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Superman

Maybe this is a well known fact, or maybe it isn’t, but after this blog gets to the rest of the world, it WILL be a known fact- wait… what am I talking about again? Anyway… it is a little known fact that in every Seinfeld episode, the Man of Steel, Superman, makes some kind of appearance in the background. Often he is on Jerry’s refrigerator, or perhaps sitting in statue form on the shelf in the background, but he is always there. Jerry Seinfeld was always a big Superman fan.

That is at least one thing that Jerry and I share in common- namely that I am also a big Superman fan. I always have been ever since I saw Christopher Reeve fly across the screen in the first Superman movie when I was a kid. Who wouldn’t think that Superman is cool? He can run fast, he can fly, he can shoot LASERS out of his eyes! That isn’t all of course! This is why Superman has endured as an American Icon for more than 50 years now. He is sort of what every American envisions themselves as in a way- strong and capable of always following truth, justice, and the American way.

Maybe this is why when Christopher Reeve got hurt riding horses a few years ago we were all so interested. This was a guy who, in our minds, embodied all of those traits that we have come to love in Superman. All of a sudden a man that we equated with strength and valor and courage was sitting in a wheelchair, unable to move his arms and legs- struggling at times to breathe. Probably thousands of people suffer these sorts of injuries every day- why was he so important? I think at the point he had his accident it had been years since his last Superman movie, and a while since he had done any sort of movies that bear remembering. It was a tragedy not only for him and his family, but in a way for all Superman fans. It reinforced the fact that it was all an illusion, and that the man behind the giant “S” was just that- a man.

I think that there are other things to be fascinated about Superman, beyond the actor that played him once upon a time. The whole relationship of Clark Kent to Superman is always an interesting one as well.

What we have to remember from the story of Superman is that while he was given all the abilities that I mentioned above, developed through exposure to our yellow sun over his years on Earth, his first identity was not as Superman, but as Clark Kent.

As you may recall, Clark was raised by a farmer and his wife in Smallville after they found his pod crash landed in a field. From that point he had a normal childhood relatively speaking until his powers developed later in life. But his identity was firmly established as Clark way before he could fly or see through things.

I was always curious as to why he even kept up his Clark Kent persona at all. Why not just stay Superman all the time? Why not just keep the suit on? Why did he have to cover up the suit? Who was the real guy? Was it Clark Kent or was it the Superman that everyone saw? His powers and his beliefs were the same whether he was wearing the suit or not, so why the two personalities?

When he was Clark Kent, he always fumbled around- he wasn’t smooth with Lois Lane, and while he was a good reporter for the Daily Planet, I suspect that he spent most of his time as Clark trying to live a relatively normal life. I mean, can you imagine the pressures of always having to be there for everyone all the time? I am sure he loved to get up in the morning, put on his Superman suit, and over the top of it his white shirt and tie. i am sure he loved being normal, and tried to do that. The real person underneath it all was the boy from Smallville, not the Superhero that everyone thought was there.

I think it was possible for him to put on the suit and play the character- he had the powers to do it, but if you ever read any of the comics, or watch any of the movies, it was a hard thing for Clark to do- he was always Clark- he was ALWAYS Clark. He was an extremely conflicted character, because in one respect he had the physical ability to do so much good, but at the same time he had feeling and emotions just like the rest of us. I am sure that the people who only new him as Superman didn’t understand that. I am not sure that I would expect them to either.

I remember my favorite Superman was Superman III. That was the one where he gave up his super powers for awhile to be with Lois. Really it was an analogy for the interior conflict that was within Clark- as the Superman part went off drinking and carousing, and the Clark Kent part went back to getting beat up in diners by truckers. At the end the Clark persona ends up fighting the Superman persona, merging them back into one super conflicted person again.

This might be the battle that Superman just can’t win. Maybe it is his Kobyashi-Maru.

It is funny, sometimes we think that if we put on the Superman suit we will be able to fly. Sometimes we think that just because we have certain abilities, or attain a certain status, the internal conflict that we have endured our whole lives will magically disappear. It doesn’t. In a way, the scene in the junkyard in Superman III is what we really have to do in ourselves- to struggle between what we are and what we are expected to be, either by ourselves or others.

Maybe when we put on the Superman suit, and then fail to fly, the first person that we disappoint is ourselves. Then we disappoint other people around us when we can’t live up to the expectations that we helped to give them. I once had a professor in College reminds us that “Clothes mark the man, they don’t make the man.”

Clark’s act was pretty good you know. It doesn’t mean that he was insincere in pursuing truth and justice, but as Superman he couldn’t let them see the interior weakness that he really had- he had to be all things to all people. I am sure it was a constant strain on his emotions- which put the strain on his ability to be the superhero everyone expected him to be. I imagine it is very difficult to be Superman when you know that despite your abilities and gifts, you really are weak on the inside, and you can’t let people see that. Somehow Superman lived with that inner struggle.

Sometimes I wish I had Superman’s abilities.

Five for Fighting: Superman


This is just goofy… but funny… this guy did a good job…

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