Fighting Words

Look, Up In The Sky, It's A Blatant Political Message With A Cape

 @MalikFromLA on July 12 2013 12:35 PM

I don't want to be like one of the bullies in "Man of Steel," but I have a bone to pick with this work of fiction, mainly because it incorporates so many real and relevant issues ripped from the headlines that resistance is futile. And since you've had a few weeks to see the film, please pardon any spoilers.

You might have heard by now that the filmmakers updated the Superman story for modern times not only by retiring his trademark red underwear and making sure we recognize familiar items during opportune moments of product placement ($160 million worth), but also by offering two bits of very contemporary political commentary: one so subtle you'll need X-ray vision, the other more powerful than a locomotive.

During the first few scenes, listen closely and you can hear how cleverly the film's writers updated the cause of Krypton's explosion. They now blame it on something that sounds a lot like drilling or ill-advised fracking that went so deep into Krypton's core that it destabilized the planet and left them with just weeks to live when the story starts. Superman's father Jor-El this time around is a whistle-blowing scientist who warned the do-nothing governing body about the dangers of draining the planet of its resources, but they turned a deaf ear to science. Like I said, subtle.

Then, fast-forward past his Catholic confession, past his total destruction of Smallville and Metropolis, where he let masses of innocent people die in a mindlessly violent battle with the Kryptonian combatants -- after all that happens, Superman's personal stance on government surveillance comes at you faster than a speeding bullet.

At the end of the movie, out of nowhere, he sends a flying drone hurtling to the ground in flames, crash-landing dangerously close to the truck of the top military brass in the film. Once the general admits he had the drone programmed to track the moves of an undocumented alien whom he fears might not share the interests of Americans, and asks why he should trust someone who was partly responsible for letting a skyscraper collapse, Superman says:

"C'mon general, I'm from Kansas, you can't get more American than that!"

In past live-action productions, i.e., the television series with George Reeves, the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve, Superman was always happy to work with the police or army or government. Cooperating with them equaled doing the right thing. But in this rewrite, he just wants them to back off and trust that he's here to do the right thing.

That's ironic because that's the exact same argument behind the CIA's drone program and the NSA's surveillance program: Trust us; these programs are here to do the right thing.

How did Superman wind up as some Libertarian who doesn't want the government to infringe on his freedom? How did he give up on his whole mantra of "truth, justice and the American Way" for a new credo that's more like "truth, justice... just stay out of my way"?

Oh, I get it, they've set the stage for future plots where we'll see his stark political differences with Batman -- remember, he's the one who regained the people's trust.

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