Editorial: Nobody Seems to Understand Superman

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Night of terror, morning of loss

T’was a wednesday morning when the news broke, that Henry Cavill is no longer Superman.

Oddly enough, for an actor playing such an iconic character as Superman, the news didn’t exactly break my heart. It was like finding out your neighbour’s cat that you rarely saw had passed away… “Too bad, oh well”

But why is that? Superman was a beacon of hope, an icon, a symbol that people used to strive towards. But now, all the glam, and joy that was attributed to the character seems to have vanished and strangely enough, even ostracised to some extent.

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The Batman vs Superman effect, and Why it Happened in the First Place.

People now either say “Superman is not-relatable”, or “He’s too overpowered”, “He’s campy as heck”, and so on. Over the years, i’ve noticed a massive upsurge in the number of Batman fans… He’s dark, he’s gritty, badass, and above all he’s Batman! The Caped Crusader has won over the hearts of many,  leaving the Man of Steel himself in the dust. One might argue that conversing in the significance of superheros, and their place in society is somewhat mundane, one should also argue that this paradigm shift in the reception to Batman & Superman –  reflects the state of our society more than you’d actually give credit for.

The world is getting meaner, it’s hurting, it’s entrapped in darkness, and for some reason we love marinating in darkness, even though it’s hurting us. These are values that Batman himself carries. Oddly enough, Batman wasn’t even this dark when he first started out, he gradually got darker over the years, and i’m not even talking about the 80 years that the character has endured. I’m talking about the last 2 years with Snyder‘s Dawn of Justice.

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Heck, if you really think about it. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s entire plot revolves around an angry Jessie Eisenberg doing everything in his power to besmirch Superman, because he can’t stand the idea of a deity, a force for good, a Superman. That’s literally the whole film, “angry, mentally disturbed billionaire uses all his resources to besmirch a fuckin god, because life’s that awful!”

The Character Assassination of Superman

It’s 1978 and you just came out of the theatre watching Superman, you felt optimistic, Christopher Reeves was this knight-in-shining-armor, and the film evoked this sense of pride, and the will to be an act for good. Cut to 2013, you just saw Man of Steel, great visuals, amazing dragonball z-like action, a great soundtrack by the Zimmerman himself, and…the film is fucking pretentious, and just outright soulless.

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Man of Steel, is a film made for people who hate Superman, there you go. No, there’s no going around it, IT IS THAT. I’ve seen many comments, and interpretations claiming that the movie was an attempt at humanizing Superman.

But why humanize Superman when he’s already human in the first place?

Now, hear me out here. Yes, Kal El -The Last Son of Krypton, was not of this earth, but guess what. He spent his entire childhood in Kansas (which why the line “I’m as american as it gets” from Man of Steel is one of the film’s redeeming qualities), he had human parents who loved him no matter what, he got bullied like everybody, he got his heart broken, and probably got grounded like a human teenager. He was human first and foremost, even with his abilities.

One of the scenes in a recent DC film that really struck a chord with me was the interplay between Bruce Wayne & Alfred talking about how the league needs a leader, and why Bruce himself is unfit to be that. Why? Because the truth is this kryptonian the he set out to murder a year go, is actually MORE HUMAN THAN HIM. That’s the point boys & girls, Batman might be more realistic, but Superman is who we ought to be, and truth-be-told… who we really are.

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That’s why it made no sense when Superman screamed in sadness when he murdered Zod, yes he’s from the same planet. But dude, you just met him yesterday. He should be crying for the human lives lost, not over the death of an war-mongering kryptonian who threatened the life of his mother a few hours ago.

 

How will the Man of Tomorrow prevail?

I could spew out pages-worth of the cinematic crimes inflicted upon Superman, even dating back to the Donner films, but that isn’t what this is about. How do we restore this dying icon?

For starters we could stop with Jesus symbolism (Good Lord!), and more importantly we  embrace his humanity, stop trying to put Clark through the ringer for the heck of it, and make him face his adversities to improve his character instead of using it to torture the character. (What i’m basically saying is, watch the Captain America movies, and take note).

Also, here’s another tip, you don’t need to humanize Superman, because you already have Clark Kent. Let both alter-egos breath, write the 2 personas in a symbiotic way.  Spend more time in smallville, explore his teenage years, and delve into the fact that everyone in Smallville KNEW Clark was different, but decided not to care, and accepted him into the fold anyway.

I’ll end this with a quote from Batman in Justice League…

“Superman was a beacon to the world. He didn’t just save people, he made them see the best parts of themselves”

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