Superman with an open mind

August 4, 2011 07:42:20 Posted at August 4, 2011 07:42:20
Lainey Posted by Lainey

They’ve just released the first shot of Henry Cavill as Superman. I guess he’s supposed to be, like, breaking apart steel or something.

You like it?

I dunno. I generally don’t find men in leotard attractive, even if there’s mutant strength and a cape involved so... it’s hard for me to say as I might not be the target demographic. But, you know, they seem to have gotten a lot right, I guess...? The hair is appropriately lacquered Clark Kent styles; the muscles are very bulging (especially the arms which, erm, make them look kinda stubby and short, or is that just me?) and, yep, that’s definitely the boy scout we know - no conflict in his eyes, just decent determination and a guileless heart. One-dimensional at best, boring at worst?

I may be biased. Superman is not my favourite superhero. Superman doesn’t have much depth...

Or does he?

It’s time to hear from the Superman fans. Several months ago, a reader called Fiona R wrote to me in Superman’s defence. She offered an articulate, compelling argument and sounds, adorably, like a total nerd. Thanks Fiona!

Hey Lainey,

I had to email because I am so sick of everyone ragging on Superman. He's painted as this boring, witless do-gooder and I think nothing is further from the truth. Everyone says there's no substance there, there's nothing interesting about him, and you even went so far as to accuse him of having no depth! This is simply not true. He's just not a badass and that's why people think he's boring. Being nice doesn't automatically indicate that someone is boring. It's easy to think Superman lacks depth but I think a proper reboot of that franchise could explore many of the reasons why he is, in fact, completely compelling. I have high hopes because I think the "boy-scout" portrayal of Superman is a disservice to his character.

Superman is the ultimate outsider. There is, literally, no one else like him. Superman understands what it means to be completely alone and unable to confide in anyone. He carries around a huge burden of a secret, and he carries it alone. Because no matter what, Superman would never endanger another with the weight of his identity.

While lovingly raised by his adoptive parents, Superman is an orphan. Not just orphaned by his parents, but his entire race and world. How sad is that? Not the kind of thing one recovers from. No amount of nurturing can diminish the fact that he is the last of his kind, on an alien world. At the same time, he is the best example of overcoming grief and tragedy and flourishing despite great obstacles. He is a happy person. In contrast to Bruce Wayne, who's identity is also informed by the loss of his parents, Superman is not weighed down by his loss. And don't even get me started on Bruce Wayne (self-indulgent narcissist!).

Superman can't be with the girl he loves. It's especially sad because the identity he has in place, to protect his loved ones from harm, is the identity she rejects. Lois actually loves Superman, not Clark Kent; she actually loves his real self, not his manufactured alter ego. But revealing his true identity would endanger her too greatly. Everyone can relate to the pain of unrequited love.

Superman has the ability to force anyone to do anything. He can use force to make the world be whatever he might want it to be. He could literally be the ruler of the world if he chose to be. But he doesn't. Everyday Superman allows people to make mistakes and allows the world to find it's way. He intervenes only when lives are at stake and he must. Superman chooses to be good and to do good every single moment. He chooses not to be the Saviour because he believes in the possibility within humanity. Because it would be easy for him to swoop into Egypt right now and tell everyone how it's going to go down from now on, Egypt according to Superman. But he does not impose his will on others in spite of the fact that he has the power to do so. He chooses not to abuse his power.

I could go on, but this is becoming a thesis already. I just had to share my views regarding Superman. Because I think previous portrayals of him have got it all wrong (Christopher Reeve's Superman being the best example with his sort of cheeky interplay between Clark and Superman). There is a lot of potential in his character if it were to be highlighted in the right way. I think he gets a bad rap just because he's a nice guy. And he is a nice guy. A nice guy who deals with a lot of the same crappy issues the rest of us deal with, except on a much, much larger scale, but also represents the best that a human being can be.

Also, you can't really muck about with his looks, he's supposed to be genetically superior (so he should be aesthetically superior). Plus, his good looks won't bring his parents or planet back to life, or enable him to be with Lois, or make his life easier in any way.

So my point is, it's not the character of Superman that's boring, he's got a lot of potential, it's the previous iterations of that character. They need to abandon the boy scout (cuz that IS boring). Also, it's cool right now to like Batman because he's supposedly edgier and sexier. Give Supe some edge, some sex appeal, show his inner conflict... and that whiny little rich boy with all the toys won't stand a chance!
So stop dissing my main man!


OK then! Superman with an open mind. Fair?

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