Over here at Trash Talk! we’re going to take a look at pop-culture through an artistic lens, more specifically exploring the dichotomy between high-art and low-art in movies, TV, comics, and video games. What’s fine cinema, and what’s trash? Sometimes the line may be thinner than you think.
“What I’ve been hoping for is to be able to take my kids to see a version of this story that is going to fry their imaginations the way the 1978 [Superman] that Dick Donner did for me when I was an 8-year old boy.” – Christopher Nolan
Superman is irrelevant. That’s what many in the pop culture population would have you believe. It’s an idea that’s been kicked around for a while. Superman is utterly unrelatable due to his vast array of powers, and his outdated “awe shucks,” morality. The exact opposite of the gritty and realistic Batman, or the image of adolescent angst that is Spider-man. Those characters are relatable and believable, but Superman is emphatically not. This is what people who don’t understand Superman will tell you.
When I look at Superman, I see the loneliest man in the world. Someone who no matter how hard he tries to fit in, he always knows he’s not of this Earth, but he was raised with love, and he tries share that love with the place he calls home (even if it is not where he hails from). He tries his hardest every day to live up to the ideals of truth and justice in a dark, cynical world. I relate to that, and I think many of you out there can too. Despite his powers I see Superman as one of the most human characters in comics. Certainly more human than Batman, who transformed himself into the optimal human being, able to overcome any obstacle that his “powered” compatriots can, through nothing but his sheer will. Batman may not have powers, but he’s made himself the holy terror of Gotham’s criminals because he has transformed himself into something that is inhuman.
Superman is a much more emotionally available character. He laughs, he cries, he loves, and when he’s angry, you better watch out. Physically Kal-El may be a juggernaut, but inside he struggles with same feelings, questions, tragedies, and triumphs as any of us trying to find our way in this world. Any true fan of Superman knows that it’s not his powers (which have long since become commonplace in superhero storytelling) that make him super. It’s the man. Superman symbolizes the best in all of us. Every human being has been granted great power. With nothing but a few choice words we can completely decimate a life. On the flip side, with simple gesture of kindness, or a whispered “you’re stronger than you know,” we can uplift, create, and regenerate those around us. Superman represents our ability to overcome petty selfishness, to fight injustice, greed, violence, and hate. Though you may not be able to lift a tank over our head, melt a car with our eyes, or fly (just yet), we can all be Superman. We can stand up to the bullies of the world, and throw out a hand to those weaker than us. In a broader sense this is what superhero fiction represents. The ordinary finding the extraordinary within themselves and using it for good, and that legacy (carried on through such disparate characters as Wonder Woman, Hellboy, and Wolverine) all started with Superman.
As Christopher Nolan (who produced the new Man of Steel film that comes out today) states in the above quote, a Superman story done right should “fry” your imagination. It should get you thinking about weird new worlds, larger than life villains, and epic senses shattering battles. But it should also help imagine a better you; strong, courageous, and willing to fight for your fellow man. Maybe with a little less cynicism, and a little more “aw shucks” morality we can make this world a better place, just like Superman.
Agree, disagree, or other? Please comment below and let me know your thoughts! Also, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @djtalkstrash. I’ll be giving #SnapReviews of all the big movies this Summer, including Man of Steel this weekend!