Religion & Liberty Online

Lex Luthor, Capitalist Villain

In an earlier post I compared the political economy of superheroes in the DC and Marvel universes. And today I have a piece up at The Stream examining the figure of Lex Luthor, the crony capitalist villain featured in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

LexCorpAs I write in that piece, Luthor is certainly more than a crony capitalist, but he is not less than one, and it is this corruption of democratic capitalism that serves as a backdrop for his larger crimes.

I also note how there are political and economic countermeasures to such cronyism in the film, particularly as embodied in the figures of Sen. Finch and Bruce Wayne. In this way, the film can hardly be criticized as merely repeating that tired Hollywood trope of the rich, corporate industrialist villain. Apart from his heroics as Batman, Bruce Wayne is the image of corporate social responsibility.

But Sen. Finch also stands in opposition to Luthor, and it is in so doing that she forces him to reveal himself as not just an egomaniacal cronyist but also as a master criminal. The scene at the conclusion of the film when Luthor’s locks are shorn visually represent the removal of the veneer of respectability that his wealth and power had provided.

By the conclusion of the film, the field has been set and many of the pieces are out in the open. Luthor’s endgame has yet to be revealed, however, although there are strong hints that it involves great otherworldly danger to Earth. We’ll have to wait for future installments to see what will result from Luthor’s villainy.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.