[FOUNTAIN]Leaping tall buildingsThe birth of Superman was in an American comic book in 1934. The immortal hero, who gave hope and courage to Americans during the Great Depression, later appeared in radio dramas, novels, animations, two television series and musicals. Christopher Reeve played Superman in four movies from 1978 to 1987. Later, a second television series was aired focusing on the childhood and romances of Superman.
Superman was the origin of many “man” series, such as Batman, Spiderman and other superhero characters like Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk. Umberto Eco saw Superman as a “hero in whom viewers can embody a dream of authority in industrial society and easily regard themselves as the same person.”
In particular, the Superman of movies has become the icon of American heroes, leading the way to world peace as an American. Many people have criticized the image as tinged with racism and American superiority.
Superman and supernatural heroes in general are nothing new. The journey of Superman is the same type of epic that Joseph Campbell studied in numerous myths, religions and legends. “Unusual birth, hardship during youth, coming across a helper, achieving miraculous power and return.”
Then why is it that Americans are so enthusiastic about Superman? According to a recent analysis, it is said that to Americans, with only a short history of just over 200 years and no founding myth, Superman has become a mythical hero of the country. Superman is sent to Earth by his father, who is a leader of the planet Krypton’s society, and saves the Earth. The plot centers on an alien from outer space who becomes an extraordinary hero. It overlaps with the self-image of American society which considers itself as the guardian of world peace.
The new movie “Superman Returns” has opened. It emphasizes the messianic character of Superman and even uses the term “savior.” The villains are intercepted by the power of Superman when trying to drown the American continent. Superman saves America, not the whole Earth.
This “returned Superman”shows very well that Americans still long for super powers but must be justified and should even be holy. “Superman Returns” shows how badly Americans want to recover their moral compass despite its reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks. Director Bryan Singer himself also commented that Superman is “a figure who gives comfort and peace to a world in confusion after the Sept. 11 attacks.” In short, it is a desire for a great power that is kind and self-sacrificing. It’s not just an American desire.
by Yang Sung-hee
The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.