The Unbelievable Man of Steel

By Anthony Leone

Date: July 6, 2004

Lately, in the ever-knowing media, many commentaries are written about the Man of Steel. Sure, he's an easy person to write about without screwing him up. The cool powers, the red-and-blue costume with the big red "S". What's to mess up?

Plenty, sadly.

Many critics call Superman unbelievable. They're not talking about his ability to bend steel in his bare hands, or he's faster than a speeding bullet. No, they can accept that. Why, they can even accept the fact that he was rocketed to Earth from a dying planet. What they can't accept is that this pop icon is optimistic, a boy scout who goes out of his way to help people. Apparently, this sunny attitude is considered too "old fashion".

Sure, people like Batman because maybe they can relate to him a bit more. As a young child, he witnessed the murder of his parents before his small eyes and has vowed a war against crime ever since. Spider-Man is another "believable" character. He's a regular guy who has trouble paying his bills or he's late for his job because he's fighting Doctor Octopus. He has problems just like any one else, except he is driven by the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" - that sense of putting his personal life aside and doing a greater good.

Now, according to the critics, Batman and Spider-Man are more "acceptable" because they must go through hardships. Superman, on the other hand, doesn't. At least, not to the extent of those other noble heroes. Yes, he has had his fair share of misfortunes, but he has always walked away from them a better man, still holding his face to the sun and never changing his beliefs for a better tomorrow. And because of this, critics say Superman is not believable because of his old fashion values.

Unbelievable? Old fashion? Being in the newspaper business for a number of years now, I've seen my share of "Supermen" and "Superwomen". No one really notices these individuals, expect maybe Christmas time, when the media does the traditional "group-helps-the-homeless" stories. It is these individuals who put their energies and resources to helping the unfortunate all year long. These are the same people who put in countless hours to host a fund-raiser to collect money for a needy cause. And while they pour an enormous amount of their time and energy to helping total strangers, these people are still full of good cheer, despite the hard work they are doing.

And that's not even mentioning other heroes, such as volunteer firefighters or emergency medical technicians. These people risk life and limb to save countless lives every day, putting themselves in danger not to be rewarded, but because it's the right thing to do. And if, in an unfortunate event, they can't save a life of a homeowner, or one of their own, do you know what they do the very next Friday night at the firehouse? They're laughing it up with their friends. Why? Not because they are cold-hearted monsters, but they know life goes on. Yes, they will grieve for their missing comrade or that little girl who won't see her next birthday, but they know life has other positive things to offer. They refuse to succumb to the hardships of life, and have it gnaw away at them until nothing is left but an empty husk of a human being. These brave men and women look forward to a better, hopeful tomorrow, just like Superman.

If Superman-critics want to say he's not believable because of his "good-guy" attitude and unselfish acts of kindness, then they better start criticizing the countless volunteers for doing the same thing around the world.

While having bullets bounce off his chest or having x-ray vision are impressive abilities, it is Clark Kent's unwavering optimism that should be looked on with great awe and admiration. Superman walks around and says, "Look, I know the world is in bad shape, but it's not always going to be like this and if we work together, things will get better". That speaks more volumes of the man than his ability to fly in the air.

The Man of Steel is a realistic optimist and the fact that he's criticized for it shows just how much a Superman is needed in times where kindness, values, and a positive attitude are unrecognizable or unaccepted.

Anthony Leone is an editor for a weekly newspaper in America.