“Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow” has taken over “Truth, Justice and the American Way” as Superman’s new motto. “The American Way” has been in the Superman lexicon for close to eight decades now. Starting on the radio show in the 1940s and forever in our brains thanks to the “Adventures of Superman” TV series starring George Reeves. The motto was created during a time when America was fighting a World War and later standing up to Communism. The motto lost some of its meaning as the decades moved on, just being said as something that went along with Superman like “Up, Up and Away” and “This looks like a job for Superman,” which in itself was a bit dated. “Up, Up and Away” as well as “This looks like a job”… we’re created for the radio show to visualize for listeners when Superman was taking action.
Still “The American Way” stuck with us all the way until the recent change. What made the publishers and editors decide to change the motto? Was it because the meaning of “The American Way” seemed to change over the years due to a volatile political climate? Did it change because we’ve come to realize that Superman is a hero to the world and to far away planets and galaxies? This may be. I get that. I even agree to a certain extent. But “The American Way” stands for so much more than baseball and mom’s apple pie.
I’m proud to be an American. I’m not what you’d call a “patriot” but I’m still an American citizen and grateful for everything that this country has given me. America stands for freedom and while some of us may feel we’re losing some of that freedom it’s still an ideal that Superman stands for. Many countries look to the USA for help and support during trying times and we provide that. So does Superman. As Americans we’ve traveled to the moon and sent rovers to other planets to get (sometimes live) pictures to see what these planets actually look like. Superman has flown to the moon and has been to many planets and galaxies usually to help defend those planets against tyranny and war. I know if we had that capability, if in fact there was life on other planets, we would not hesitate to do the same. So far we haven’t had the opportunity to do that. But soon when the Martians come out of their hidden underground bases and the denizens of the hollow moon finally appear, maybe we will be there to fight if need be. Ha ha ha! I think.
The point is “The American Way” means so much more than just fighting for our government and making sure Metropolis isn’t destroyed by giant robots. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with “A Better Tomorrow” but there is still nothing wrong if they kept “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. What’s so funny about Truth, Justice and the American Way? There really is nothing funny or wrong about it at all.
I’m a Superman traditionalist. Red shorts, yellow “S” shield on the cape, and secret identity in tact. I’d say most of us are. We want Superman to stay the same because that’s the way he’s been for the majority of his existence. Every now and then, a change comes along that breaks the status quo, but ends up being a perfect addition. Supergirl, the marriage of Lois and Clark, and the birth of Jon Kent all come to mind. Changes to the lore and tweaks to the character are to be expected over time, especially for a character that has existed for close to a century. Sometimes, those changes are made as a reflection of the world. It is for this reason that I have no issue with the recent change to Superman’s slogan “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
I was born in 1994, and in my 28 years as an American citizen, I’ve seen the United States race to its nadir. Our justice system is broken, our public education systems are massively underfunded, and our police are radically overfunded and hyper militarized. Women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with a skin color other than white are constantly on the brink of losing their basic rights. Wealth inequality is at an all-time high with most Americans being a paycheck away from poverty. We don’t take care of our veterans or the lower class. Our health care is oftentimes tied to our employment status. The prison industrial complex is heavily associated with America’s prison system. We’re stuck in a spiraling nosedive as a result of a two party system with politicians who either don’t represent the people, or are too cowardly to act. There’s gerrymandering, the continued growth of the KKK and neo-Nazis, and a never ending stream of mass shootings.
Then there’s the matter of our international presence. Drone strikes, war crimes, hesitance to aid in humanitarian issues until it personally affects us, immigration policies that all but scream “We don’t want you here,” and the exploitation of labor so we can continue to live in a world of mindless consumerism. If the United States were a person, it would be a prideful, argumentative, xenophobic bigot with a penchant for violence that would sooner kick you than give you the shirt off their back. The list of the United States’ positives gets shorter each year, and it gets harder to believe that Superman would actively fight to preserve that way of life.
Of course, this is not a representation of all Americans. To think so would be ludicrous. I’m sure I’ll see comments calling me an anti-American something or other using language far from fit for this site. On the contrary. There are plenty of things to like about the United States and its people, but the country’s problems are glaring. “The American Way” is a nice sentiment, but it’s a rapidly fading fantasy. It was added to the Superman brand to promote patriotism during World War II, then dropped, and re-added numerous times. There’s an in-depth article detailing its history on this site.
The updating of Superman’s slogan does not bother me in the slightest, and the outrage over it is greatly misplaced. The real outrage should be over the United States’ constant moral failings and resistance to meaningfully improve. If I’m being honest, the only issue I have is with the wording. It’s a bit clunky. Perhaps we should just go back to his original mission statement: Champion of the Oppressed. That would really ruffle some feathers.