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Norditorial - We Need Superman More Than Ever

Published at: April 17, 2013, 8:42 p.m. CST by Nordling

Nordling here.

It’s been a bad week.

Obviously the events of Boston have affected us all.  We want to know every piece of information about what has happened, and our thoughts and prayers go with those who have lost their lives or have been injured.  This year, so far, has been pretty rough.  I can hardly listen to the news anymore.  Newtown, the economy, Congress, Boston, Syria, Iran, North Korea – it’s all a lot of bad road and it’s very hard not to lose hope.

I go online on Twitter, and I’m guilty of being reactionary, same as most everyone else.  I’ve said things I regret and likely will again, especially in a week like this where emotions are running high.  I went off on Roberto Orci at one point because of his political views, and while I strongly disagree with him, I can’t imagine the real necessity of doing that, except to pump myself up.  Conversations become arguments, and arguments become games, and it’s more important to keep score than to listen. 

It’s been a lousy few days for that.  I try to temper my reactions to things online, but it gets hard, because we feel so helpless.  Sometimes all we have are our words, and sometimes we choose those words poorly, because what else can we do?  We’re all reactionary creatures these days.

I hear stories of heroic people running towards the explosions in Boston, even after running 26 miles in a marathon, doing what they can to help, and because I cannot be there to help them, I become frustrated, angry, and the overwhelming feeling comes over me that all of this – this shitty world, full of violence and hatred – is all there is, and I have to live in it.  This wounds me deeply. 

As you all know, I come from a place of optimism and wonder.  For example, when I see a movie, I’m not the kind of critic that analyses movies with a clinical detachment.  That’s not who I am as a writer, and that’s not how I came to love movies as much as I do.  I don’t want to write any other way.  It feels like a betrayal to me.

And then I see the trailer for MAN OF STEEL.  And I remember we live in a world where Superman is real.

Superman is real because he was there in Boston on Monday.  He’s always been there where we needed him.  He’s been there in every act of heroism since kids cracked open their first Action Comics, or saw the Fleischer cartoons, or the George Reeves television show, or Richard Donner’s glorious film, or even Bryan Singer’s recent movie.  Zack Snyder’s new film may open up even more people to it. 

Granted, that’s a lot of weight to put on a summer blockbuster.  I’ve only seen a three minute trailer, but I couldn’t imagine a better timed piece of marketing than those three minutes right now.  I watched that trailer many times in the past twenty-four hours, and my film critic hat got thrown out the window in those first two minutes.  Because Superman is real.

I have to believe that, see, because if it’s not true – that he’s simply the product of two kids’ imaginations and now simply a marketing tool – then I have to admit that I live in a dark, cynical world, where I must endure these horrible things because that’s the way things will always be, and I can’t live like that.  I’ve never lived like that and I sure as hell won’t start now.  I listen to people talk about the trailer and talk about Zack Snyder’s previous films and write off MAN OF STEEL entirely, as if redemption – in art as well as life – is utterly impossible. (And I’m not going to even get into the quality of Snyder’s work thus far – I’ll defend WATCHMEN forever but that’s another article.)  And they could be completely correct.  MAN OF STEEL may be an awful film, fit for mocking.  But it bothers me that it’s the first place too many people come from first.  It’s viewed through the eyes of despair and people seem to succumb too easily to malaise and apathy.

I’m told that I’m judging a movie by its trailer, and that I’m not being responsible as a critic.  Yes, this is a simply three minute trailer, meant to sell me a movie.  And yet, I hear Russell Crowe’s Jor-El say, “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you; they’ll stumble, they will fall.  But in time, they will join you in the sun.  In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”  And I can’t help but think that those people in Boston, those that ran towards the explosions, are in the sun.  And I want to be there too.

Superman was always my favorite superhero growing up.  As I grow older, and the world becomes that much larger and more complicated, it’s hard not to put aside childish things and ask that your heroes are more like yourself.  Superman isn’t like that.  Instead of bringing our heroes down to our size, we have to strive to reach Superman’s heights.  And that’s hard work.  So Superman becomes trite or too simple for these complicated times, because the truth is harder to admit – that to strive to be a good person, to see things with hope instead of despair, is just too hard.  Who can live to those lofty ideals?  That’s a lot to ask of anyone.

And you know, religious figures have too much… stuff wrapped up in them to be effective role models, in my opinion.  At least Superman got to punch bad guys when they tried to hurt the people of Earth.  And he seemed to be having a great time doing it.  If you’re going to base your life around an ideal, why not Superman?  This faithless man will gladly subscribe to that religion.

And so, I refuse to live in a cynical world, where I can change nothing.  That I simply must endure these horrible times that I can only watch.  I won’t live like that.  I want to be Superman.  Because Superman is real.  I’ve seen him.  So have you.  You just have to know where to look.  You have to let Superman in.

If people want to be cynics, that's their right.  But not me.  Look, up in the sky.  That's me.  And you, if you want.

Yeah, that trailer got to me. 

Nordling, out.

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