Does the world still need a superhero?
Watch out, bad guys, as Superman Returns . . . fighting movie villains, rescuing the imperiled, desiring Lois Lane (now a single mom), saving the world.
The guy is everywhere. Superman’s promotional ties include Burger King, Duracell, got milk?, even a dating website. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has a Superman logo tattooed on his arm. Archvillain Lex Luthor hacked Superman’s website, linking to his own MySpace.com webpage. Marketers work every angle.
Why has the Superman story remained so popular? What is it about the Man of Steel that captures the public imagination?
In the 1930’s, the Great Depression had the world slumping. Fascist and Nazi menaces haunted Europe. Two Cleveland teenagers dreamed up a hero who would rescue the troubled, inspire hope, and set things right. The story was born.
In the new film, Daily Planet editor Perry White instructs his staff to cover everything they can about Superman’s return. He especially wants to know, “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?”
He does, and that’s one reason Superman’s appeal endures. Some probably many want to identify with someone bigger than themselves who embodies what’s honorable, a hero to admire or emulate.
Look, up in the sky!
Lots of people need rescuing these days from crime on the streets and in the boardrooms, troubled relationships, terrorism, war, disease, nuclear threats. Superman has power. He cares for distressed people. And he’s humble.
Plain, ordinary Clark Kent could be everyhuman. His mild mannered disguise hides phenomenal abilities. Ever dream of your peers, your foes, or the world glimpsing the real you, the one with more to offer than ever gets appreciated?
My childhood heroes included Superman, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. I wore their costumes as I watched their television programs. Their struggles for good energized my youthful imagination.
Of course, not everyone believes the world needs saving. The new Lois Lane says, “The world doesn’t need a savior; neither do I.” Superman tells her, “But every day I hear people crying for one.”
Superman’s biological father, JorEl (voiced by the late Marlon Brando), prepared counsel for his child, KalEl, whom he launched into space as their planet, Krypton, exploded. Of earthlings: “They can be a great people, KalEl. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all their capacity for good I have sent them you . . . my only son.”
My only son . . .
Spiritual parallels have not been lost on media observers. Rolling Stone feels Brando’s words “establish . . . (Superman) as a Christ figure.” Jesus, of course, referred to himself as God’s “only Son” sent to rescue the world: “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.”
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were Jewish. “El” is a Hebrew word for “God.” The biblical Moses’ mother hid him in a basket in the Nile River to save his life.
Superman Returns director Bryan Singer, who is Jewish, acknowledges that biblical imagery both messianic and Mosaic have influenced the Superman saga. An adopted only child, picked on in youth, Singer says he’s often felt like an outcast.
How does Superman inspire him? “I think most people do believe in that kind of integrity and virtue,” Singer observed in a documentary. “They want to see goodness. People have a deep need to believe that it exists out there.”
Superhero a real one still needed.
Anyone out there “still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” Anyone qualify as “the Light of the world”?
© 2006 Rusty Wright