Jupiter Ascending was essentially a Cinderella, Star Wars mashup. As such, it has several valuable themes, but the one that intrigues me most are the parallels between Jupiter’s life and the Christian life.
Jupiter worked in the family business, cleaning toilets…well, cleaning houses…but toilets are a part of that. She hated her job. She felt like it was beneath her, but what choice did she have? Her aunt, a believer in astrology, told her that her name and her time of birth meant she was “destined for great things and to find true love,” but reality and the voices around her all seemed to belie any of hope of either great things or true love. Her mother used to believe in good things, but she became a pessimist in the extreme. She told Jupiter that “love is just a fairy tale for little girls. In reality it’s just all urges and obligations.” So Jupiter struggled—she struggled to hope that things could be better as she struggled to accept and make the best of what was. Her conclusion about her aunt’s astrology (probably more to guard herself against being disappointed by hope than anything) was that astrology was total nonsense. (Ok, that’s the G-rated version… but you get the idea.)
Now, the movie isn’t talking about spiritual things here, but…
True love is only found in Jesus, ultimately. He is the only perfect love. So, while the movie isn’t concerned with spiritual matters, while she is technically looking for a physical, romantic love…the parallels to the Christian life are actually pretty sharp.
With that in mind, how many people in the world are like Jupiter? Following in their family’s footsteps, spending their time doing things that they feel are beneath their true worth, but seeing no way out. They have been told, by an aunt who believes in God, perhaps, or maybe it’s just a gut feeling deep in their soul—but there’s this suggestion that maybe they were meant for great things and that maybe there is a true love out there for their soul—a God who made them, loves them, has plans for them. But the voices all around them belie that thought. People saying God is a myth, or that He can’t be trusted. They are told their life is just a matter of survival, nothing more. So they struggle. They struggle to hope that there is more to their life than mere existence, all the while they are struggling to accept reality and be content with their meager existence. And many of them conclude, just as Jupiter did, (probably more to guard themselves against being disappointed by hope than anything) that God (Christianity) is total nonsense.
It’s not surprising that Jupiter would conclude that true love was nonsense. The men in her life gave her no reason to hope for love…they were all disappointments, at best. Her dad died when she was young—now that may not have been his fault, but it left her and her mom abandoned. He wasn’t someone she could trust or lean on. He was absent. Her uncle had a presence in her life, but it wasn’t a good one. He tried to keep her small. He was threatened by her strength and intelligence. “You are a smart girl…It’s probably the reason why you are still single. Men don’t like smart women.” In other words, you’ll never find a man who loves you for you, as you are…you must be less than what you are if someone’s going to want you.
Her cousin was no better. He was an opportunist who wanted to exploit Jupiter. He convinced her to sell her eggs to a fertilization clinic and give him the majority of the proceeds. How he convinced her he was entitled to any of those proceeds is a mystery to me…except that Jupiter had been trained to be compliant and not to believe she had any worth other than as a commodity for the family’s fortune. (One of the best lines of the movie was when the Uncle learns of her cousin’s scheme. His response is priceless: “You convinced your cousin to sell her eggs? What do you think she is? A … chicken???”)
The men in Jupiter’s life who should have shown her what it was to be loved and treasured left her feeling abandoned, squashed and exploited. She wasn’t taught that her value was in who she was, but in what she could provide for them.
This is reality for so many people. How can a person hold to hope that they can be loved when they haven’t seen even a shadow of the real thing? How can a person understand what it is be a Christian if they haven’t seen even a shadow of the real thing?
Things began to change for Jupiter, however, when she had a super-natural encounter. (This is where Cinderella meets Star Wars.) There was a battle going on over Jupiter…actually, there was a battle going on over the earth, and Jupiter happened to be a key player in that battle. (It’s a complicated plot to sum up, but I’ll try.) There was a family of royalty from another planet and they each owned several planets which they harvested (that’s exactly what it sounds like) for their own selfish gain. Jupiter was part of that family (unbeknownst to her) and she owned earth…the planet most coveted by each of the family members. Her siblings wanted to steal her birthright, her inheritance.
At first, Jupiter wanted to deny her inheritance. She didn’t want to accept that she was royalty. She suddenly longed for her normal life. She may have longed for great things and for a better life than she had known, but when it actually came to her, it was overwhelming. She tried to deny it at first. She didn’t feel worthy.
This, again, is much like the Christian story. There is a battle raging about us, and we are often clueless until some super-natural encounter wakes us up. Then we learn that we have an enemy who is desperate to rob us of our inheritance. The fact of the enemy is often as much as a surprise as the inheritance. The inheritance is a gift to all who become sons of God…who accept God as their Savior. Often, we are reluctant to accept it all…we reject God; we reject our inheritance; we reject salvation…we don’t trust it and/or we don’t think we are worthy.
