Man of Steel has flown into theaters (Get it? Eh?), making massive piles of cash and garnering favorable reviews. Despite being a Superman fan, I haven't been able to get to the theater to see it yet. I'm very busy with being a dad, going to work, donating plasma, writing blogs, etc. etc. I'm hoping I'll catch it before it's theatrical run is over. Some friends of mine have seen it and loved it. This is making me itch even more to see it. Needless to say, I've got Superman on the brain, so in today's blog entry I'll share some of my thoughts on Kal-El, the last son of Krypton.
There's a lot of people, non-fans and casual fans especially, who think that Superman's alter-ego of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent would not disguise the fact that he's Superman. "How would nobody recognize him just because he's wearing glasses?" they say. Personally though, I've been overlooked by people who know me because of slight changes in appearance, including wearing a hat, getting a haircut, and even wearing or not wearing my glasses. And I've seen people out in public and not recognized them because they were wearing glasses or sunglasses.
But shouldn't Lois Lane, a woman who is supposed to be one of the greatest reporters ever ever, who works with Clark every day and gets rescued by Superman just about every day, recognize that Clark and Superman are the same dude? Not necessarily. Aside from the glasses thing, when he's Clark he changes his posture, hunching over to appear more feeble and hunchy. While I was at a carnival last weekend with Ginger and the kids, I saw a woman that I work with. I almost didn't recognize her, and it was only because of a change in posture. At the carnival she was walking like a normal human being, whereas at work she walks hunched over with her hands in the shape of claws, as if she's ready to kill somebody, because she's usually ready to kill somebody. I thought I was merely seeing a person who looked like the person I work with, and it wasn't until she walked toward me to say "Hi" that I realized it actually was her.
Also, there's the disbelievability factor. (Disbelievability, apparently, is a word I just made up, since spellcheck keeps putting a red-dotted line beneath it.) The disbelievability factor works for Spider-Man, He-Man, and even Heisenberg on Breaking Bad. People who have a reasonable suspicion about the real identities of such characters are often dissuaded from their belief by the disbelievability factor. Peter Parker is far too nerdy to be the heroic Spider-Man! Prince Adam is too much of a lazy, self-centered pretty-boy douche to be He-Man! Walter White is too meek to be master meth chef Heisenberg! And the same principle works for Clark Kent/Superman. As Clark, he acts not only mild-mannered, but plays himself off as a clumsy oaf. Nobody can believe that this human-blooper-reel farm-boy could possibly be Superman, even though he looks kinda like him.
I've noticed a trend in popular music where every few years or so a band or solo artist makes a hit song that contains Superman-related imagery. The problem I have with these songs (other than that they're usually more of the same typical radio-schlock but with Superman-related imagery) is that the references are always so vague. There's often mentions of the costume, specifically the cape. Some of them reference Kryptonite or maybe a character or two from the comics, but that's it. So we get lyrics like "I'm more than maaan in a silly red sheeeeet!" or "If I go crazy then will you shtill call me Shupermaaaaan?" I am not satisfied by this.
As a Superman fan and a nerd, I hope to someday hear a song on the radio with very detailed references to the man of steel. How about a song depicting a fight between Superman and Brainiac? Or a song detailing a day in the life inside the Bottle City of Kandor? Or an epic eight-minute-long ballad chronicling Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, his replacement by four false Supermen, and his subsequent return-to-life-and-he-has-a-mullet-now? That would be awesome. I think. Just me?
I will admit, while the references to Superman are vague in their song, I love the collaboration between Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg. Question: How much weed did Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg smoke? Answer: All the weed.
The American Way
Obviously Superman is an American icon, the first superhero to be birthed by an American art-form. When Man of Steel was first announced I started following the pre-production as closely as I could. Of course, when British actor Henry Cavill was cast as Kal-El, there was a minor backlash on the internet. Americans don't need to go out of their way to prove that they're pompous idiots, yet they try to do so all the time. I remember shaking my head at such message board comments as "This is bullshit! Superman is an American icon! He needs to be played by an American actor! Boycott this movie!" My snarky follow-up message was, "I agree this is bullshit. Superman should be played by a real Kryptonian."
There's just so much stupidity in the sentiment that Superman needs to be played by an American actor. For one thing, Superman doesn't need anything because he's a fictional character. Also, an actor is an actor, and people who act for a living frequently play parts in which they're portraying somebody of a different nationality or ethnic background. If actors were limited to playing only parts in which they were qualified based on nationality, there would be no Sci-Fi movies or television shows, so SyFy wouldn't exist, so there never would have been Sharktopus. Would you want to live in a world where Sharktopus doesn't exist, narrow-minded message board commenter? I didn't think so.
Furthermore, in the early comics Superman was more a citizen of the world, defending the oppressed and the victimized all over the planet. The American-flag-waving aspect was always there, but it became much more prominent during WWII and the Cold War. But of course, why would somebody want to have actual knowledge about a character before blurting out moronic 'thoughts' about how the character needs to be done on screen? Not in My Amurrica!
Whether you're an avid reader of the comics or somebody who's only knowledge of Superman comes from references on Seinfeld, I hope you've enjoyed my thoughts on Smallville's most famous son. That's all I've got at the moment. Oh, wait! There's one more I'll share...
I think it's awesome that within the span of a year we've gotten a Batman with a beard, a James Bond with a beard, and a Superman with a beard.