Is Catwoman the Bride of Christ?

 In Film & TV, Pop Culture, The Bible
This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series The Dark Knight Rises

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“You’ve made some mistakes, Miss Kyle.” – John Blake

Last week, I explored how Bruce Wayne’s Hero’s Journey establishes him as a Christ-figure in The Dark Knight Rises. A further excellent parallel my friend Anthony Mako pointed out to me is that if Bruce is Jesus, the Selina clearly parallels the Scriptural presentation of the Church (which the Revelation images as the Bride of Christ).

I don’t mean to say that Nolan intentionally told the story of Selina as the Church. Rather, the kind of redemption she seeks is essential to the human condition. Indeed, one of the most important differences between Bruce and Jesus is that Bruce, too was in need of this sort of redemption.

So please indulge my fanboy-theological whimsy as I present to you The Redemption of Catwoman!

1. Selina can’t escape her dark past.

Selina's made too many mistakes. She's only welcomed among other criminals.

Selina’s made too many mistakes.
She’s only welcomed among criminals.

We first meet Selina as a thief, stealing Bruce’s fingerprints. We learn that she’s selling these to Dagget because he’s promised her the Clean Slate, a program that will erase every trace of a person from every database in the world.

Selina wants a fresh start. She wants a new life, free of the crimes of her old life.

Though initially we’re not sure why Selina wants the Clean Slate, we learn through her conversation with Bruce that she wants to escape her old life, to start over. As she explains:

“Once you’ve done what you have to, they’ll never let you do what you want to.”
— Selina Kyle

When she confronts Dagget, Selina learns that Clean Slate was an urban myth. It sounded too good to be true because it was. Salvation for Selina is out of the question.

Selina’s initial state parallels the innate human condition, what theologians call Original Sin.

Paul, writing in the voice of the fallen human, puts it like this:

I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? — Romans 7:22-25

The Scriptures teach that every person is complicit in bringing sin and death into the world. Each of us is dead, separated from God. The rescue we need is resurrection, new life that is impossible in the human realm. We are as hopeless as the Catwoman.

2. Batman offers impossible hope.

Selina is flustered by the one thing she isn't prepared for: naked acceptance and new life.

Selina is flustered by the one thing she isn’t prepared for: hope.

As Batman and Selina grow closer, he discerns that she is not wholly evil. All her current crimes, she commits to obtain the Clean Slate. Batman reveals that he possesses the Clean Slate, that he is responsible for removing it from the public sector so it could not be used by criminals.

Batman offers Selina the Clean Slate in exchange for her help. What was impossible for Selina suddenly lies within her reach.

Jesus offers humanity a similarly impossible rescue. In fact, Jesus’ entire earthly ministry was about proclaiming this new reality, which he called the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ gospel announcement signaled the end of earthly powers, the end of oppression.

Jesus’ promised new reality seemed too good to be true to many.

3. Selina betrays her savior.

Selina's betrayal of Batman is an act of despair.

Selina’s betrayal of Batman
is an act of despair.

Selina can’t believe Batman’s offer of a fresh start. She’s so trapped by her past choices that the only salvation she can imagine is limited to the deal-making that has already failed to save her.

Selina betrays Batman in hopes that Bane’s forces will let her escape.

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus – and the Sanhedrin’s collusion with Rome in his execution – are much the same. Jesus’ own people couldn’t imagine the kind of kingdom he was calling into existence, a kingdom that functions wholly unlike Rome’s coercive model.

Judas betrays Jesus to the Sanhedrin, which then colludes with Pilate, because they can’t imagine anything better or more powerful than Rome. Christians today who try to “take America back for God” or insist “our way” be enforced through law largely fall into this same trap.

Rather than trust in Jesus’ better way of love, we give our allegiance to the guy with the biggest army.

4. Batman gives Selina new life.

Selina can't believe that Batman would forgive and trust her.

Selina can’t believe that Batman would forgive and trust her.

As I sketched in Bruce Wayne’s Hero’s Journey, Bruce undergoes a death and resurrection at Bane’s hands. Having completed his journey, he can return to save Gotham.

Part of his strategy is to recruit allies, including Selina. Batman confronts Selina and gives her the Clean Slate.

The freedom Selina has been seeking is now hers, no strings attached.

She’s shocked that he’d trust her, and when she points out as much, Batman replies:

“I admit I was disappointed.
But I know there’s more in you than that.” — Batman

Though she doesn’t deserve it, and before she’s done anything to justify it, Batman places his faith in Selina. He gives her access to his toys (the BatPod) and sends her on a mission that’s vital to Gotham’s salvation.

Similarly, Jesus offers us rescue with no strings attached. Before we do anything to deserve his love, it’s ours. Jesus’ faith rescues us, empowers us through the Holy Spirit and invites us to join in his mission to redeem the world. All because he sees us not as we are – lowly cat burglars, but as we could be – divine sidekicks.

5. Selina places her faith in Batman.

Catwoman receives Batman's weapons.

Catwoman receives Batman’s weapons.

Selina completes the mission Batman gives her, which opens up a critical choice: She can abandon Gotham and save herself, or return to near-certain death to join Batman.

The old Selina would’ve left without a moment’s hesitation. But this new Selina, rescued from her old life by the Batman’s death, resurrection and faith, is inspired to be more.

Selina chooses to return, to partner with Batman, and her aide is vital to his rescue of Gotham.

With only minutes left before the bomb detonates, Selina marvels at Batman’s idealism, his commitment to do whatever it takes to save Gotham. She’s perhaps even more surprised to find herself fighting at his side.

This is the picture of the recreated Christian: Jesus has rescued us from death and now we join him in his rescue mission. The redemption of the whole world seems impossible to most, and the most enduring saints – those like Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa or John Wesley – seem to be idealists whose belief in a better world borders on insane.

