Tech Life An ambitious plan forward

I Choose Superman

My family has a disproportionate love of Superman and I never quite understood why until recently.

When I say disproportionate love, I mean manic crazy love. My sister took a tape recorder into Superman II, recorded the whole damned thing, and then transcribed the entire movie via a typewriter. Why? So she could read the transcript of the movie she just saw.

I followed her madness by clipping Superman II ads out of any newspaper I could find and placing them carefully into a photo album. Black and white, low resolution ads. All the same, carefully curated in a photo album so I could remember what it felt like to watch those movies.

Clearly we both had too much time on our hands.

Superman has suffered since those first two movies. The latter movies were awful. We had high hopes for Superman Returns, but the essential story was left on the editing room floor. Meanwhile there were the critiques of Superman the character, that he’s boringly one dimensional. An invulnerable and totally moral character. He’s perfect; he can do no wrong. He’s not a realistic reflection of us mortal humans and therefore an unattainable idea.

Meanwhile, Batman. Yes, pathos and dysfunction. That’s a hero. Look at him – he’s that close to killing The Joker. He thinks about it because even though he’s a strategic fictional genius, he’s kinda fucked up. AND WAIT DID HE JUST KISS CATWOMAN? See, Batman has good days and bad days… just like you and I. I love Batman. While he remains a hyperbolic exaggeration of our ability, if you shoot him, it hurts, and we can relate to hurting. Does Superman ever feel pain?

I better understood what Superman meant when I watched the most recent and final trailer for Man of Steel. When Lois Lane asks him what the S stands for, he says, “It’s not an S. On my world, it means hope.”

Man of Steel

When a twisted someone believes that they are delivering an important message by blowing up innocents in a city that is a cradle of our liberty, I choose hope. I choose unrealistic and unbounded hope. I choose Superman.

Superman is a story. It’s a great story. It’s an unrealistic story full of fantastic elements that appeal to our desire to be intensely good humans, to perform amazing feats of strength, and to live forever. These stories, while unrealistic, give us direction, they temporarily relieve our burdens, and they give us an ambitious plan forward.

Perhaps the biggest critique you can make of Superman is that because he makes it look so easy with the flying and the invulnerability that doing the impossible is somehow easy or even achievable. It’s big. It’s over the top. It’s unrealistic and no one human can ever complete the feats of a single Superman. But it’s not the individual feats of Superman we care about, it’s that we, as a group of humans, working together, can do anything, even though it’s never easy.

My family loves Superman because he is an unrealistic and impossible creature. We know that. We know he sets an impossible bar, but we need that bar because that is how we dream big, that is how we aspire to something great, and that is why we choose hope.

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10 Responses

  1. Ted Kat 11 years ago

    Superman is the super-cop for the 1%. He is always chasing bank robbers and defending the status quo. He never do nothing that can disturb the ***system***

  2. Rob Aperolli 11 years ago

    What a vacuous, link-bait-wrapped waste of a blog post.

  3. JotKali 11 years ago

    It is a great story, and it could draw on some great comic arcs like All Star Superman. DC’s movies, both a lot of the animated ones and The Dark Knight, should also be lauded. They have a tone distinct from the incredibly awesome and fun Marvel movies, much more serious and brooding. I really hope Superman does well so the Justice League movie gets the go ahead.

  4. What is the Point of this Post??

  5. superman > batman

  6. Michael: thanks for writing this.

    “Choosing hope” over revenge is the best lens to view the Boston Marathon bombing.

    Seth Godin suggested a similar world view for Superman in

    Superman comes to our world with his gifts and sees his life as an opportunity and an obligation, one that he embraces. Superman could easily kill all the bad guys in a heartbeat, but he never does. For him, every challenge is an opportunity for healing. He believes in redemption and finds pleasure in using his gifts to help others.

  7. bruce kent 11 years ago

    Superman is the hero we want.

    Batman is the hero we need.

  8. Andrew 11 years ago

    I wish superman would exist and could prevent economical crisis… yeah, that`s the super power people need most

  9. Rands, thank you for writing this. Your writing is always inspiring to me, and this doubly so. Indeed as humans we need something to strive for- why not choose something (or someone) great to emulate?

  10. DC comics is known for young-child level one-dimensional characters, and both Superman and Batman are from DC comics.

    Marvel characters were always more human, and more adult. Spider-man was always more interesting, because being a superhero was much more challenging for him, being a normal guy with day-to-day concerns, rather than a billionaire.

    With Superman and Batman, you always knew they were going to win. With Marvel characters, it was a lot more sketchy… The Spider-man movies, sadly, turned out pretty cartoony and childish, but that wasn’t the character I knew. The X-Men movies are a better example… Much darker and edgier than even the reboot of Batman (which, again, isn’t true to the character).

    Other good examples are Blade, The Punisher and Iron-man.