The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Here's What I Don't Get



Say you hate Jessica Jones as a character, no one bats an eye.
Say you hate Gambit as a character, no one bats an eye.
Say you hate Luke Skywalker as a character, no one bats an eye.
Say you hate the Fantastic Four or the Flash as characters, no one bats an eye.
Say you hate Wolverine as a character, no one bats an eye.

But, if you say you hate Superman as a character, it’s like going to your grandmother’s church and spitting in the face of a statue of Jesus Christ hanging over the altar. You get lectured, people sending you articles about how wrong you are, and told you’re a horrible, awful person.

For God’s sake, Superman is a fictional character. Demona from “Gargoyles” is my favorite character of all time, and I don’t care if someone hates her as a character.

Explain it to me! Explain!

For gods’ sake, Superman isn’t even the first superhero. Ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?

20 comments:

  1. I think Superman is broad enough that different interpretations of him can be more interesting than others. I love the Superman from Superman: The Animated Series, in that series Clark Kent is as much of a character as Superman is. Superman isn't as self-righteous and stiff as he is in other shows either, that Superman was clever, had a sense of humour, wasn't just a doorstop with a costume on. He was more multifaceted.

    Justice League Superman on the other hand was a bore. Everything people dislike about the character was exemplified in that Superman (well, most of the time anyway). He was self-righteous, he was indignant, he abused his powers, and possibly the worst crime of all, he was boring.

    Knowing what I do about you, Greg. I doubt he's a character you'd ever like. And I don't see why anyone would... hold that against you, he's an easy character to dislike for lots of very viable reasons. I don't even profess to be an expert, but when the character's written as well as he is in episodes like "Legacy" or "The Late Mr. Kent" I can really get into and even like the character.

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    1. The question isn't why people like Superman. It was more "why am I an awful person for disliking Superman?"

      Yeah, I've seen the Timm show. I'm not really a fan of it. To be honest, outside of Batman TAS, I'm not really a fan of Timm. But that's a whole other blog post... if I feel like being a glutton for punishment.

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    2. Me. I'm just wondering on what made you hate on Christopher Nolan's movies all of a sudden. I still think they themselves are great, the problem is that people tried to be copycats and thus we end up with things like the new Fantastic Four movie.

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    3. I never said I hated them. I enjoy them. But the hype has kind of worn off, and I can see more of the holes and problematic aspects to them.

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    4. I thought you said you couldn't rewatch them (which might be for the best, actually) and that they're examples of how a comic book/superhero movie should not be done. And from a certain standpoint, that latter part is true, but I think it worked for that particular superhero because he's a much more reality grounded one to begin with, and thus seeing his world and characters sort of "de-comicified" and reduced to their bare essentials, or what they'd be like if they existed in the real world, was really fascinating to me. But they were all far from perfect, and I hate how movies centering around legitimately fantastical concepts and characters try to copy that style without actually getting why it worked. ("Man Of Steel" and the new Fantastic Four being the prime examples.)

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    5. That is true, I haven't watched them in a long time. Not sure if I will again. And I do agree that they aren't how comic book movies should be made.

      As for my bigger issues with them. This essay about sums it up. http://big-tall-words.com/2015/04/27/the-fascist-we-deserve-the-authoritarian-ideology-of-christopher-nolans-dark-knight-trilogy/

      I think it's very telling that Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises went head to head in the same year. Both movies feature opposing ideologies. Avengers is about people from different walks of life coming together to save the world. DKR... isn't.

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    6. To be honest, I often find articles like that to be reading way too much into stories of orderly heroes against chaotic villains (or sometimes in reverse - there are seriously views that the Galactic Empire in Star Wars was the true good guys keeping order and the Rebels were in the wrong), as if trying to look for a way to make the conflict seem morally equal or the hero morally inferior. The ideologies presented in Nolan's movies might carry unfortunate implications, but I doubt that was in any way meant to be the takeway from the experience.

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  2. Love the Superdickery picture.

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  3. Over the years, Superman has become less a character and more of a thing...more an icon and an ideal for humanity than a believable character in his own right. Captain America shows us that a character can be an icon and ideal AND still a person, but Superman has a harder time with that. I think it's because so many writers try so hard to make the characterization match the "man of tomorrow" ideal that they end up making him practically perfect and god-like and sort of miss the point that the guy is an alien who was raised and taught his values by humans, and that could make for a very interesting character who wants to be as humane as possible even with his immense alien powers, but struggles to maintain that balance and puts himself in hard positions because he can't naturally help absolutely everyone. Some versions of Superman have been taken in that more interesting direction and made him a likable, engaging character, but most writers don't do that and so he's just a bore instead.

    Anyway, the people who cannot stand the idea of one disliking Superman as a character and hates you for it are the people who are so fixated on their own points of view being the "correct" ones that they're intolerant to anything different.

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  4. Considering that the Scarlet Pimpernel was created at the dawn of the 20th century by a woman and hasn't had his own movie since arguably the 1960's (and even that was a parody), I'd argue most people don't have a clue as to him or his legacy (or that of his author, or women in general). At any rate, I did put some thought into your question and I came to similar conclusions as Eric has, which I may expand upon. My short answer is that Superman seems to have become this pop culture being which is at the center of a perfect storm of jingoism, platitudes, audience projection, and macho man feats.

