My high school literature teacher (shout out to Mrs. Elzey!) introduced me and my classmates to the concept of the “Christ figure.” In literature, a Christ figure is a character who is similar to Jesus Christ from the Bible. It became a running joke in my class that in each new book we read, we had to find the Christ figure – because “there is ALWAYS a Christ figure.” If you couldn’t find the Christ figure, you just weren’t looking hard enough.
The joke ended up being on me, though, because forever after, I couldn’t stop seeing Christ figures everywhere. Amberle in The Elfstones of Shannara, Spock in Star Trek, Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter in the books bearing his name..and now, Bo in Lost Girl.
My favorite description so far, though, is this list of notes entitled “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster from a class at the University of West Georgia. Props to freshman Ariel Crawford for compiling these notes in 2006. (Ariel, where are you and what are you doing now? Do you watch Lost Girl? If not, give it a try – I think you’d enjoy it.)
Let’s examine Professor Foster’s list and see how Bo fits into these telltale Christ figure characteristics.
Crucified, wounds in the hands feet, side and head
We haven’t seen Bo literally crucified (yet), but she’s suffered head wounds every now and then. Also, when she was hit by the car in S3E4, “Fae-de to Black,” she was left with a persistent bruise in her side that caused her great pain. And in S2E8 “Death Didn’t Become Him,” the Lich shoots Bo in the side (which later leads to her first mass chi-suck while chained up with arms outstretched – more on this later).
Let’s consider the cursing nail for a moment. This was the nail with which the African shaman cursed Nadia at the Ash’s behest in order to coerce Lauren into working for the Light Fae. We first learn about the cursing nail in S2E8, “Death Didn’t Become Him,” and Bo finally lays the nail to rest in S2E12 “Masks.”
Sometimes a nail is just a nail – but Bo’s removal of the nail and keeping it a secret from Lauren in this context reminds me of the Crucifixion. Bo experienced a lot of heartbreak and pain by making this willing sacrifice for Lauren.
In agony (perhaps even great physical suffering)
Bo’s existence has caused her a great deal of psychic pain over the years. The guilt she feels from her ten years on the run, unable to stop killing, has haunted her. She also endures physical pain from the dangerous situations she continually encounters and her refusal to back down. Her love life, never smooth for long, has been a source of great joy but also great heartbreak. For much of Season 4, Bo’s memory loss and whatever trauma she experienced on the Death Train transformed her previously somewhat content existence into a continual source of frustration and anger. And losing Kenzi has been perhaps the most painful of all.
Self-sacrificing (big sacrifice, preferably a life, for others)
Bo almost can’t help herself, sacrificing herself for other people and for the world. The sacrifice of her own happiness for Lauren’s when she removed Nadia’s cursing nail is one dramatic example. What more pure expression of love is there than stepping aside and giving up your own hopes and desires so the person you love can be happy?
But that’s not all – Bo’s been willing to lay down her life, safety and happiness in several situations without any promise of material gain or thanks, just because it’s the right thing to do. Here are just a few examples:
- In S1E8, “Vexed,” Bo damns the consequences and rushes headlong to find and kill Vex, who had forced Lou Ann Heidinger to kill her four children as punishment for leaving the Fae for the human world.
- Over the course of Season 2, she agrees to fight the Garuda as the Light’s Champion, knowing she might fail and die – to save the Fae world.
- Season 3 – Bo saves both Sylvie the Wombly and Hannah the Squonk in S3E1 “Caged Fae” and “Fae-ge Against the Machine,” respectively, at great personal risk and peril to herself.
- S2E4 “Groundhog Fae” – Bo frees Tamsin from Krampus’s creepy candy factory and lays down in her place on the conveyor belt.
What other examples can you name?
Bo isn’t the only one who sacrifices, of course – both Dyson and Kenzi have actually died to save Bo and the world – Dyson so Bo could escape the Temple during the Dawning, and Kenzi to close the Pyrippus-engineered portal to the otherworld.
Good with children
I don’t know that we could say that Bo is good with children. While not actually a child in anything other than appearance, Bo and the Nain Rouge had a hostile relationship. Kenzi did most of the child-rearing of Reincarnated Young Tamsin. But Bo in general has seemed compassionate to most people, and it might just be that there’s not a huge storyline opportunity for child characters in Lost Girl, probably rightfully so. Anyone have opinions?
Good with loaves, fish, water, wine
I’m not sure about loaves, fishes or water, but Bo is damn good with wine.
As well, the image of water and Christ figures inevitably comes back to baptism. Whaddya think?
Thirty-three years of age when last seen
By my reckoning, Bo is probably in her early thirties by now. Since Lost Girl is by no means over, it’s possible she will be 33 in a season or two, and also possible that something dramatic might happen in the area of self-sacrifice. Stay tuned.
