A World too Cynical for even Superman to Save

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December 14, 2012 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

As we’ve gotten older, people stop believing in things; it’s just an aspect of growing up.  It starts out with things that just aren’t real (i.e. the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, etc.), and then it progresses to things that aren’t realistic (i.e. world peace, a better educational system, etc.).  In anything we believe, there’s a degree of optimism; and so the more disillusioned we get, the less we believe.  In short, the less hope we have.  This brings me a question that I fear has no answer, only a working theory.  Why are we cynical?  Is it because the world isn’t as ideal as we’d like it to be?  This brings me to Superman…specifically the new Man of Steel trailer.

In the trailer Superman is distrusted by everyone and the military actually rallies against him.  Thirty years ago when the original Superman came out, I’m sure this was an absurd concept to imagine, Superman being targeted by the military.  But nowadays, this is an idea that actually makes sense.  After all, why should we entrust someone who possesses fantastic powers with our safety.  How do we know he won’t renege and attack us?  This sentiment reflects an ideology that we as a society now have against Superman.  People don’t like him because he appeals to morals and ideals that people have lost faith in.

One of the biggest critiques that I’ve heard against Superman is that he has so many powers, but doesn’t use them all.  What people actually mean by this is that the reason why they don’t like Superman is because he doesn’t let his powers corrupt him as the rest of us would, were we in his situation.  We don’t like Superman because we know that we’re not as good as him, and so that makes him unrealistic and unbelievable.  We brush him off as weak because he has the convictions to do what we would not: restrain ourselves.  Because we believe that no one would do that, we think less of Superman and choose not to believe in him.

What would you do if you had the powers of Superman?  Seriously take a minute right now and make a list of the first five things you’d do.  I’m sure “save the world on a daily basis” isn’t on the list.  Realistically it’s probably something that would further our own gain.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d do horribly selfish things if I had Superman’s powers.  But the thing is after a while, it would snowball out of control.  We would eventually let our power corrupt us and begin to impose our will upon others, all simply because we could.  Since the thought of doing otherwise is so far from the realm of possibility, Superman becomes lame simply by doing the right thing by virtue of it being unrealistic.

We hate Superman because we don’t believe in him.  We don’t believe in him because he’s unrealistic to us.  He’s unrealistic to us because he is better than us, and instead of acknowledging this we dismiss and ridicule him.  Instead of it being something to aspire to, we bring him down to our level and subject him to our cynicism bred from our disbelief in the unrealistic.  For all his vaunted might, I don’t think this is something which Superman himself can save us from.

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