It is reasonably fashionable these days to ridicule Superman as the “this is how American sees itself” superhero. When film fans discuss the the age-old is “Batsman better than Superman?” argument, it is decidedly pointed in the favor of Batman – at least in the trendy neighbourhoods.
After all, Batman is a superhero without superpowers. He is the gritty, flawed, and dark one with a gloomy view of the human condition . Superman is so… 1950s. All American, flawless, the superhero of a simpler time, when good and evil had a clearer dividing line.
Except… it’s really a lot more complicated than that.
The power of the Superman story isn’t about a man with no weaknesses. Its power is in Superman showing us our own limitations as we contrast ourselves against him. It’s in Superman losing his powers and becoming “one of us” and in doing so, showing us what it means to be human.
The Superman projection is a way of figuring out who we are as flawed humans, in a similar way that Star Trek’s Spock is mirror that helps us see our own irrationality.
Superman isn’t about a Man of Steel. It’s about how we don’t measure up to our own ideals. So I’m just going go on record and risk losing the little “cool” factor I still might have had.
I actually kind of liked the new Superman. There I said it.