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Superhero Actors Combine Faith with Activism in New Films

Mark Ruffalo and Michael B. Jordan are both A-list actors with experience headlining Marvel superhero films--Ruffalo as The Hulk and Jordan as Kilmonger in Black Panther. But recently, both have scaled down to depict stories of real-life heroes.

Ruffalo stars in Dark Waters which tells the story of a West Virginia town and their legal battle against the chemical corporation polluting the water. Meanwhile, Jordan stars in Just Mercy, which depicts the story of a black man unjustly accused of murder and the young attorney trying to prove his innocence. In both films, the protagonists are devout Christians who live out their faith by taking action against injustice.

In Dark Waters, Ruffalo plays Robert Bilott, who initiated a lawsuit against DuPont after he was recruited by a local rancher convinced that toxic waste was killing his cattle. Ruffalo said, “I believe our heroes, real heroes in the world, are the ones who are like Rob Bilott. It was a story that we needed to see and hear at this particular moment in time, and it really suited where I was in my career to be able to bring something like this to life.” Ruffalo produced the film himself after being challenged by a fan to make more films that depict Christians honorably.

Meanwhile, in Just Mercy, the issue is not environmental, but racial. Just Mercy is the film adaptation of the NY Times bestselling memoir by Bryan Stevenson, whose character is played by Jordan. In it, Stevenson struggles to get a foothold in the criminal justice system because of decades of institutional bias and racial discrimination. Jordan said, “I felt a sense of responsibility to run toward this story and use my platform to get it out to the masses. I think [Stevenson] is a real-life superhero.”

Potential Preaching Angle: Part of the Christian witness is participating in the principle of shalom, where everything wrong is made right again. God has a heart for those afflicted by injustice.

Source: Emily McFarlan Miller, “Actor Mark Ruffalo blends film and faith-fueled activism in ‘Dark Waters,’” Religious News Service (12-10-19); Derek Lawrence, “Michael B. Jordan felt a responsibility to play 'real-life superhero' in ‘Just Mercy,’” EW.com (10/21/19)

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