I’ve got a secret.
Bet you do, too. As a matter of fact, don’t we all? Isn’t it time we brought them out into the open so we can shine the light of truth on the shame hiding in the darkest corners of our souls?
I have always idolized Superman. As a nerdy, introverted high school student, I even dreamed of being Superman, as did thousands, perhaps millions, of my fellow introverted nerds.
Not just being Superman, of course, but of revealing myself as Superman. (Speaking of secrets, that’s the hidden, unspoken reason for the success of all superhero tales, from the Scarlet Pimpernel through Zorro and the whole D.C.-Marvel universe — the idea that there is a private, better self inside of us who will astonish the world when people finally see it.)
This is the way I imagined it:
Karlinda (hot babe of my juvenile dreams): Oh, you’re OK, Leo, for a mild-mannered high school student. If you could only be more like Superman.
Me: (whipping off glasses and outer garments): Silly girl, I don’t have to be like Superman. I AM Superman.
Karlinda: Oh, Supe, fly me to your Fortress of Solitude.
Of course, the reality might have been a little different:
Me: I am Superman.
Karlinda: Funny, you look just like Leo but without the glasses and wearing a dorky costume.
Me: Is that you, Karlinda, or are you Clara? I can’t quite focus.
Karlinda: Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to not recognize you?
As you may have already heard, there is a new Superman in town. Jon Kent, son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, has taken over for his father. He is bisexual and has a boyfriend. Instead of crooks and Commies, terrorists and Nazis, he now pledges to take on evils like global warming and the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Instead of fighting for “truth, justice and the American way,” he now fights for “truth, justice and a better tomorrow.”
I’m trying to imagine a nerdy, introverted kid of today pretending to whip off his glasses and revealing his secret identity as this iteration of the Man of Steel, and I just can’t wrap my head around it.
Can there possibly be millions, thousands, or even hundreds of kids who long to enjoy a same-sex kiss before flying off to battle global warming in order to somehow magically bring about “a better tomorrow”?
Didn’t the original Superman have enough angst to deal with as a one-of-a-kind freak from another planet? Can we really identify with the sexual ambiguity, climate anxiety and nationalistic alienation on top of the sense of isolation he already felt?
And isn’t he crossing a line? As a mere visitor to Earth, didn’t his father have a sort of Prime Directive that let him fix problems he encountered but forbade him from interfering in planetary affairs? How dare his second-generation brat tell us we can’t handle the climate that’s been here for millions of years.
(Little fantasy world intersectionality there, crossing Superman with Star Trek. Oh, wait, “intersectionality” means something else in today’s vernacular, doesn’t it? Never mind.)
Come to think of it, considering the ambient zeitgeist, will this new Superman even have a secret identity? After telling the world everything about himself and repeating it on Twitter and Facebook for those who might have missed it, what can he possible have left to hide? And as whom will he pose? A meat-eating non-recycling, cis-gen, Republican Christian from Indiana who has never read the New York Times? Oh, I forgot, near-sighted, too.
I think I might be accused of Overly Brooding Rightwing Seriousness to wonder if this new Superman will go to Afghanistan and lecture the Taliban on the use of pronouns before they cut off his head with a Kryptonite sword.
And I would certainly be labeled a planetary jingoist, perhaps an Earth chauvinist, to suggest he go back where he came from, even if I point out that his father never bothered to get a Green Card.
So I will merely paraphrase something said in a different context and observe that, if we indeed get the superheroes we deserve, we have become a very silly people. Just a little comic book philosophy whispered by my private, better self yearning for a role model.