Nerd Lessons: I want to be Like Superman

We love our fandoms. For those on the outside looking in, it may be their impulse to discount our devotion as superficial or childish. That’s because they don’t understand or see how nerdom has effected us. At BNP, we know that comics and movies and anime and cosplay does so much more than entertain us, it shapes us; we learn what kind of people we want to be—and who exactly we are fighting against becoming. We sent out that bat signal, we sent out notice for an open call for submissions on what nerd lessons you learned and y’all answered the call.

The Author of This Piece and Teacher for This Nerd Lesson : Aurelius Raines II @aureliusraines2

When I was in elementary school, I had to get a new jacket every spring. It was usually a nylon windbreaker. Just enough to keep the chill out. So whenever we went shopping for my jacket, I tried to make sure that the jacket I got was some shade of red. This was important. My mom didn’t know why. She knew I was artistically inclined but I was never overly particular about the color of my clothes.

What my mother did not know was that, when I got to school, and the recess bell rang, I would grab my jacket and run behind the fieldhouse at Hiram Belding Elementary school. And when no one was looking, I would take off the jacket, tie the sleeves around my neck, and become Superman! With my arms in front of me, I would fly around the playground. Landing on benches. Saving everybody from everything. Standing on the merry-go-round, my arms akimbo.

Man of Steel

For a while, it’s been popular to imagine Superman as a narcissist in a cape, a man slightly corrupted by his immense power, and an icon of white male privilege. The virtuous Superman of the mid-twentieth century has been derided as unrealistic and socially irrelevant. But I liked Superman, when I was a kid. It seemed after Superman’s death, he was resurrected and there was a constant need to keep reinventing him in an effort to make him relevant. New powers, long hair, and, eventually, a mild smugness in his power.

I have to say, a Superman who is not afraid to abuse his power… just a little… has always scared me. Even his new costume seems to make him look a little more like a dictator in his dress uniform. All it needs is epaulets. He is a frightening tension between id and superego.
And the more they tried to make Superman relevant, the less interested I became in him.

We all know what we would be like if we were given his powers. Given the power of mass communication via Internet, we have become a people who give little thought before publicly humiliating someone who disagrees with us.

We all know what we would be like if we were given his powers…

We are so secure in our assertions that we are “right” that we don’t take time to consider if the power that we bring to bear is justified by the transgression. We are hostile to the suggestion that we might be over-reacting or not being fair-minded.

What would the world be like if we had heat vision? That is what Superman is becoming.

A regular guy with heat vision.

Terrifying.

skj

 

Nope. I want to model myself after 1950’s Superman. A Superman who was deliberate with his powers and thoughtful in how he used them. Superman who recognized that his incredible powers actually gave him the ability to spare the lives of the wicked because you don’t have to kill someone who isn’t an actual threat to you.

Now, I am aware that the Superman of the 50’s was/is problematic. Besides his embodiment of white male default, I could do an entirely different essay on the crippled politics of a Superman authored by white men in mid-century America. But, for the purposes of time and focus, let’s attribute those problems to the worldview of his creators and know that if Superman could have done better, he would.

Superman has the power to rule the world, and yet, he chooses to serve. He has the ability to level cities with his bare hands, yet he uses those powers to lift the fallen and rebuild the broken. Although he could do more to help, he respects the agency of the individual and rarely has to be told to “back off”. His intelligence could create a government of world peace, but he respects mankind’s need for self-determination. Even powerful villains who have the ability to destroy him receive his mercy. General Zod, who outclasses Superman by having the same powers and combat training has repeatedly received imprisonment over a Kryptonite shank in the heart.

[quote_right]I long for a world of Super(people)…[/quote_right]And in a world where politicians, corporations, and industries take a “because we can” attitude to policy and practice, I long for a world of Super(people). A world where wealth, technology and influence are agents of aid, not exploitation. Where a twisted humanism gives way to the higher practice of a higher purpose. If every person just stood for truth, justice, and the American way (as outlined in our Constitution) what a super place this world would be. What a super people we would be.

There is a book in the Bible where Jesus, another powerful person living among regular folks, is fasting in the wilderness. While in the desert, Jesus is tempted by the Devil. As far as we read, there is no violence done towards Jesus, but something traumatic does happen. While this powerful man-god is weak from fasting and thirst, the Devil tempts Jesus to abandon his mission and do what felt “right”, to live his life on his own terms, to his own gains. For the son of God to become a power hungry show-off bent on world domination.

I come to this conclusion based on the fact the only thing the Devil seems to tempt Jesus with is his ability to use his power and influence to show off and bend the world to his will. This implies that at any given moment, Jesus could have used his powers to some pretty dark ends, but didn’t. (This also gives a pretty frightening alternative ending to story of the crucifixion.)

It is this revelation about Jesus that gives me some insight to the daily struggles that Superman had. The ability to do whatever you like, yet the passion to never use those powers for your own gain. In the beginning, Superman does not even use his awesome power to impress Lois Lane, Instead, he woos her as Clark Kent, only revealing his true identity after she falls for the humble reporter.

I Love You, Lois Lane

And this is who I want to be. I want to be a powerful person who only brings his powers to bear in the service of others.

And this is who I want to be. I want to be a powerful person who only brings his powers to bear you're stronger than you thinkin the service of others. My considerable size (6’3”, 300’ish lbs.) is used to get things off of high shelves for old ladies and push stuck cars out of snowbanks. I walk people home at night because walking with a mountain man in a major american city at 3 a.m. makes you feel better. My booming voice is good for getting the attention of those who may be walking into danger. My intellect is finely tuned for persuading and listening. My considerable wit is used to brighten sad days. My income can buy meals for the hungry. I use my charisma to teach children about science and history and make it interesting.

 

This may all sound corny but would you rather I was the ill-tempered man in the parking lot screaming at his girlfriend and breaking her spirit? Using my size to intimidate people who get in my way and break them with my hands if they don’t move? Would you rather I spent my money without regard for how my purchases effected the people of this planet? Would you rather I was like Trump, using my position to attack the vulnerable and marginalized?

In some respect, we are all Superman.

We all have a power that we either keep hidden behind glasses, or flaunt in the open so everyone can see.

In some respect, we are all Superman. We all have a power that we either keep hidden behind glasses, or flaunt in the open so everyone can see. Yet, not recognizing the abilities we possess, we have taken that power and become someone’s villain. In an effort to vanquish our enemies, we have injured a friend. Let’s not give in to the impulse to use our powers to protect ourselves at the expense of others. Let’s try and be a lot more like Superman.

We Are Superman

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  • De’Shaun Harris

    Not quite as tall or hefty, but literally just read my life. Exactly why I love Supes as a character, even though I will admit I love Red Son and Injustice characterizations. All-Star Superman is the human being we should aspire to be; this was a fantastic read!

  • L. D. Barnes

    Growing up with the 1950’s version of Superman, I do understand the problems of his era, but you are right, his philosophy would make this a much better world.

  • Aurelius

    I had sooooo many caveats, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get to my point… (the ’50’s) =0)

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