Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Superman: Our Post-Post 9/11 Hero

man of steel, superman, movie, Zack Snyderby Steven Lefebvre 

I defy you to find a person who is more excited about the upcoming Man of Steel movie in June as I am. However, as a youth minister I am finding it difficult to rally my pupils around the release of this movie. In contrast, last summer I spent a week with my teens making a Batman movie in honor of the release of the Dark Knight Rises and it was the most popular idea I have ever had.

I have seen it in the media, I’ve argued with my friends, and I’ve heard it in the groaning of students when I told them we’re going to make a Superman movie this summer. America loves Batman and Superman is too "June Cleaver."

Let me tell you why you loved Batman:

Christopher Nolan’s Batman is a masterpiece of connecting mythology with culture. When the franchise began in 2004 we were living in a post 9-11 world. We didn’t trust anybody. Not Muslims, not the Bush Administrations, not even our own opinions and perspectives. Post modernity was on everyone’s lips. We began unpacking the metanarratives; that is the story behind the story. Everything was up for speculation and evil was everywhere, even within my own soul.

Christopher Nolan, Batman, Dark Knight, movie, villains, Christian BaleEnter Nolan’s Dark Knight; a story that ultimately discusses that eliminating the evil in this world must begin within. Bruce Wayne conquers his fears and doubts by embracing them. And the ends justify the any means necessary if your heart desires justice and there’s a lunatic threatening to kill everyone (remember that Sonar machine Wayne had built using everyone’s cell phone). In a post 9-11 world we needed a hero to teach us how to deal with all the uncontrollable evils in this world: By being on the side of justice at all costs both in our actions and in our character.

And then last summer someone killed a bunch of people in a theatre in Colorado, coincidentally during the release of Nolan’s final chapter to his Dark Knight trilogy. And I believe we’ve never been the same since. It seems in the last year public mass killings is all the news reports on, just when it gets quiet someone sets off a bomb during the Boston Marathon or shoots some kids in Connecticut.

Our conversation has dramatically shifted from terrorists in the Middle East to terrorists next door, and now we find ourselves in what I am calling the post-post-9-11 era. We’ve shifted from airport security to gun control, racial profiling to background checks.

It’s not so much about what to do about evil in this world, it’s about asking an even bigger question: Is humanity doomed? Are we as a society deteriorating? Do I need to carry weapons on my belt to protect my family and me? Can I trust anybody? Are people good?

The answer I have to all of those questions is: yes.

To quote Fred Rogers: ‘Whenever I saw something scary on the news, my mother would remind to look for the people who are helping. There are always people helping.”

Superman, Man of Steel, comic book, Clark KentWhether it is underpaid and overly criticized teachers taking bullets for their pupils or people running into the blast site to help, we as the human race have beaten the terrorists simply by way of virtue. 

And this is the overarching story I believe Zach Snyder will tell us in his Superman epic. You see, Superman is a demi-God, his battle isn’t with bullets or being overpowered. Superman’s battle is with humanity as a whole. Are we the kind of people worth saving? Why does Superman with all of his power choose to serve us rather than rule over us? Why in light of all the evil things we do, does Superman race into burning buildings, stop rock slides, and save Lois Lane from a helicopter accident? Because we as human beings are worth saving!

Superman exists to demonstrate to us the good in humanity, something we all need to be reminded of as our 24-hour news cycles perpetuate a lost and broken narrative about all of us.

Superman is the hero of post-post 9-11 America.


Steven is the Director of Youth and Young Adults at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He also rocks a fantastic bow tie. Check out his blog Adventures in Emerging Young Adulthood and follow him on Twitter @stevenlefebvre.

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