Please, please please, Lost Girl writers and producers, please do not kill Bo permanently like Xena. My wounded heart couldn’t take it. Name your price – pizza? Convincing Wendy’s to bring back the pretzel burger? Whatever it is, I’m on it.
Known to use humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred
The Beast (Bo’s car) is certainly a humble mode of transportation, but witness also this donkey:
Believed to have walked on water
This parallel isn’t really a literal one, but Bo’s friends certainly think highly of her. In fact, in Season 2 finale when the gang went up against the Garuda, they may have thought that Bo literally did walk on water after Lauren had administered Bo’s succubus blood to them all to strengthen their bond. Quoth Hale, “Bo’s the best!”
Side note: the Season 2 finale is called “Flesh and Blood,” and both the title and the sharing of Bo’s blood reminds me of the Eucharist, when Christ fed his disciples bread and wine, telling them “This is my body. This is my blood.”
Often portrayed with arms outstretched
Known to have had a confrontation with the devil, possibly tempted (in a wilderness–disappears to the wilderness)
Pyrippus seems like the closest thing to the idea of the Christian devil that we’ve seen so far in Lost Girl, and Bo has been confronting him, whether she’s known it or not, for a long time now. Season 5 seems like it’s heading for a showdown. The interesting thing about knowing that Pyrippus is Bo’s father when considering Bo as a Christ figure is Bo’s monologue during “The Ceremony” in Season 3:
“I will reign as he did. Together we will bridle the masses and ride them to victory! Even death will fear us! Only I will decide who lives!”
The concept of Bo ruling with her father has always reminded me of The Apostles’ Creed, which contains a description about Jesus ascending into Heaven (from the Ecumenical Version):
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I don’t necessarily think this means that Pyrippus is going to end up as a force for good, by the way – the literary device of a Christ figure is not meant to be a literal parallel all the time.
(Side note: knowing that Pyrippus is a horse makes the “bridle the masses and ride them to victory” line a little clearer now.) What do you think? Yea? Neigh?
Last seen in the company of thieves
Kenzi is a collector of rare wallets, and Bo is often seen in her company.
Creator of many aphorisms and parables
Bo has had some good lines, that’s for sure. Here’s one that seems to sum up her thoughts on her past life, and living the life she chooses (and incidentally contains the ongoing theme of self-sacrifice):
“I will never kill innocents again, I’d rather die.”
Buried, but arose on the third day
While I don’t think we’ve seen Bo literally buried alive, her abduction to the Death Train can be seen as a metaphorical burying, death and resurrection.
Had disciples, twelve at first, although not all equally devoted
Well, sure – Bo’s core gang is kind of like her disciples. Not twelve, but that would probably be too many characters.
Bo seems to be VERY forgiving. During Season 3, she told Lauren “I will never forgive you for this” and then in the very next episode, she seemed to have forgiven her. She forgave Kenzi for making a secret commitment to the Morrigan to save Nate, and then keeping that information from Bo. If she ever finds out the extent of all the information that Trick and Dyson have kept from her, she’ll probably forgive them, too. Bo doesn’t hold grudges.
Came to redeem an unworthy world (at the least offers hope)
Bo’s choice in the very first episode was to choose humans rather than Light or Dark Fae. She thinks the rules are outdated and doesn’t want to play by them. At the least, Bo wants to be left alone to live the life she chooses, but I think ultimately Bo would like to see the Dark/Light divide go the way of the dodo.
Bonus Christ figure characteristic – ability to resurrect others
While not on Professor Foster’s list, the ability to bring others back to life is something that a Christ figure might do. In the Bible, Jesus resurrects his friend Lazarus by commanding “Lazarus, come forth.”
We’ve seen Bo bring people back to life, too – notably Dyson after she had to kill him in order to escape the Temple. The butterfly coming back to life in her flashback on the Death Train also is a resurrection.
What the heck, Sally?
Now, you might be thinking: “Sally, Bo is sexy as hell. And Jesus, while many things, is not sexy. Isn’t this a little farfetched, and a little sacrilegious? How could a main character who needs sex to survive possibly be a Christ figure? What gives?”
This is one of the beautiful things about Lost Girl, how it takes familiar themes and presents them in new and unexpected ways to make a point.
Bo is a person who has been damaged by religion – cast out of her house by fundamentalist parents who told her she was the devil. She’s also a succubus who needs to have sex in order to survive, and this is presented in a positive light. Bo likes sex, and that’s great. As Kenzi says to her, “Enjoy your shit.”
For Bo to exhibit all of these archetypal characteristics of the figure who is at the center of Christianity while herself having suffered because of her parents’ interpretation of Christianity – it’s a reclamation. Bo is a stand-in for so many people who have been persecuted and mistreated in the name of religion – and by appearing as a Christ figure, she can be seen as contradicting the idea that God’s love is only for some people – certainly not for Bo and for people like her. It’s the beginning of reconciliation.
It’s also just pure Lost Girl genius.