    Superman's origins mirrored the path of many immigrants or first generation Americans, and while Superman was hardly the only superhero used for WWII propaganda, he was the most popular. In addition, not very long after his debut on the printed page saw Superman get his own radio show, animated shorts, Republic serials, and even a TV show. He became an icon of "the greatest generation" and part of the core of what the country projected at the time as their values. "Truth, justice, and the American way," was not a slogan said in a vacuum, and heaven help any film or writer who wants to tuck things back a little to be more inclusive with that slogan alone. And unlike many superheroes, even Capt. America, Superman didn't vanish at the end of WWII and the birth of the comics code era of McCarthyism, but he expanded. He got a family of titles, and continued to embody the virtues that American culture was trying to project. Unintentionally, he embodied a lot of conservative ideals (being a farm boy and all), including some rampant sexism and a stern defense of the status quo. His presence on TV has only increased; ever since the 1980's there has always been a live action Superman centric show on network TV almost every year aside for gaps of some 2-4 years between series, going back to "Adventures of Superboy" and continuing with "Supergirl", to say nothing of animation.

    In addition, Superman has the most simple and yet most juvenile power sets around: the power to do anything. Sure, a set list of powers are more common, but Superman always has and always will be able to do whatever the plot demands more so than most other heroes in fiction tend to do. Beyond his two physical weaknesses (which are either so rare as to be meaningless or so over used that things become routine), Superman is sort of like the adult version of a kid who plays a game and keeps giving himself extra powers until he's invincible.

    In addition, as a character, Superman can very easily slip into being more of an ideal and a set of rules or acts than a character. Many of his complexities and even his cast as we know it today had to be built up over the decades. And if you know anything from reviewing movies, TV, and their fandoms, it is that many audiences tend to default to simple characters or simple versions of them. Superman, who is already an almighty icon who can do or be whatever the story needs, can slip into the role of being an audience projection easily. Not only is he an easy power fantasy, but as everyone in the audience would claim they'd want to be just as noble with such power as he, they see more of themselves in him, even when that doesn't make sense.

    I say all this not as a fan of Superman or even someone who hates him, but as a sort of observer. I have some time for him, but so long as he's handled in ways that I feel fit what I prefer for him. Even when he has flaws, we can disagree as to what they should be. He is a great ideal, but can be a difficult man to pin down as a character if one isn't careful, not unlike many religious figures. Remember, long before Wolverine or Batman were cottage industries unto themselves, Superman was doing that himself. For better or worse he links generations of people and is a part of history, and perhaps this is why a mere proclamation of hating him can incite so terrible a response.

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  5. I'm not a die hard superman fan, but I understand his importance. He is the first comic book superhero. He set the standard for the typical hero and would lead to new heros appearing everywhere. There be no batman, no spidey, no marvel and no dc if it wasn't for the initial success of superman. However, I understand why you dislike the character, especially now. Sometimes, fans can be too passionate.

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    1. Yes, and without "Birth of a Nation", there would be no epic movies in general, what's your point? I really, really hate this argument. It's one of the stupidest arguments one can make.

      By the way, ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel? He pre-dates Superman by decades.

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    2. To play devil's advocate for a second, he did say first "comic book" superhero, which to my recollection, Scarlet pimpernel was not published in that medium.

      I agree with him to the point that superman's exposure helped other comic book heroes. That doesn't mean the quality was good, just that for better or worse it lead to more. Similar to how Tim Burton's mediocre (IMO) batman movies lead to fox taking a chance on a serious batman animated show since those were met with commercial success.

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  6. People hate what they don't understand. You would have jizzed all over Man of Steel if you understood it.

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    1. I understand MoS perfectly well. It is an origin story film about Superman that is mired in plot holes, substandard characterization, a dour color palette, a “love story” so weak that Twilight comes off as better written, fight scenes that ultimately further that substandard characterization, and an absolute refusal to show consequences for Superman’s actions in Smallville and Metropolis.

      I understand this film all too well and I despise it as a result. If you think people who dislike the film “don’t understand” it, here’s a thought-terminating cliché even you can understand: go fuck yourself with an inanimate carbon rod.

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  7. I'm surprised you got that reaction. I thought most people liked making fun of how blandly heroic and all-American Superman can be.

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  8. A large part of it is the fact that many of the arguments used are ridiculous. What culture published an article about how in many ways superman gets undeserved flack

    1.) HE has other weaknesses besides kryptonite; magic, red sunlight, villains with super strength or sufficient access to meta energy (he's durable but meta energy does more damage than a fist)

    2.) He DOES feel things like anger rage and frustration. He is emotionally healthy but he has anger and when he looses his temper the results are far more destructive.

    3.)
    while batman is super rich superman lives with knowing that he will never quite belong in either earth or krypton. He can cope and feels somewhat included (enough not to lash out) but a small part always knows his god like powers keeps him from fitting in

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    1. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh.

      Did you even read the post? The point was that you can express hate or dislike for just about any other fictional character, and no fan bats an eye. But the moment someone says a negative word about Superman, all hell breaks loose.

      If fandoms are like religion, a large portion of Superman's fandom is ISIS.

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