‘Brightburn’ (i.e. BB, also spelling Brandon Beyer) imagines the polar opposite of the Superboy or Superman mythos. What are the chances anyway, that an alien baby is like a ‘godsent’ instead of a ‘demon child’? What if such an adopted kid becomes super evil instead of super good? Humanwise, who wishes to bring up a future warmonger? Even Hitler’s mother did not. There is thus always some risk involved in child-rearing. One can only do one’s best to bring up decent human beings. How about using the Dharma as an ethical guide, from as young as possible, to best foster the next generation?
Having crash landed into a Smallville-ish farm, BB grows up to realise he has the classic Superman powers – super strength and speed, heat vision and flight. But unlike Superman who has his Fortress of Solitude that educates him on his origin and purpose, BB’s literally warped spaceship beckons him to do evil, to conquer the world. Unfortunately, he heeds, proceeding to kill and deceive. Although like an extreme ‘what if’ version of the Superman tale, BB offers a reality check, on the great risks that the Kents took to foster the superbaby they did. Would Superman be the ‘man’ he became without their adequate nurturing?
Was BB essentially evil from the start? Or just badly influenced by his ship? Here is the debate on nature versus nurture. Did BB have innate evil waiting to surface, with it merely prompted and accelerated? Or was he neutral till the ship ‘created’ his dark instincts? The truth should be in between – being originally kind of balanced, till with a strong nudge in one direction. It was thus up to his foster parents to nurture him in time, to awaken his Buddha-nature, instead of his ‘Mara-nature’. Unfortunately, as in real-life parenting cases, even the best intentions might not be enough. Fortunately, it is Buddha-nature that will outlast in time.
Buddhists would interpret that BB’s foster parents were not skilful enough to nurture him with the Dharma, though they did try hard with worldly ways. Both BB and his parents failed to recognise the dormant Buddha-nature in one another, thus seeking to destroy one another. While there was love and trust in the beginning, these qualities proved inadequate when they became hatefully suspicious of one another in the end. In the confrontational scene, the mother tried to assure BB that all is fine, that she still cares, but was caught sneaking an attack on him at the same time. Were there one or two ‘maras’ then? It is hard to say.