Why the World Needs Superman Now More Than Ever
Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way; we could use a little more of each.
To see Superman as a hero of today, the Daily Beast commissioned five artists to create original artwork imagining Superman tackling our modern problems big and small. From vaccine distribution to abandoned dog poo, today's Superman can tackle any problem.
So many of today’s superhero protagonists are experts in violence. With everything so...EVERYTHING right now, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we all could use a little less violence in the world. Maybe we could all be a little more wholesome and lighthearted. Maybe we need more Superman.
Superman – with his Smallville charm and bright blue costume – can seem campy compared to the dark and gritty aesthetic so many super shows embrace, but I think there’s always a place for strength in goodness. The Man of Steel has always been a beacon of hope. He’s the idea that there will always be someone to fight for what is right, what is good. Today, we need that more than ever. We live in a world struggling with misinformation and injustice; a time where America can’t seem to find its moral center. Superman can remind us what it means to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
The advent of the internet has united the world in new and exciting ways, perhaps the most exciting of which is the ability to share information. As a result, the truth has never been more accessible. On the flip side, it’s never been easier to spread misinformation. We’ve seen it lobbied against every major news platform and trending hashtag: fake news, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories. The truth is under attack.
How does one defend the truth? Not with blades or bullets and definitely not with freeze breath or heat vision. No, the truth is defended through verifiable facts and empirical evidence. At the forefront of this battle are investigative reporters. Superman’s alter-ego, the bumbling and humble Clark Kent, is a man dedicated to the truth: an intrepid reporter with unbelievable typing skills (turns out being faster than a speeding bullet gives you an incredible words-per-minute rate). A man with Superman’s powers could have done anything with his life. He’s smart, good looking, and white! And, you know, an indestructible alien who can shoot fire out of his eyes. Superman chose to be an investigative reporter over all else. Why? Because not everything is a job for Superman.
You can imagine how Clark chose his career path. Superman’s father, Jor-El, was a respected scientist who saw that the planet Krypton was doomed to explode. No one listened to him. His foresight allowed him to evacuate his son, Kal-El, Clark, Superman. Think of a modern-day Clark Kent listening to climate change deniers and how motivated he might be to stop Earth from repeating Krypton’s mistakes; Clark Kent fights this battle that Superman can’t.
“Liberty and justice for all.” Those words are carved into buildings and recited in classrooms all around this country. These last few months, though, many have learned that those words aren’t really true. Countless people fall through the cracks, countless people need help. The government — with all its power and influence — can’t (or won’t) take care of all its citizens. Laws, for all their usefulness, are a poor facsimile for justice.
So how do the marginalized and oppressed find their justice? Through the help of their fellow men. It’s a simple idea that we preach to children daily: do the right thing, be a good neighbor. It’s a wonderful sentiment that a man who has the power to move mountains takes the time to help his fellow man with their everyday struggles (not just their world-threatening ones). Superman is as comfortable fighting alien warlords as he is saving kittens from trees.
Many superheroes put on their capes and cowls to fight super villains and stop bank robberies. They tie up some bad guys, hand them over to the police and call it justice. Superman knows that justice isn’t about who’s innocent or guilty or who lives and dies; it’s about how he can use his powers to make people’s lives better.
The bright colors and the red underwear might seem a little too campy nowadays but there’s always a place for strength in goodness (and the CW's new Superman & Lois show ditches the undies, anyway). Superman is the idea that real heroes will do everything in their power to help you, whether the help you need is big or small. We can all use more of that.
The American Way
There’s been a lot of conversation lately about America and what makes it great. The idea of a “great” America invokes words like: Exceptionalism! Integrity! Progress! Those words sound great on paper but those ideals don’t match what America has stood for these last few hundred years. It’s no coincidence that Superman’s nemesis is a morally bankrupt billionaire with real estate riches and political aspirations. America as we know it is built to reward men like Lex Luthor; rich, powerful, and willing to step on others. The antithesis of Superman.
The character of Superman is a perfect representation of the ideal American, not because of his looks or because he’s a superhero, but because so much of Superman’s history is reflective of the American experience. Clark Kent is the son of humble farmers in America’s heartland; Kal El is a refugee, an immigrant (or illegal alien, if you’ll indulge me) making a new place his home. Superman represents what happens when these people are given power. Lex Luthor shows what happens when those in power think power is only for people like them. The country would look a lot different if it were run by fewer Lex Luthors.
We need a character that embodies the spirit of truth, justice, and the American way. We need a hero who understands that the truth isn’t up for debate. We need a hero who fights against injustice and inequality both big and small. We need a hero who knows what it means to be powerless in America and is willing to change that. We need Superman.
Don’t miss the two-hour premiere event of The CW’s new series Superman and Lois, Tonight, or stream free next day on The CW app.