There’s this interesting scene where a swarm of bees surrounded Jupiter and then began to mimic her movements—her movements directed them. Stinger, (an alien) explained to her, “Bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty.” She mocked, “Boy, are you going to be surprised when find out what I do for a living!” At which point Stinger said something profound, “It’s not what you do; it’s who you are.” This is the thing that began to change in Jupiter—her understanding of who she was. It happened slowly. The bees planted the idea in her head that she was more than just a servant, a maid, a toilet cleaner… and others reinforced it.
I doubt anyone will have a swarm of bees about them which tips them off to their true identity in Christ (although, if God can speak through a donkey, I’m sure he can speak through bees as well), but the Bible tells us that God loved us so much He sent his son to die for us (John 3:16) and that if we receive His love, we become sons of God (John 1:12). There comes a season in our life when there are signs all around us… little things in life, nature, relationship, etc. begin to almost hover around us like those bees, signaling us, alerting us to the idea that it’s true…we have worth!
For Jupiter, this concept was reinforced by her enemies, strangely enough. The more her enemies fought over her, the more she realized it must be true: they wouldn’t be fighting over a nobody. The other person who helped convince her was Caine—her rescuer. (Interestingly, he was a splice—part human and part animal—which sort of parallels Jesus who was fully God and fully man.) He knew her value. He cared about her. He treated her with respect. He could have used her. He could have bargained with her…sold her to the highest bidder…but instead he sacrificed for her, laying his life down for hers. It was through Caine that she came to believe that in love. Not because he said he loved her (he actually pushed her away, feeling unworthy of a princess), but because he showed that he loved her in his self-sacrificing actions.
It’s not unusual for things to work much like this in real life. The more we feel attacked by our enemy, the more we begin to suspect that maybe there is some truth to the idea that we have value—a value worth his efforts. Meanwhile, our Savior has been trying to love us, trying to show us that He can be trusted and that we are loved. He tells us so, but perhaps more importantly, he shows us so.
Finding true love and her true identity were two separate events for Jupiter, though they happened simultaneously and certainly intertwined. For us, as Christians, they are much more linked. Our identity is found in our true love—in the love of God. Our birthright is given to us when we accept His love. Though that may be different, the transformation that happened with Jupiter is one we should expect to find in our own lives.
Jupiter’s value, her identity, for so long, had been a matter of behavior and action—her worth had been tied to her value as a commodity. Her identity had been in what she did (cleaning toilets), not in who she was—her character, her identity, her birthright. When that began to change, when she began to embrace the fact that she had a birthright, that she was royalty no matter what she did for a living, and that she was loved…she began to act differently. She began to act with power and purpose and to look out for the good of others, rather than living like a victim.
Jupiter, now the owner of earth, returned to her old life. She went back to living at home and cleaning toilets, but she did it differently. She did it with joy and energy. The thing which she felt was beneath her before, when she was a nobody, was now something she chose to do in humble service and love to her family, even though she owned the earth. She could have had servants, but instead chose to be one. She didn’t Lord her royalty over anyone. Her job, her humble way of life, was no longer something that defined her, so it was no longer something she was ashamed of. Here’s what was different for Jupiter: Jupiter felt loved/WAS loved, so she was able to give love. Jupiter knew she had worth, so she was able to give worth to things she did. She no longer needed those things to give her worth like she did before.
This is the Christian life. When we know we are loved and have value, everything changes. We no longer need our work and relationships and circumstances to provide those things for us. We can transition from being a leech to being a host, a giver. We can now give what we have. We can serve humbly and love fully. We can live as Jesus did, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). Now, the same work and routines which once felt menial are infused with purpose and meaning. When we discover that we are fully, truly loved, and when we discover that we are heirs of God, alongside Christ—everything is transformed.
Questions for Discussion:
- Can you identify with Jupiter’s yearning for more in life, and her fear of being disappointed?
- Do you tend to be hopeful or pessimistic when it comes to the ideas of your worth and finding true love and purpose in life?
- It was hard for Jupiter to believe she was royalty and had value. Is it hard for you to believe that you have worth?
- If you were to make this statement about you, how would it read? “The men in Jupiter’s life who should have shown her what it was to be loved and treasured left her feeling abandoned, squashed and exploited. She wasn’t taught that her value was in who she was, but in what she could provide for them.”
- Jupiter knew Caine loved her because of the way he served her and sacrificed for her. Has anyone ever shown you that kind of sacrificial love?
- If Jupiter’s life is analogous (more or less) to the Christian life, then where would you say you were along that journey? Unaware of true love or any inheritance; beginning to suspect that something is going on-that there’s more to your story than you’ve known; being told you have an inheritance that is yours, if only you’ll claim it and trying to decide if that’s true or not; coming to realize there is a lover of your soul…and realizing you love him to; changing the way you live in light of the fact you are loved and you are an heir of God.