If you don’t plan to read this whole post, know that the feeling that I feel when I think about Batman v. Superman is heartbreak. This movie broke my fucking heart. And if I sit and mediate on this for too long, I swear I could cry.
Why? Read this bullshit rant.
Those of you that know me probably have an idea of where this is going. You already know my inane rants on social media about pop culture, things that don’t matter, and some things that do matter. You already know how deeply and unconditionally I love comic book heroes. Most of them were some of my first friends. I don’t think there has been a second of my life where I’ve truly felt alone as long as some work of superhero fiction was around. This love has been canon since I was a small child, and it’s true now. I love “the Superhero” in all his/her shades and variants. The Superhero is my guiding star.
I am a real life Jimmy Olsen. My entire life is framed in the medium I met my straight up favorite people. I will watch and read the worst shit, just to figure out what it’s trying to say. Because I see honor in interpreting the myth for new generations. As I’ve gotten older, this love has become complicated by money and franchise media, but it’s generally okay because my love of the superhero cuts through the folly of human error, corporate intervention, companies that want to control my mind, and media conglomerates that would like to pretend that I don’t exist.
The Superhero, myths, stories…they give me sight. They help me see the world and they help me see myself. This isn’t a strange thing. Some people have religion, God, magic, Tarot…I have The Superhero. It sounds strange, but my relationship with the Superhero is how I am able to know what is happening, or what needs to be happening…if that makes any sense. Sometimes the Superhero inspires an action or an ideology that needs fostering…or sometimes the Superhero shows a more corrosive philosophy, a wound in the culture that needs mending. Ir probably sounds weird and cult-like, but you only live once, and you definitely die, so the best thing to do when it comes to belief is pick a lane and race with all your might to the finish line.
Again. I love superheroes. They help me know where I am. They help me create and attract where I need to be.
Canonical definition of superhero (today).
I have a million definitions of this fun word. Today I would say that the superhero is a herald sparked by our ambient awareness of culture, the dangers we face, the gods we need, the kindness we need to into the world, etc.
A superhero is a wish.
A wish for the world and a wish for ourselves. That people could try to be better. That’s really the beauty in a human life after all. More than success, it’s our efforts and attempts that make us whole. It’s the work we put into our lives and minds that manifests itself in the long run as a good life. A good present and a hopeful tomorrow. I’ll stop here because I feel myself wanting to talk about super villains and our human fallibility & weakness, but this is not about that yet… I need to talk about
If you heard me talk about Superman, you’ve heard me talk about him like he’s an actual person I know. Most folks find it alienating, but I don’t care, I talk about him like he’s a real person. Because I love the guy, I really do. He’s good. Superman has been a lot of things, but I like to place him in the context of the era he emerged. And I’m gonna skip all the Friedrich Nietzsche shit I wanna spew.
In short, Superman was born in dark times. Great Depression. Economic injustice. Dust Bowl. Hindenburg Disaster. Hitler’s rise to power. Insidious racial tensions crackling all over the goddamn place… the world becoming more and more surreal. The plunge into the depths of moral depravity was dizzying, it seems.
Superman was an anti-establishment knight of faith that challenged the evils of that era. The bullies. We hadda lotta those. But Superman, was your average first generation immigrant who came to this country to live a good life and do the right thing by his neighbor, if it was in his power. The Superman of 1939 was more of an average guy who knew he was pretty darn strong, and pretty darn fast, and pretty darn good at jumping high. Other than that, he was a salt of the earth country boy who just didn’t like bullies. He wasn’t “better than” so much as he was “doing his part.”
He reflected the kind of hero we needed at that time. The kind of goodness, kindness, and compassion that we did not have in the world. A wish pointed at the hearts of the readers… no one embodies this “wish” concept more than Superman. Over time he gained more powers and became more of a sci-fi, “ra ra go America” type…but that core was always there.
Batman was born from death. The only sane man in a world on fire. Instead of running away from the problems that made him, the way many people do, he embodied them–plunging into the flames of his pain. Batman is an addendum to Superman. A subversion of him that transcends the slog of the human experience not by flying above into the skies of hope and idealism, but diving into the wounds and dark caverns of our culture. He is the hero perpetually in the dark night of the soul–the yin inside of the yang.
Batman’s world is purgatory. Batman is the part of us that endures the pain. He’s the side of us that is aware of all the evil in the world, and then chooses to confront it in spite of our fear and mortality. Because doing so makes us better.
