I’ve been on a bit of a Superman kick lately, I’ll admit. Ever since I saw Man of Steel, and found season one of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman on Amazon for like $10, I’ve been
borderline obsessed. It’s weird to, because Superman never
appealed to me as much as other heroes growing up. He was too much of a goody-goody, which made
him boring (although I did LOVE Lois and
Clark when I was a kid…and still love it…I recently bought season
two). I always liked Batman better (DC
Universe-wise, anyway), because he was a little grittier, and less
black-and-white. He works in black “and
sometimes very, very dark gray” (haha, LEGO movie reference). Really, though, I could never relate to
Superman the way I sometimes could to other heroes. He was too good, to unshakable, too…super.
|Oh, the 90's goodness.|
However, what makes Superman more interesting to me now is his struggle with his identity, which is highlighted in Man of Steel (here come the SPOILERS). Basically, the whole movie can be boiled down to Superman’s struggle of balancing his identity as Kal-El of Krypton, and Clark Kent of Earth. In the movie, when Clark first realizes he is not his parents’ biological child, he is understandably confused and distressed (and on top of that, he can lift a freaking bus...puberty is confusing enough without all of that thrown in the mix). His dad, Jonathan Kent, doesn’t want Clark to let anyone know he has his superhuman powers, because he is afraid people wouldn’t be able to handle it and would fear and hate Clark (the results of this order prove disastrous, which is typical when you’re forced to deny who you are…we all remember what happened to Elsa in Frozen). He does encourage Clark to try and figure out why he was sent to Earth, and what his other parents’ intentions for him were. However, while Jonathan only has good intentions at heart, his actions really add to Clark’s confusion, distress, and fear of himself.
As a teenager, Clark goes through the somewhat typical stage of independence-seeking that all teenagers go through, and as an adopted kid, this includes the occasional “You’re not my real father/mother” retort that makes you want to punch him in the head. However, tragedy strikes (as it usually does), and Clark comes to regret those comments (as he should). Fast forward, though, and Clark’s a grown up man traveling from place to place in search of his identity (the song “I Can Go the Distance” from Hercules would fit in well with this part of the movie). Eventually, he finds a Kryptonian spaceship in the Artic, in which he is able to learn more about his home world and the parents who gave him up so that he could survive its destruction. When he encounters General Zod (the bad guy), Clark is faced with the decision to either help the General turn Earth into a new Krypton, or protect the people of Earth from destruction.
OBVIOUSLY he chooses to protect the people, but if you really break down this decision, it’s a lot harder than it might seem at first glance. Clark has spent his whole life feeling different, as if he doesn’t really belong anywhere. He searches for any clues that will answer the millions of questions that are constantly swarming through him about where he comes from, and who he is. When he finally discovers everything, he is given the option to completely embrace the identity he has found…or create a new identity based on who he was, and who he is. As his Krypton father Jor-El states, “Born on Krypton and raised on Earth, you had the best of both and were meant to be the bridge between two worlds.”
Space dad with baby Superman
Superman is neither just Kryptonian, or just of Earth, but both, and he eventually realizes this and finds his purpose to be the protection of his adopted home. While it is an extreme example, I’m sure there are a ton of adopted kids who could resonate with some part of Superman’s journey of identity. I know I can, but most especially with his conclusion. I have no desire to meet my biological parents or know where I “come” from. I am completely happy with my life, and I my family is the most important thing in the world to me. However, after years of anger and pain in regards to my biological parents, I have come to understand that they are a part of my identity as well, especially my biological mother. If she hadn’t made the choice to give me up, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, surrounded by all of the people I love. Like Superman at the end of Man of Steel, I understand that both my parents and my biological parents (where I am and where I come from) are hugely important to how I see myself and relate to the rest of the world. Their decisions and actions have influenced my identity, and I wouldn’t be me if I never had all of them. I think it’s important, in any search for identity, to acknowledge what has come before and what is happening now. We are formed and molded by every aspect of our lives, whether large or small, whether we realize it or not. I am not Superman, but Superman isn’t so hard to relate to anymore.
Farm dad with pre-teen Superman
And because I like to end on a laugh...