynda Carter incarnation of WW. Wonder Woman's attire, however, leaves very little to the imagination. Let's just face it: metal brasserie-wearing ladies are not the ladies one takes home to your parents for marriage approval. Your parents are likely to think that you stopped by the carnival on your way to the house. Mary however conceals the mystery of her feminity, a femininity which achieves supreme greatness in the economy of salvation. Mary gets to be both Virgin and Mother. She conscrated her heart and that heart bursts with life-giving Love. Mary is someone you would be proud to have over.

7.) Better Accessories. What's Wonder Woman got? Apart from an invisible jet, bullet reflecting vambraces, and a magic lasso, so what? The jet we have already considered. But the bullet deflecting bracelets are nothing compared with the ability to crush Satan with your heel. And Wonder Woman's lasso is out of control. I mean seriously, what kind of man-hating psycho came up with this one? The lasso compels those entrapped in it to tell the truth and to obey Wonder Woman. On the other hand, Mary's got the benefit of being full of grace and freed from the corruption of all sin, Original and personal, of being the Mother of God, of being assumed Body and Soul into Heaven, and of her perpetual Virginity. Add on the Rosary and you see the clear winner. Rather than making us tell truth, the Rosary tells us the truth and then in light of these saving truths, we find the strength, through the sweet surrender of grace, of submitting to God. Nothing degrading in being wrapped in the bonds of the Holy Rosary.

6.) Better Allies. Do you think St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, has anything to fear from being one-upped by Steve Trevor or even Superman? Guess again. Once you put in that Mary, as Queen of Heaven, also, can count the apostles, prophets, martyrs, confessors, and the many other saints, Wonder Woman will be hard put to impress me even if she were to marshal all the forces of Themescrya.

5.) Mary appeals to every culture and land; Wonder Woman is clearly an American idea. Blessed Gueric of Igny reminds us that faithful Christians instinctively turn to Mary and honor her. That would explain all the various ways Mary is and can be depicted without doing violence to her nature and identity. We will not remind readers about the elephant dung incident but simply note that as an anamoly. However, try picturing Wonder Woman in a sarong or in a kimono, and you will see my point. Wonder Woman exists in the weird intersection of the glorification of violence and inappropriate sexuality that is modern American culture. If you don't believe me, go see Aeon Flux when it comes out and then we'll talk.

4.) Mary's my mother in the plan of Grace. No matter how much I might want a relationship with Wonder Woman, I can't have one. However, the instant I am baptized, because I become a Son in the Son, Mary becomes Mary of all the Living, those who live in Christ.

3.) If I follow Mary's example, I can go to Heaven. If I follow Wonder Woman's example, I am fit only for an island paradise. If I wanted an island paradise, I would only be aiming for Adam and Eve. Mary shows the human person who follows Christ in the fullness of joy in Heaven. You take your pick.

2.) Mary is a real, historical person. Unlike Wonder Woman, I can model my life on Mary. As one who is baptized and therefore illuminated by grace, I can actually attain to the same things that Mary actually achieved. Through Faith, I can give birth to the Word Incarnate, both in thought and action. Through Hope, I can unite any misery or suffering to the Passion of Christ, and thus not submit to despair. Through Love, I can achieve victory over the greatest evil of any time or place. No matter how hard I try, I will never become an Amazonian princess. (I think we are all glad about that.) Additionally, I can never learn to fly under my own power or deflect bullets with magic bracelets.

1.) Mary's Son is God! In the final analysis, this is the Ace of Trumps in this discussion. Rather than having some muddled sense of divinity being like a genetic trait, which predominates in both Greek and modern American culture, Mary's Son reinforces the great divide between Creator and Creature, while simulataneously showing us the condescension which God shows to Man in order to bring all creation back into union with Himself.

If you have made it to the end of this post, you can tell I am having some fun at the expense of my comic dork persona. At the same time, I offer this as a reflection about whom we idolize, whether we recognize it or not. If we hold up power and domination as something to shoot for, then we will expend all our energy in trying to getting that. I would suggest that all of us would be well-served to examine ourselves on this point. With whom would I be associated based upon our actions? Whom would I like my action to make folks think of?

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