Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Does the world need Superman?

After his long absence from Earth, Superman returns home to his farm. He flips through the television channels only to accosted with images of war and pain. Later, when he takes Lois flying, he asks her what she can hear. She says 'Nothing'. He tells her he can hear everything, all the people crying out for help. This is why he knows he is needed.

As heroes go, Superman is my favorite-- ever since I had a supergirl costume as a kid and tried to 'fly' by jumping off my window sill onto my bed and convincing myself that I actually flew for a few seconds. No, really, I did! Hee. I remember having these conversations with friends- about how Superman is the real superhero- and his disguise is human in nature. As compared to everyone else- Spidey, the Hulk, you have it, he doesn't mutate into a superhero, he IS one. His challenge is to be human. He doesn't want to rule the Earth, given his ability, but he just wants to belong. He wants to help the world that took him when his own was lost.

So does the world need a Superman? A savior? The parallel with Christ is unmistakable. The savior who hears our cries and comes to save us. Mull over this: Created by two young Jewish men, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman was the product of the Great Depression. Although Krypton was about to be destroyed and Jor-El had to save his son, the booming voice of Marlon Brando cannot be forgotten as he tells his son that humans need to be shown the way and "For this reason I have sent them you, my only son." Like Jesus, the son of God, Kal-El (Superman) too is an immigrant; wandering. He comes from a distinguished blood, he rights wrongs, performs miracles, saves people and so on. [Actually, Richard Donner (who directed the older movies) received death threats from people who were upset about the parallel.] In later years- 1992- Superman died, only to be rumored sighted and to return a year later.

But the question remains, what is the role of Superman? The last movie which many people did not like (I did) posed a very interesting internal debate for Superman. His father had told him not to interfere with the course of human history and to let it play out. But a little boy asks Superman to get rid of all nuclear weapons in the world. He is torn, but ultimately decides that he WILL do so. In this movie, he goes away for five years and people move on. They survive. Perhaps experience a loss of faith, as is evident by Lois Lane's Pulitzer Prize winning article titled ''Why the world doesn't need Superman".

Of course, for me the religious parallels don't make a difference. I love the concept of a hero. One who fights for truth and justice. What is interesting is Tarantino's take on Superman (in Kill Bill 2)- that Clark Kent is Superman's critique of humans. I suppose you could read that as him regarding humans as eager and honest and perhaps a little helpless and lost. And if that is the essential human being, then does this mean we do need a Superman?

Well, duh, yes we do! Not having the real deal (and by that I mean the man in tights himself) we have created heroes all around us. Role models are aplenty as are people who sacrifice themselves to just causes. To me, Superman is a testimony to faith. Faith in- no, not God (after all, he is Super MAN) but faith in the power of good. And with this new movie, there is a new facet. Faith in the fact that we can pass along this 'good' to our children and that every new generation holds promise and hope. The backbone of Superman is the story about fathers and sons; that if you teach them right, they can grow up to do many wonderful things. Unlike General Zod and his cronies (the second movie) Kal-El has learnt well. The next installment of the Superman movie will certainly take this concept further with a little superkid waiting in the wings.

Plus, you gotto love someone who saves an entire plane of people from having the most horrible crash-landing, but takes the time out to remind them that statistically flying is still the safest way to travel. He is just SO cool!!!


Cyberswami said...

yeah, i almost had goosepimples watching the film. the opening sequence is particularly brilliant.

not much of a plot to the film, but it was definitely a nostalgic trip through all the things that makes superman what he is. i'm sure you caught all the allusions to the previous movies.

heh, the superkid was a bit of a googly though.

i think your reference to the depression is well taken. after all, in earlier films superman asserts that he is the way he is for 'truth, justice and the american way'.

but i agree with you: if there was any superhero that i wanted to be, it was superman. like (or maybe not quite like) major major major major from catch 22, i would dream that i was flying and wake up falling off my bed.

ScarS said...

Yeah I guess everyone fancies Superman! Although its sad that his powers are limited to helping only one country in the entire world. We need a couple more of him. and yeah the the flight scene was way out.

rohinic said...

the world totally needs superman!... just as aging socialites need botox, just as we need to work more hours and the world needs to eat more red meat! but really- when have we not needed someone to blame shit on... or someone to pray to when shit starts to hit the fan?

Aye Davanita said...

Behind your pertinent question of - do we need a superman? Even if it is conceptually? - lies a darker question... do we need a General Zod. "Need", being the key word in both questions I suppose.

Whether its the ten commandments, or Jor-El ordaining Kal-El to fight for truth and justice, its not necessarily a "do this" proclaimation is it?. These codes of good conduct are expressed passively - DON'T covet thy neighbors wife. DON'T try to rule the world. Why?

If there is reason to exemplify "good" it is the existence of "bad". One without the other is logically impossible. They both define each other. So a need for Superman, latently but obviously implores a need for a General Zod (of sorts).

NB: I use General Zod and not the other diabolical villains because he is equally powerful on Earth.

mahima said...

I love it.

What is needed OR... do you create a demand-- because you think a demand has been created???

SO if we need or hero (or SHOULD have one) do we 'need' a villain?

What do you want to see?

Anonymous said...

Kill Bill 2 influence much? - 'Superman is the real superhero, being human is his secret identity.'