When DC first announced their launch of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice I was like the numerous other fans out there, excited yet reserved. I wanted to see how the characters were going to look, I wanted to see what direction the movie was going to take, and as the months crawled along and the release of the film loomed large I have to admit I was more excited than anything else.
I also knew, being the older fan that I am, that this movie was going to accomplish two things right from the get-go. It was going to be one of the biggest films of the summer and it was going to start a massive wave of online nerd rage. Those were safe assumptions. What else is the internet good for outside of porn and nerd rage? What I was uncertain about was the content of the movie itself. I had stayed fairly unspoiled, there were a handful of reveals that could not be avoided when watching the trailers, but I had not sought out any gossip or insider information about the picture before its release. I had seen the pictures of Gal Godot, Jason Momoa, and heard whispers of Zod making a reappearance, but my opinion still waited until I had seen the movie.
Then the moment came. I watched the film, keeping an open mind while doing so, and then got up at the start of the credits and went outside to reflect on what I had just seen. I let my feelings swirl in the pit of my stomach, allowing the initial knee jerk reaction to pass, I wasn’t going to take to the internet like all these other nerds and just spew my immediate venom, I wanted to handle this one like a pro. So I allowed my thoughts to settle and then I took a fresh look at the material after the internal nerd rage had simmered down. From here on out there are MASSIVE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet you would be best served to just stop here and rejoin the article after you have drawn your own opinions and had the ride for yourself. You’ve been warned. Here we go…
It has been proven time and again that after Richard Donner’s involvement in Superman 1 & 2 (The last time Donner worked with the character was in 1980) that Hollywood has had no idea how to translate the Man of Steel (Not the movie of the same name) onto the big screen. Hollywood holds firm to the idea that characters, like Superman, that are based on virtues like nobility, honor, and pride are just too boring to modern audiences. When a “goody-two-shoes” comes onto the screen we as viewers immediately reject them. It’s the opinion of modern artists and creators that we, as the paying public, do not want to be reminded that we are lesser than the heroes on-screen.
To simplify my hypothesis: Superman had to die. We as a culture have grown to a point where the undesirable traits of humanity are now more valued than those that once graced the magazine covers and movie screens of generations past. Don’t believe me? Look at the popular trends in the media. Reality TV often serves up the worst that our culture has to offer, cutting the ability to be famous down to the lowest common denominator. Look at how social media has changed our daily lives. We can share every waking moment of our day to a potential audience, in essence making each of us a celebrity in our own lives. We want to believe that we, the audience, are the real stars of the show and that our rabid opinion matters. We don’t want to watch content that reminds us that we still have flaws. We don’t want to consume media that reminds us that we as individuals still have larger ideals to strive towards. That’s counterproductive to the idea that we are all-stars in our own little lives. We chaff at the thought that we are not perfect; that we are lesser than others who are truly special and unique. What we see now in modern culture with the death of Superman is just a microcosm of a larger problem. A problem that is very real, and has been around for thousands of years, because when you boil it down you are getting to the root of humanity’s problem. We hate those that are better than us. We despise those that hold themselves to a higher level of humanity and compassion. We want our saints and stars to fall to the ground, broken, beaten, void of the qualities that lead them to greatness to begin with.
Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Bobby and John Kennedy, John Lennon, and ten thousand other myths and martyrs have been slaughtered for their practices and beliefs; a constant loop that plays out down through the ages. Those of true vision and purpose, be it fiction or otherwise will be pulled down and buried by the masses. Superman had to die. He had to be tainted. He had to become a martyr to remind us that the idea of being better than ordinary is nice, but the actual practice of being extraordinary will get you killed. Right? Isn’t that the message we are sending?
There was a time, not so long ago, that Superman would swoop in at the end of a movie and save the day. He said the right things, he did the right things, he was a true hero through and through. He was a figure in our culture that we should all aspire to be more akin to. He was the ideal superhero.
Then someone, somewhere, got the bright idea that Superman was just too boring. He was too powerful. He was too good-looking. He wasn’t like us. He couldn’t identify with the average Joe and the average Joe couldn’t identify with him. Mind you that this attitude was born about the same time that words like dark and gritty started showing up in the description of most comics and entertainment. The audience began to turn on the ideals that made us strive to be great. We didn’t want to be great. We wanted to be dark and edgy.
Superman had to die because fans like you and I killed him a long time ago by turning our backs on the idea that we might just need a figure who stood for truth and justice. We weren’t seeing truth and justice anywhere else in our society; why should Superman be any different? Right there is where we killed him. At that exact moment of social awareness we put the “Big Blue Boy Scout” down like ‘Ole Yeller. We could no longer stand a shining example of our better nature. We didn’t want to live with a constant reminder of what we could each achieve if we pushed to better each other and ourselves. We wanted the darkness. We wanted to wallow in the pain and the pity of characters that moved in the shadows, because ultimately it was those characters that we came to believe in. The ones that fell from grace. Superman had to die.
He had to die to remind us what a world without him feels like. There are children walking around right now who know nothing about Superman other than he is dead. They don’t know about the nobility of the character, the integrity or the honor that came with the “S” on the chest. They may never know a hero that will go above and beyond in the pursuit of what is right. This is the pop culture world we are handing them. What hope do they have? We killed that hope right in front of them on the silver screen. (Just like a young Bruce Wayne) Superman had to die.
Because now there is a generation that will never know what it’s like to watch the adventures of a TRUE hero, and if you went to the theater and watched Superman die then you also saw what a world of darkness can breed. It breeds hardened empty men of power like Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor, those who have been twisted and blackened by the world around them. Who need shadows to thrive and survive; who have no mercy and no interest in the greater good, their only interest are self-serving. Sounds a bit like the next generation of fans doesn’t it? A generation of self-serving hypocrites who will do anything and everything in their power to destroy that which they can never aspire to be. Fighting from the shadows to drag any point of light back into the darkness. The world we are building is one that will be born out of desperation; truth and justice will become a myth, much like the Man of Steel. The sad thing is that when the world is covered in this all-consuming darkness THAT is when we will need a character like Superman the most…
…Too bad he had to die.