Superman on Television


by Neal Bailey

Ladies and gentlemen, if you would, meet me over at Camera Three.

It has come to my attention that some people are writing in to the Superman Homepage saying they don't like my reviews. Specifically, the things it isn't actually doing that they purport it is, because to assert that it is serves their narrative, which is generally vehement pro-Snyderverse or vehement pro-Smallville sentiment, at least as of this writing.

Generally, these people don't realize that I don't hate either thing (as I have stated repeatedly in multiple reviews), I simply disagree with some story choices. That's right, I had an opinion. Guilty.

While criticizing criticism as wrong and not seeing the hypocrisy in that, these fans say things that, while they sound good if you don't burn two calories thinking about them, are inherently fallacious.

They're also arguments I've listened to for twenty years, so here's a once and for all to both stop the unnecessary emails and to refer these people to instead of, you know, indulging them every week by addressing it. Let's examine a few of the more prominent beefs, and see if we can't cook the steak.

"Why does Neal have to mention Smallville or Snyder at all? Why can't he just keep it to what he's reviewing?"

I'm gonna go ahead and pull out the old dictionary for this and give you a nice little something you might be missing, that I have not:

n. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting. (The American Heritage Dictionary)

This critique, which rides the same bus as "Why don't people just write stories that aren't political!" is a polished turd held aloft as valuable gold by people who literally haven't thought about anything they've ever enjoyed seriously.

Everything is political. Give me anything and I'll tell you what it says about how people gather to decide things.

Not everything is partisan.

I believe this is the distinction these people are trying to make clumsily, what they're actually trying to say, so I will also address that.

"Why are you so partisan?" they want to know, in that they think, for some reason, that merely citing the context of preceding Superman shows and my opinion of it is making a hostile partisan stance. As if I am saying "If you like Smallville, you're against me."

That's your issue, not mine.

Citing precedent and exploring it to give the present show a place in space and time is my literal job.

I've repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly stated, hundreds of times, that I'm glad if you like things that I don't, and that my opinion isn't saying you're wrong. You also, notably, are under no obligation to read my review, and if you don't like it, I encourage you not to. Ever. Go away.

Which I've also repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly stated, hundreds of times. 

Figure it out.

Things should not be needlessly partisan, I agree. But my review is not that. And if I kept it to just what I was reviewing, it would be utterly meaningless, devoid of point. We live and breathe in context. Or at least I do. Maybe you don't.

If you don't though, seek professional help. It's dangerous. You'll put toast in the toaster and not know what to do next and starve to death, because one thing can't be regarded outside of another thing, and putting toast in a toaster and putting peanut butter on it and eating it are two distinctly different stories.

Generally, people who use this argument of partisanship (articulated poorly) as an excuse to say that something should be cancelled are often far more guilty of politicizing a thing than the actual article/person in question, be it liberal or conservative, pro-Smallville or anti-Smallville. It's fascistic crap, come down to it, and the last thing I'll truck with right now is a fascist.

I get it. You saw that a whole bunch of people are getting fired justifiably after they say some bigoted thing or do some sexist thing, something that is truly reprehensible, and you saw that it worked to get a group what they wanted, and so you go, "Hey, I can use that to get what I want!"

Your problem is, this is a review I do for free that you don't have to read that isn't sexist or bigoted, it's not, you know, a violent act or a racist group. So it's apples and Weinsteins, not apples to apples.

You can be better. Try.

If you already have been, thank you.

"You don't have to tear something down to bring something else up! Why all the potshots?"

I agree.

That's why I'm not taking potshots, I'm using context to define a point of view.

How Smallville and how Man of Steel used story to create a realized world vs. how Superman & Lois does it is absolutely germane to the subject at hand, whether you like my take on either show or not. What precedes a thing informs what succeeds it.

Back to the dictionary, this time to good old Merriam:

A critical remark made in a random or sporadic manner.

I've been very open about how I write these reviews (and the Smallville reviews that preceded them) the night of the show, ergo I leave myself open to the possibility that I will be wrong about a plot point, that I may leave a few typos or grammatical errors, and that the general attitude is that it's an attempt at Hunter Thompson-style prose. Long-winded, intentionally so, often stream of consciousness, and generally nuts.

On purpose. They are not put together in a random and sporadic manner simply because they are written quickly. The tone is random and sporadic, but even that tone, though you may not see the work that goes into it (which also means I've done my job) is a choice.

There is a quote from Chandler about what others consider an error in his writing when it's actually part of the ole show that is apropos to this:

"…convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split."

I do not criticize Smallville or Snyder lightly. I do it in full cognizance of what it means, and why I'm doing it, and in what method. If you don't dig that, again, don't read it. Please. Go read something that doesn't challenge your perspective at all, if you like that kinda thing.

Don't like. Don't subscribe. I am fully confident in the strength of my work and that I'll survive without you. You want to know why? Because I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for me.

And that's how audience grows. Not by bowing to the whim of the winds. Speaking of which:

"If the Superman Homepage wants to gain readership or keep readership, it better not publish stuff like this! People will leave in droves!"

I imagine the person saying this then stomping their feet, folding their arms, and asking to speak to a manager.

I write an adult review in which I expect you to step beyond your inner five-year-old and accept that someone else thinks differently than you and deal with it. I'm not here to hold your hand, I'm here to challenge you and make you think and discuss. It's analysis, not pop culture.

I will not back down, I will not change my opinion to suit yours, and though you think that might be a magical solution to your problem, it's actually worse for you, in the end.

You'll have a world where people are too afraid to say what they feel, and everyone is afraid to say things for fear of the reaction.

I have never and will never be a person who participates in that crap.

This is often a critique used to try and leverage money needs to strike fear into the heart of someone if they don't do exactly what the vocal critic in the minority says to do. This is the person that, when a menu item they like disappears from a restaurant, browbeats the manager and threatens them and tries to scare them so they can have the way they wanted it back.

When I worked as a waiter, they were the people that said if you got rid of smoking sections they'd close the place down.

Somehow, the restaurants are still open, and more people came when they didn't have to choke down the smoke of inconsiderate people.

Not only is this not a person who you want in your restaurant in the first place, it's the kind of person that once you put the item back into the menu, they will complain about something else, and always without well-articulated reason.

What the restaurant owners and everyone who caves to people like that miss is that there are nine sane people for that one sitting there doing just fine who are actually less likely to come back to the restaurant because it's full of entitled fartholes.

The Superman Homepage didn't become the Superman Homepage because it catered to whims or went with the flow. It became what it is because we are passionate folk with unique (and differing) perspectives that offer every part of fandom a place to be.

I know Snyderbros have dominated a lot of the discourse the last eight years. They're used to being most of the voice. But yeah, sometimes, a differing opinion emerges. Differing perspectives: It's super effective!

That means, yes, if you look, Virginia, you'll find a pro-Snyder review, you'll find a pro-Smallville review. I recommend Doug Trumble, he's rad. Even though we disagree generally, I like his work! Dig it!

And get this, you maniacs. People forget, but who advocated for Doug's presence, to balance my purportedly anti-Smalllville slant?

 That's right. It was me. Because I do want you to be happy. So does Steve. But if there's no possible way you can be made happy, it is pointless to try and cater to you.

To the point—if you're going to leave because we don't shut it all down when you don't like a thing that happens, provided that thing isn't bigoted, violent, or out of line (which my reviews aren't, and I'll defend that vigorously), you'd have already gone, or even better, good. Go. Make room and take your smoke smell with you.

It'll leave more room for the rest of the people who don't need vitriolic crap.

Let that be an end to the matter. Or don't. But I will not speak of it again.