Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Truth, Justice, and all that stuff

Jeremy Lott wades in where others might fear to tread, putting the latest Superman movie's "truth, justice, all that stuff" quote into context.

If he's right, some commentators on the right might need to rethink their commentary, I think. For that matter, I might have to, at least just a bit. (Rats. It was such a fun thing to be mad about...)

Mr. Lott seems to be making wading into controversial waters his career of the moment, having just released a book attacking the currently too-common practice of accusing people of hypocrisy. The book is published by Thomas Nelson, which provides some info here.

To go to Barnes & Noble, click the bookcover below.

In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue
In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue

I haven't seen the Superman movie, so I'm operating on secondhand information here. While I have no doubt that some of the criticism of the movie is valid (based in part on what I've read from the people who made the movie), on the other hand Superman movies are supposed to be overdrawn and sometimes over-the-top, and sometimes that type of humor doesn't translate well in transcription... so I'm wondering if Mr. Lott has a valid point in his commentary, at least about the use of the altered motto, as it was used in the movie? (Don't yell. I'm just asking. Bear with me. Qualifiers to follow.)

Now, me, I'd have been happier (substantially) if the movie-makers had managed to use "truth, justice, and the American way" without alteration and with a straight face, somewhere in the movie. I can't help but think they copped out, let the side down, however you want to put it. I'm disappointed in them. But I'm not so sure that spitting nails about their shortcomings and lack of proper moxie and focus is the way to go.

(On the other hand, has anybody checked to see if maybe they violated some licensing agreement? Surely the Superman character is still under license??? Ehem.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that various people have taken it upon themselves to educate the public about how Superman has, in the past, been proudly used to promote the best America has to offer in the way of ideals, honor, and virtue. Youngsters need to know that America does stand for good things, and that the popular culture used to bolster those good things - and could again, only for the deciding to. Yes?

I think where Mr. Lott falls short is in perhaps failing to realize that we've had so many treasured American icons trashed or corrupted in our lifetimes that we're somewhat duty-bound to fight the corrosion or co-opting of what is left, even if it's just a comic book hero. Mr. Lott has a point about the sense of proportion (or lack of it) in some quarters, but to conclude his commentary by saying "Let me restate that so the movie's critics can't miss the point. In Superman Returns, Superman saves America from certain destruction, thus ensuring that "the American way" can keep on trucking." as if that makes this a pro-America film doesn't satisfy me. The Superman I grew up with would save people anywhere, if they were in danger of being wiped out, having been taught by his wonderful adoptive apple-pie American parents that that was the right thing to do. If he saved Brazil from destruction, it would not make it a pro-Brazilian film, now would it?

And, besides, to save "America" -- meaning the land mass and the people on it -- is by no means a guarantee of ensuring the continuation of the "American Way." Not by a long shot. Now is it?

So, in short, I think Mr. Lott makes a few points worth listening to, but misses a point or two himself.

1 comment:

johng said...

KJ, your essay and points are good.

I suspect cartoons/cartoon like figures I knew as a child were rather more closely tied to an common American identity than today's are. Which you say.