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Earning Power!: Superman, The Father

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Superman, The Father

Who will be appearing as the next guest on Maury Povich? Maury opens the envelope as a tense Lois Lane sits eyeing her shoes and the stage. “Superman, you ARE the father.” The audience let’s out whooping cheers and boos simultaneously.

Die hard fans know there is more wrong with the new Superman Returns than a freefall from space. But the irony isn’t lost on the fact that the 21st century version of classic archetype now stands for half-truths and “all that stuff” instead of the “American Way”. Forget kryptonite, his biggest weakness is an ungrateful, bitter Lois who still isn’t convinced her son needs his absentee father full time because she’s found a good working substitute.

Superman gets to represent the masculinity crisis for all men. Although Lois owes her life to him, he gets the cold shoulder. It’s not like he even knows why. It goes to show you how the most powerful guy on the planet can Gump his way into the paternal betrayal of desertion and return only to fly away again, presumably to get on with his real job.

Since when did Superman get more constrained and powerless than the rest of us? He’s so demeaned no wonder he isn’t given much dialog. Are we to believe that even Superman can’t offer care, protection and strength?

Perhaps the father’s silence is passed to the son.

Superman’s alleged offspring does get to run around the newspaper office while the adults only roll their eyes (maybe they’re wondering why only Lois gets to bring her kid to work). Otherwise he’s really getting the shaft. He’s standing right next to his dad, rescuing him in a plane, and making hospital rounds and no one gives him the respect to let him in on the back story. Might he also be wondering why he’s able to kill someone with a piano? Probably pent up frustration with all of the irresponsible adults he’s stuck protecting.

Boys need their dads to guide them over the bridge from childhood to becoming a man. Fathers do this by articulating, participating, and engaging in the truth by example with their offspring. Anything less than this amounts to betrayal and failure. Any son will tell you that if their dad was not engaged when he had opportunities, their family body was like the headless horseman riding around looking for the lost head. This haunting shouldn’t be presented as just another alternative we accept as part of the story.

I really miss the real Superman who saved the day. I wish more boys still had him as an example, rather than this new guy. Speaking for estranged kids everywhere, we need a really good explanation when parents don’t stand accountable. When men fail the unspoken promise of fatherhood to their children, the betrayal runs deep. Children don’t play the “I’m not that baby’s daddy” game with any joy, even if the audience thinks it’s entertainment. Especially when the kid has to keep bailing the parents out in life, or on film.


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