Friday, June 30, 2006

"All That Stuff"

I haven’t seen Superman Returns yet, and I’m not sure when I will, but I really want to. The trailers look great and I have great faith in Bryan Singer’s vision when it comes to these comic book movies.

But I gotta tell you about something that’s been bugging me since I first saw the trailer a couple of months ago.

That is, a sound-bite where Daily Planet chief, Perry White says, “Does he (Superman) still stand for Truth? Justice? All that stuff…?

Now, unless you’ve lived without any access to the media or pop-culture for your entire life (if so--how on earth did you even find my blog?), you know that Superman stands for “Truth, Justice and The American Way.”

This has been bothering me for a while, but I didn’t know if it was worth mentioning since I hadn’t yet seen the movie. But today I heard someone talking about it on talk radio, and so, I guess it really is an issue.

The omission of “The American Way” says much about the filmmakers. It seems they were not comfortable stating the “American Way” is an ideal worth fighting for. As we begin the 4th of July weekend, I think this is a sad commentary for many reasons.

In a Washington Post article about the topic, screenwriters Michael Dougherty and ,Dan Harris are quoted as saying they were hesitant to use the phrase “American Way” because “when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

Really? Do they really believe that? I thought the Hollywood elite despised the values of the 40’s and 50’s. I guess these guys are an exception. They must long for those good ol’ days back when women stayed in the kitchen and before civil rights laws! (Maybe they should rethink that position, eh?)

Politics aside, they also claim that because Superman is an alien, he’s a citizen of the world. In my view, this shows a lack of understanding of the character.

Yes, Superman is an alien: Kal-El from planet Krypton. But, more importantly, he is also Clark Kent, raised by Martha and Jonathan on a Kansas farm. This was a deliberate choice by Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They could have had Kal-El land in New York City or San Francisco and grow up as a progressive, urbane hipster. But they did not. Superman’s entire worldview and value system were forged by his adoptive parents, in America’s heartland.

In an attempt to create a Superman film they believe will be relevant to today’s audience, the screenwriters have removed a crucial part of the hero’s character. Because they don’t believe America has any particular value in the world, they’ve decided that Superman also feels this way. I understand that the writers may lack the ability to judge that one society’s values may be better than another’s. But I don’t really get the idea of a Superman who is unable to make those moral distinctions.

As I stated before—I haven’t seen the film yet. I will. I want to. In spite of this rant, I have high expectations for the film. I only hope that Superman’s character has not been watered down, as suggested above. I saw an interview with Bryan Singer who claims that his Superman is “deeper.” Maybe it’s true, and the action in the film depicts a hero that people can still look up to. They say that actions speak louder than words. Still, words are extremely important. That’s what thoughts are made of. I wish they hadn’t changed those particular words.

Happy Birthday America!


Don Hudson said...

'Truth, Justice and The American Way' is the phrase I would prefer. It could be that the screenwriters are under 40 and may not understand the fine points of Amereican history. I think that because "The American Way" part won't sell tickets in France or Mexico or anyplace that has a problem with the US at the moment, It had to go.

Steve Buccellato said...

It's just a line in the movie. I'm not saying they need to put the slogan onto the international promotional posters! But it IS part of the character.

Anyway, I doubt that just hearing the line would cause people to ask for their money back. Even in audiences that hate America! Is the world boycotting the Christopeher Reeve films?

Allen Gladfelter said...

I saw the movie last weekend, and I really liked it, but I came away thinking that Singer and Routh's Superman seems a lot SADDER than I remember. I mean, this is one bummed out Superman! I don't recall him cracking so much as ONE smile in the whole production. Made me want to give him a hug, pat him on the back, tell him that we still love him and that it's going to be alright.