News+Opinion » Usual Suspects

THE USUAL SUSPECTS ‌ The American Way

What happened to Superman's ideals?

by

comment

Since 1938, Superman has fought valiantly to preserve "truth, justice, and the American way," battling beside American soldiers in WWII and frequently appearing in print, on TV, and in film with an American flag. However, in the new film Superman Returns, director Bryan Singer and his scriptwriters, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, explicitly rejected the phrase "the American way" as "tainted."

"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," Dougherty told the Hollywood Reporter. "I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic. [emphasis added] ...He's an international superhero."

OPENING SCENE: UN General Secretary Kofi Annan sits behind his desk reading a report. At his arm is a large envelope of cash with "Thanks for the 'food,' Kofi! Your Pal, Saddam" written on it. Suddenly through the open window flies ... the Man of Steel!

SUPERMAN: General Secretary Annan! I must speak to you immediately!

ANNAN (quickly shoving the envelope in a desk drawer) Of course, Superman. What is it?

SUPERMAN: I've just learned that Hamas terrorists have tunneled into Israel, killed two border guards and kidnapped a 19-year-old soldier. My super-hearing has detected the Hamas hideout where he's being tortured and I was about to fly in and rescue him before it's too late!

ANNAN: I see...

SUPERMAN: But as you know, now that I'm an "international superhero" I have pledged myself to give up unilateral action and request UN approval of all super-missions in advance. So I just stopped by to let you know what I'm doing before I rescue this young soldier and keep him from being murdered by these bloodthirsty terrorists! Thanks, General Secretary. [Turns toward open window]. Up, up and...

ANNAN: Just one moment, Superman.

SUPERMAN: [taken aback] I'm sorry — is there a problem?

ANNAN: Well, I can't just "give you" approval to invade a sovereign nation and begin unauthorized negotiations on your own. This is the United Nations, after all.

SUPERMAN: Negotiations? Who said anything about "negotiations?" I'm going to fly in, grab this poor kid in one hand, the terrorists in another and fly to the nearest UN military post.

ANNAN: Really, Superman, I must ask you to stop using such inflammatory language. At the UN, we call members of the armed wing of the Hamas movement "militants" not "terrorists."

SUPERMAN: But they snuck into another country, murdered two people, and kidnapped a 19-year-old! They've cut people's heads off with dull knives and blown up shopping malls with suicide bombers. If they aren't terrorists, who is?

ANNAN: Other than a few members of the Bush administration, we just don't use that term. It's not the UN way...

SUPERMAN: [exasperated] So what do you want me to do about the "militants" who have this Israeli hostage?

ANNAN: Superman, you will be pleased to know that we have already sent a representative to look into the situation and see if there has been any wrongdoing by either side. We are also applying pressure on the Israelis to cease all military actions and instead make concessions to the legitimate concerns of Hamas. Meanwhile, we're issuing a UN report.

SUPERMAN: "If there has been any wrongdoing?" This is crazy. [Turning to the window again] A kid is dying out there and I'm going to save hi—

[Kofi pulls out a kryptonite gun and shoots Superman in the back].

ANNAN: I'm so sorry, Superman. I do so hate violence. We asked one of our consultants, Lex Luthor, to develop this for us using some undeclared materials we slipped out of Saddam's lab — along with some unpleasant paperwork — before the Americans arrived.

SUPERMAN: [gasping from the effects of the kryptonite] You would work with an evil villain like Luthor?

ANNAN: See what I mean? "Evil villain." I mean, really, Superman, how ... American of you.

Your days of flying around fighting the "bad" guys and helping the "good" guys is over. Very unhelpful during these delicate times. You think the UN could have made a hero out of Arafat and Castro and Mugabe if people started screaming about "right and wrong" every time some civilian was killed?

You need to learn about nuance, about subtlety, about complexity. And [patting the cash-filled desk drawer] it pays pretty good, too! That's the UN way.

SUPERMAN: [dejected] So what do I do now?

ANNAN: Well, there are some desperate "freedom fighters" resisting occupation in Baghdad who could really use your help...

ANNOUNCER: Tune in next time for another exciting Superman adventure as the Man of Steel fights for Truth, Justice, and Multilateral Dual-Track Negotiations Culminating In A Memorandum of Understanding!

Add a comment