I am not a fervent comic book reader, but I am a fervent comic-book-adapted-to-movie lover, and the Christopher Reeve Superman films (the first two) profoundly influenced me as a child and still hold a powerful sway over me as an adult.
That particular actor as that particular character delivering that particular performance adds up to something very special, if not downright moral and moving.
Superman III has some merit, which I’ll get to momentarily but I put Superman IV out of my head faster than the The Godfather Pt. III, despite Sofia Coppola’s stunningly inept death scene, which is arguably as hard to look at as Superman IV’ˆs ornately clad villain.
A real-life nuclear douche is Orson Scott Card. This banally goateed white male:
A bestselling sci-fi author, Scott Card has been hired to pen some new Superman stories; and because he’s virulently anti-gay and proactively anti-gay marriage there has been some flak over his having been chosen to take control of Superman.
There’s an interesting argument going on over this. Let me distill it for you: is it possible for a hateful dick to take a beloved, morally impeccable character and write a tale true to that character? And, moreover, should said hateful dick have ever been given the opportunity?
Rational me says the artist is separate from the art and the art exists as its own entity with its own unique merits. (This is how I justify still loving Woody Allen movies despite his banging Mia Farrow’s underage daughter.) Irrational me says let’s all get together and go to Orson Scott Card’s house and terrorize him into loving gay people.
I’d like to believe rational me might think differently about Woody Allen if suddenly he was hired to write the new adventures of Pippi Longstocking, but then Woody Allen is a genius. And I don’t give a shit about Pippi Longstocking. Or maybe I’m just incapable of thinking rationally about Woody Allen.
But, if I do say so myself, I think irrational me has a point and it’s that being an asshole is different than being a hateful asshole. And DC has made an error in judgment allowing a hateful asshole to take the reins over the Man of Steel. He’s not just the Man of Steel because he’s impervious to pain, he’s the Man of Steel because he’s unshakably good, he’s the “champion of the oppressed” and if Superman were to actually burst forth from the realms of imagination and into the real world (oh my god, even thinking that is awesome) he would strongly disapprove of not only Scott Card getting the job, but of Scott Card hating gays.
Ever since I’ve read about this, I’ve been fantasizing about Superman meting out justice to creeps like Scott Card. These fantasies come from the irrational me, naturally, so they’re uncharacteristically violent for Superman… But, that brings us back to Superman III which features, among all the stupid slapstick, a battle between a good Superman and a darker-suited, brooding, unshaven alter-ego Superman that I’ve never forgotten. The battle with himself in a junkyard is a classic bout of a man struggling with his inner demons.
And that’s the Superman I think we need to deal with people like Orson Scott Card – the Dirty Harry Superman; but then I remember that the right Superman is the rational-me Superman, the Superman that would admonish Scott Card for his reprehensible politics but have to agree that it would be downright un-American to deny his right to hold those beliefs. And furthermore, that we cannot judge the quality of his writing based on those beliefs, but should only judge the writing itself.
Superman fans, like me, I guess will just have to wait to see how the new stories turn out – and if they live up to truth, justice, and, yes, even the American Way…
Here's a link to a completely rational piece written by NPR contributo Glen Weldon.