Monday, January 28, 2008

The Iron Giant: A Cold War Christ Figure

This weekend we were treated with a viewing of The Iron Giant. It is a wonderful animated film about an imaginative boy in the latter 1950’s who finds a 50 foot iron giant that becomes his friend. But given the time, fears and rumors swirl about aliens and Russian spy satellites (frequent references to Sputnik). The military is called in to search out this “thing” and destroy it. But through the help of the boy, his mother, and a local junk artist his whereabouts are kept hidden. The local town is afraid and it is only heightened by the fear the government agents further instill through lies and deception. In the end, the government agent calls in a nuclear attack to destroy the giant. The giant realizes that if he stays, the missile will destroy both himself and the town.

The giant becomes a Christ figure in his efforts to save the town. He, though innocent and undeserving of such a death, flies into space to intercept the missile thus saving the town from nuclear destruction.
The film, while set in the 50’s and builds on the Cold War fears, would seem to convey a pacifist position as well. The Iron Giant was capable of great destruction when provoked, but he chose to cover his eyes in one scene so as not to be aroused to fight. It is interesting for both children and adults to have the power to respond with violence and yet to have the restraint to avoid it.