From the son of God to Clark Kent, our most powerful
male icons really suck
Words Jordan Waller
Albert Camus called it the one truly serious philosophical problem facing humanity. In the UK, it’s the biggest killer of men under forty five. In 2015, 75% of all cases were male.
Why then is suicide afflicting mankind more than womankind?
The answer is Jesus. According to the story, Jesus is a ‘man’ with serious daddy issues. Mary, his biological mother, conceived him via what is now known as artificial sperm-donor insemination. God sent the holy spirit into her vagina whence grew a baby boy. It must have been difficult news for her then-partner, Joseph, to bear. He was clearly in love with her because he so readily believed a story that would have surprised even Jeremy Kyle. It must have been hard, when God’s the other man.
In Luke 2:41-52, there’s an account of Mary and step-father Joseph taking Jesus to a festival in Jerusalem when he was twelve, only for him to sack off his parents on their return to Nazareth. He was found three days later in a temple with priests and lawmakers, answering questions and debating polemical issues, reassuring his anxious mother that he was only carrying out his ‘Father’s Business.’ He must have missed his biological dad.
After this, all accounts of Joseph disappear: he was clearly unable to handle an alternative co-parenting set-up, especially with a moody teen who kept running away from home to try to speak to his father at temple. Twelve is a very difficult age for any boy, let alone the messiah. The Bible glosses over his twenties, where we can only assume that he battled with questions of identity as he was trying to find his fame as a charity worker. We know he struggled with his demons later in life (in the desert for example): we can only assume these anxieties were latent, instilled from a much younger age, especially given the immense pressure levied on the young lad’s shoulders and abandonment complexes concomitant to a single-parent household.
By thirty, however, he had achieved his goal of becoming a priest and enjoyed around three golden years of success on the preaching circuit. It was around this time that his biological Father got in touch. A part of Jesus must have wondered why God was only interested in him now he was a success: where was He was during the mid-twenties struggle? But Jesus buried his frustrations because of the paternal nepotism God afforded him in that period: his Dad allowed him to do miracles like walking on water and making thrifty fish tapas, without which it’s almost certain he wouldn’t have risen to the top as quickly as he did.
Then, in an unexpected turn of events, God leaves his own son in his hour of need: nailed to a cross for a crime he didn’t commit, Jesus initially suppresses any abandonment anxieties, following daddy’s teaching not to get too het up about matters of the heart: ‘Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.’ Yet as the reality of the situation sets in, we get a flash of Jesus’ true feelings: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’* (*Note the change from Father to God in his apostrophe). Then, he dies and comes back to life in order that we no longer need to fear death: God tortures his son to teach his other children a lesson – hardly brilliant parenting, but Jesus takes it all on the chin because he’s been promoted up to heaven.
Jesus is an impossible man whose perfect bloodied torso is an icon of masculine fortitude because he doesn’t feel. The virtues promulgated in the parables are forgiveness, obedience, generosity and faith; turning the other cheek over being angry; loving over hating; virtue over sin. Non-feeling. The Jesus figure represses the bad and sees only the good. He takes everything with unwavering strength and is always right. He is a stoic and a superhero dreamt up by men (it is men) seeking the opposite of emotion they were too weak to live alongside.
He’s not unique: permutations of his image can be found in the Buddha, Muhammed and Clark Kent. They are a-psychological narratives and creatures that constitute everything men are not. They crystallise and are reproduced the world over in ugly images of masculinity fed to little boys at bedtime. They are the unreal height that father’s expect their children to jump; the constant reminder that we’re not good enough and never can be. They’re the noose, blade and bath-tub that end so many beautiful lives.
If we ever hope to live, they are to be rejected, ridiculed and replaced: we must revolt against these absurd images, embrace our freedom to think and behave as we wish in order to pursue a life of passion. At least that’s what Camus thinks. Sadness, anger, failure, bitterness, depression, perversion, weakness, hate: these are all part of us, because we’re human.
Jesus was not human. He was not a man. Let’s keep him that way, allow him to die at Easter and realise that no-one is resurrected. Ever.
Jordan is an actor and writer from Bristol. He is currently playing Lord Alfred Paget in the ITV series Victoria.