Dragon Ball Jesus
Vox Nova is pleased to welcome a guest post from Francisco Cruz-Uribe.
There are a fair number of paintings that I have noticed recently while faffing about online. They all share a few common features; features similar to those displayed by characters on the show Dragon Ball. For those few lucky enough to have never heard of Dragon Ball, here is a very brief recap. Dragon Ball is a Japanese cartoon featuring over-muscled men fighting in intergalactic battles. The storyline is complex and over-the-top, but all of the characters share the same features. They are all absurdly strong, they can shoot energy beams out of their hands, they all have really wild hair, and they always have an energy aura about them. I have included some example images, for comparison later.
Anyway, after seeing a certain painting (see below), and then noticing a large number of paintings similar to it, I have sarcastically dubbed them “Dragon Ball Jesus,” since they feature Jesus sporting ludicrous features shared by the characters in Dragon Ball. Sometimes, they are deliberately ironic or for the sake of comedy, like this one here:
Other times they are oh so serious, yet come across as hilarious. Dragon Ball Jesus paintings all have one or more of the following features in common. They either have Jesus surrounded in some glowing aura, as though he were about to explode with radiation:
An aside to explain the inside joke: In the show, one of the villains they fight, Freeza, would constantly transform, each time exploding in a burst of light, and with each new form would grow in power. His most famous line in the show was “this isn’t even my final form!”
Note the comedic similarity of this image and the image from Dragon Ball above. Other features of Dragon Ball Jesus include him holding light in his hands, as though he is about to throw a massive energy beam at the viewer.
This is the picture that started it all. Imagine seeing this projected 2o feet high during a religious education program at my church:
I mean, just look at it, and tell me it doesn’t resemble this:
I have sarcastically dubbed this odd genre of paintings Dragon Ball Jesus simply because it is hilarious to do so. However, I began to ponder why I find them so funny. Other people (whom I am sure shall present themselves in responses to this) take these paintings very seriously. They admire these images in a way I cannot fathom. So why do I find it uproarious to compare these paintings to a cheesy cartoon?
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that these images so colossally miss the point of Jesus. I find it amusing to compare them to Dragon Ball in order to point out that they have as much to do with Jesus as a silly TV show. The fact that these are taken so seriously despite them not being very accurate makes it funny to draw comparisons to something equally ludicrous.
These paintings were made with the correct intent in mind, certainly, but came out wrong in representing Jesus. Here, I will only use the last painting as an example; otherwise individually judging all the paintings I found would take too long. I am also going to extrapolate as to the motive of the artists. It seems that the artist was trying to capture Jesus, but was not quite clear on how to do so. They compiled what they knew on Jesus, and threw that into a painting. They know he is omnipotent, so they put him in space and made him look big! He is good, so make him holding light! He is the Son of God, so make him looking directly into the audience! However, these paintings don’t really capture any of the actual meaning behind these concepts, or anything that Jesus actually did. They merely show abstractly the ideals and bare bones models of what Jesus should be, rather that what he actually was. These come from a vague understanding of Jesus, without any elaboration. It is not specifically Catholic, or even Christian: it is only vaguely deistic. Jesus existed, but they don’t have the spiritual vocabulary to articulate the details of his existence, merely that he is good and stuff. This is a literal and heavy-handed interpretation of Jesus and I think it deserves to be mocked.
Francisco Cruz-Uribe is an amateur philosopher and avid anime fan. His father David bears no responsibility for the contents of this post.