Friday, June 14, 2013

The Dichotomy of a Superhero

Hello readers. I present some questions for you. Who is the greater thespian, Clark Kent or Superman? Does Clark Kent, in those smashing horned-rims, put on a greater show as Superman, than the multi-talented, acrobatic Superman puts on as Clark Kent? More to the point, is Clark Kent disguised as Superman. Or is Superman disguised as Clark Kent?

Is it hard to be Clark Kent when Superman lurks just under his dress shirt and tie? When he's Superman, does the feeling of saving the world and being a demi-god balance out the feeling of being an outsider? Is it safe to be Superman in a world where judgmentalism and social systems rule, and those who stand out are at the mercy of the papparazzi? Consider these things and one might be able to see why he would choose to give up his superhero identity.

Clark Kent, clumsy, geeky, unsure, and full of promise as one of Metropolis's greatest reporters fools everyone. No one even assumes what he's truly capable of.  His co-workers, the ones he sees everyday, can't seem to figure it out. He must be good at being Clark Kent, because it comes so natural. As Clark Kent he's connected to the microcosm of the planet. He's part of the world, part of society, another voter in the democracy. He belongs as Clark Kent.
I'm not an alien from another planet with temptations of being a deity, but I do know this: as Superman he seems to be himself, at one with physics and the rest of the universe, excluding one thing... humanity.

Yes, as Superman he's a superstar with fame and fortune. He could rule the world if he wanted. He's moral, and he risks his life to save others, which doesn't go unrecognized. He's heralded as the greatest superhero of all time. A just superhero. A passionate superhero. A freedom-defending superhero. But a lonely superhero. The moments when he feels most like himself, doing the things he does best, are the moments he feels the most isolated. He knows if they really knew him they would poke with camera's and prod with scientists. These people can never know his true identity.

His true identity? Is it Clark Kent, as he's known by his Social Security Number? or Superman as he's known by the world? Does he even have a true identity? Are Clark Kent and Superman two halves that make up a whole? Clark Kent, an alien, adopted by a family who couldn't have children of their own. Superman, an alien, adopted by a world hungry for something to believe in.
I think the answers to these question and the reason he can keep a level head on his shoulders lie in a third identity, Kal-el. Once, a long time ago, before he came to earth he was considered "normal" on a planet called Krypton. Just like every other baby boy. He had no super powers. He wasn't special. He fit in perfectly, before even realizing he had a need to fit in. His true identity as Kal-el is not known by the world around him, but it is the glue that holds Clark and Superman together. Without Kal-el the dichotomy between Superman and Clark Kent would splinter off into oblivion and darkness would overtake his soul as well as the rest of the world.

Although Krypton is no more in the physical universe, it exists within the heart of the last Kryptonian, Kal-el son of Jor-el.

Many people think that Superman is a story that is impossible to relate to, but I perceive there is something in the story of Superman that we can all relate to. Think about this. Have you ever felt the need to fit in? How about the need to be yourself? Is your desire to "belong" stronger than your need to be yourself? Can you have both? If you had to choose, which would make you happier?

Superman is loved not because he is so much like God, but because as a kind of God, he is so much like us.