It’s Easter! Happy Easter, everyone!
Let’s talk about Mary Magdalene, the resurrection, and pop culture.
Recently, I have been concerned about women being erased from history, religion, and culture. There seems to be this idea that, because of how much more sexist society used to be, woman did nothing and made no contributions to anything. This is decidedly not true; rather, because of our sexist culture, these stories have been erased, forgotten, or unacknowledged. It seems like every day I hear about another woman in science or history who did something amazing and wasn’t recognized in her time, which is expected, but what is unacceptable is that these women are still never mentioned or given credit in any textbooks.
In religion, it’s much the same way. Many of the first converts to Christianity were women, though it’s more often the male converts that are talked about. Two of the most popular Christian martyrs were Perpetua and Felicity. Their visions and martyrdom urged thousands of people to become Christian, yet today many pass them over in favor of talking about male martyrs.
And this even happens in our pop culture.
One of the most important moments for women in the Bible is Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and learning that Jesus has risen from the dead. She then goes and proclaims this good news to the disciples! Mary Magdalene is arguably the first Christian preacher, because she gets to proclaim the good news to the disciples! (Psst, that was my plug for female priests in the Catholic Church.)
So this is why it always kind of bugged me that almost every Christ figure in pop culture has men discovering that he’s not really dead and proclaiming this good news to everyone. In Lord of the Rings it’s Legolas, Gimili, Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin who discover Gandalf has resurrected as Gandalf the White—all men. In Harry Potter, Harry is discovered to be alive by Narcissa, but she hides the fact that he is alive. Yes, it’s to save his life, but it still takes away the function that Mary Magdalene served in the Gospels. Harry later reveals he is alive in front of everyone in the books. And it’s male characters like Neville that proclaim that they will follow Harry’s example, whether he is dead or not.
Thank God for C.S. Lewis and his devotion to strict allegory or I would never have female characters fulfilling Mary Magdalene’s role. It’s Susan and Lucy in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that witness Aslan’s death and resurrection and ride with him into battle against the White Witch.
The lack of female characters fulfilling Mary Magdalene’s role in the Christ figure trope is really symptomatic of a lack of major female characters in fantasy in general, but it’s still an issue.
Not only is women’s history being erased, but our stories are too. It’s important that where woman have played important roles in stories and in history that we include them, or else their importance will be forgotten.