As the apostle Paul said,

“If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins… And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” — 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

Catwoman put it much more succinctly:

“You could’ve gone anywhere in the world and you came back here.” — Selina

“So did you.” – Bruce

“I guess we’re both suckers.” — Selina

I, for one, would much rather be a sucker, tilting at windmills, than live in despair.

6. Bruce marries Selina

I couldn't find a screen shot, so enjoy this very sweet fan art!

I couldn’t find a screen shot, so enjoy this very sweet fan art!

Of course, we don’t know for sure that Bruce and Selina are married. We only know that they are together at Alfred’s café. The implication of the film (and really, the whole trilogy), is that since Bruce has completed his Hero’s Journey, he is now free of the world of Gotham. Since he’s rescued Selina, the two of them can create a new life together.

The film’s logic strongly suggests a marriage relationship between Bruce and Selina.

This is the same picture we get of the Church’s ultimate fate in the Revelation.

“I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’

And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!'”
— Revelation 21:2-5

YOUR TURN: Do you agree that Catwoman’s redemption parallels the Church, or am I trying too hard?

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  • graceisunfair

    I love this. I’m going to use this analogy when talking to students. I think the faith of giving Selina the Clean Slate after she’d betrayed him was particularly powerful.

    I will say, my biggest criticism of the film is that I didn’t completely buy the Selina and Bruce loving couple angle. They seemed more like partners than lovers. What did you think?

  • I really liked them. I dug the whole partners-first angle.

    Maybe you’re too bought into our fairy-tale romance script, Scott 😉 I kid… I know a lot of ppl complained about their chemistry, but I really dug it. It was subdued but definitely there.

  • Amanda la esposa

    You forgot to mention the fact that she totally blasted Bane to pieces and basically saved Batman’s life (theologically I guess this doesn’t fit with the Bride ‘saving’ Christ, but definitely one of the biggest shockers/BA moments regarding Catwoman).

    Great article though. Don’t think you are reaching and I definitely loved the last post and this one! You have a fantastically creative and critical mind mi amor!

  • therhoades

    NICE – yeah, I’ll be bringing this up in my Sunday School class as well. Point number 4 was amaaaazing. Such a great and freeing truth; and you’re right, this story displays that truth remarkably well. I don’t think you’re reaching either; he who has ears to hear, right?

    I’m not saying I believe this: but what if Bruce didn’t survive? I mean, sure the autopilot was fixed, but we saw him in the cockpit with mere seconds before the blast (at least we think we did) – like 5 seconds or something. That’s pushing it on a blast that size, right? What if he didn’t live? What if Alfred was just daydreaming or imagining the whole thing, pretending that he didn’t fail the Wayne family as he admitted tearfully over the grave, pretending that he lived in a world where Bruce was alive and happy and living a safe and domesticated life? Sure, it appears that Alfred also saw Selina, but she wasn’t even looking at Bruce, she was looking out at the crowd and city – very reminiscent to me of how the living acted around Bruce Willis (the dead) in The Sixth Sense.

    I don’t like that ending, and again, I’m not saying I hold to it…but it seemed open-ended enough that maybe Nolan wanted us to wonder about it a bit. And I wonder. Even though I’ve read some interviews with Christian Bale that suggest he did survive, I still wonder… mainly because it’s fun. Thoughts? Did you wonder that? If so, how did you come to a place of fully committing to his survival?

    Again, great post – you connected some dots I had not and I was very encouraged by it.

  • Nate

    How about this?

    Batman = Christ
    Catwoman = Bride of Christ/Church
    The girl who betrayed Batman with Bane (I think Melinda was her name) = Judas
    Alfred = Peter (leaves/denies him before death, regrets his failure)
    The Police Detective/Robin = Disciples/Church (b/c he is trusted with Batman’s job after he leaves)
    Bane = Evil/Satan

    I too wouldn’t venture to say that these things were done on purpose, in order to be similar to the Biblical story of salvation. It may be coincidence, but it is still kind of neat to see how this universal story of death, hope, and salvation is so prevalent in so many of our modern stories. It’s like this basic story of salvation is at our deepest core and is so reflective of our greatest desires that we can’t help but create our own stories, like this movie, that mirror the desires of our hearts that are a part of our created nature. Our imago Dei.

  • Love those parallels. I’d add that Batman and Blake can be Moses and Joshua: Batman gets Gotham to the Promised Land, but because of his past cannot inhabit it with them. He has to “hand off” to his successor.

    These sorts of parallels are some of my all-time favorite things to do!!

  • I’ve had some discussion about the daydream possiblilties, and I think he’s alive. Mainly because I don’t think Alfred would’ve imagined Selina.

    That said, I’m not committed either way. I love the ambiguity.

  • David Mieksztyn

    Saw it for a second time, and went in with theses themes in mind. It was certainly more rewarding viewing her as the bride of Christ the second go around (the first time I saw it was the midnight showing, so not all of my receptors were in high gear!).

    Your insights into story and our culture are fantastic J.R., keep up the great work!

  • Thanks @google-088468abfdb6d10aba34119863398c57:disqus! Glad my musings could help out 😀

    I really do think Nolan is one of the best storytellers working right now. Thanks again for the kind words

  • justicekibbe

    You’ve done an excellent job of putting these ideas into words.

  • libyansibyl44

    Excellent article! Flawless interpretation of the messianic theme as it played out in the movie. And I don’t think the fact that Selina saves Batman is out of line with the story at all. The REAL story that is. We’ve bought into the false watered-down fairy tale myth version where some brave He always saves some helpless Her. But in truth they are perfect compliments…they are equally strong and they save each other.

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