If Superman is savior of the New Testament, Batman is the pragmatic hero of the old testament.
But he never kills. He loses “relatability” that way. The WHOLE IDEA of Batman and killing is that he struggles with it…but never does. And when he get’s close, she surrounds himself with people that remind him that he is a SUPERHERO.
He never uses power than isn’t his. Like a gun. He believes in fair play and doesn’t need to resort to using the tools of his enemy to achieve justice (UNLESS HE REALLY NEEDS TO). Because he is BETTER.
I didn’t go too into Batman lore, and I won’t because I need to talk about something that really bothers me.
Batman vs. Superman
I saw Batman V. Superman…and my worst fears came true. There are myriad ways to interpret the lore… but…Jesus.
Lex Luthor. The guiding force behind the Lex Luthor character is that his distrust of Superman EVOLVES into hate. I do not think he is an evil character. He is a reflection of the Superman idea and Nietzschean philosophy. He is not a drooling idiot. Lex Luthor should want to help humanity, and Superman should rival him philosophically. Superman is an alien herald of doom to him. He’s sweet now because it’s easier to control people when they do not know they are slave.
Luthor should want to advance humanity on HUMAN steam, but his flaw is his hubris, his elitism, and his bigotry. This is what makes him antagonist. Because his ideas should make SENSE to the audience.
But they don’t give this to Lex. He’s just…a bad guy who wants people to fight and likes pissing in jars.
Honestly, Batman was closer to the Lex Luthor I wanted. Ben was a great Batman, but he was so goddamn cruel… which I get to some extent…I think he should be Team Lex till the point Lex is trying to murder the guy.
Batman and Lex should compliment each other because they are both “self-made men.” I think it would even be cool to see Lex Luthor deduce that Bruce is Batman based on his psychological profile, but he doesn’t tell because he “likes” how Bruce has “ascended” in Gotham. It should also kinda signal to Batman that his crusade is a lil’ problematic. They could both “hate” Superman. It’s enough for Batman to hate Superman for what he did to destroy Metropolis. But Lex should hate him more for selfish reasons… because he is not the Ubermensch.
Batman is driven by a need to protect. Lex is driven partially by a need to prove that he is better than Superman. That he can do more. That he should be more beloved.
I’d give Lex cancer too. Cause of all the Kryptonite. He loses his hair from treatment. This ain’t really new to the lore either. He’s basically Heisenberg with billions. Not truly evil…but certainly descending. But that awareness of his death adds urgency to his actions.
Lex: Would you like a drink?
Bruce: I’d be offended if you didn’t offer.
Lex: Of course. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Bruce.
Bruce: Our enemy?
Lex: Do you hear what they call him, the alien? The Superman. Christ. Talk about nail on head. A super Man. But he only looks like a man. (Drinks) You know one of your magazines–one of the ones you acquired, anyhow, named this strange visitor sexiest man alive. Sexiest man alive. For all we know he has pincers under that…whatever it is he’s wearing.
Bruce: If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were jealous.
Lex: But you do know better. You’re from Gotham… You know the devil tells lies.
Bruce: Talk of the devil and lies from a war profiteer who ran for President under the guise of a “media entrepreneur”…sounds a bit…hypocritical…wouldn’t you say?
Lex: Don’t be naive Bruce. An omission of the truth does not constitute a lie. I’ve hidden nothing from my constituents. Everything I’ve done was for the safety of the American people. For the safety of the world. Christ, you saw what happened to Metropolis, we need to be protected. Surely the world’s greatest detective knows that.
(Bruce is shocked.)
Lex: What. Do you want me to call you by your boogeyman name?
Bruce: How did you know.
Lex: Are you kidding me, do you really think there would be two guys with the same big ass white chin? Relax, I made this deduction in year one.
Bruce: So. What’s next. Blackmail?
Lex: I’ve seen what you do to people. Not on my life… As you’ll recall from our days at Merlyn Prep. I’m also an orphan. I know why you do what you do. I’m sorry by the way…I actually admire your ascent in Gotham. One man. One goal. The world wen’t crazy and your dirty cops weren’t doing anything. What chance does justice have when good men, strong men do nothing? You took it into your own hands. Rid the city of the filth that bore him…That’s the stuff of novels. Schools of thought. Kierkegaard would be proud.
And then there’s the Superman problem…
He was so goddamn brutal. Do we really need to see our heroes become as brutal and insensitive as the world we live in…I have some more thoughts but that last scene took a lot out of me.
I’m just really sad about this movie.