The popular superhero movies of the late 90s through the beginning of Iraq War II were an attempt to work out America’s “hyperpower” anxiety. Whatever their artistic merits, all of these movies elementally concern the consequences of “super power” being exercised. This felt especially pertinent during the rabid Dali-Meets-Orwell run up to Iraq War II. With the techno-marvel of Iraq War I still fresh in mind and rehashed on the Discovery Channel it was not unreasonable to think of America’s military as a collective super hero with its ability to shoot bombs down chimneys and survive underwater, and with its foot soldiers who could see in the dark and readily tell friend from foe.
As Iraq War II has blundered and bloodied into a sandy sorta’-Vietnam the super hero movies have become trite and meaningless. X-Men III, to tell from the reviews, is more of an inchoate FX show as opposed to the first two films’ use of eye candy to explore the themes of racism and general exclusion. The genre appears to be shifting from a focus on the consequences and responsibility of super power towards an almost-meaningless demonstration that those powers are still there.
Enter the Return of Superman a character that, despites its roots in the very ambiguous morality of the Jewish mythological character the Golem, has come to represent the most perfectly American of superheroes: an immigrant that is yet raised with agrarian virtue in middle America that matures into a bookish go-getter in the big city by day and an establishment world-saving champion by night (notice that Superman does not have the vigilante issues or angst of many other superheroes.) As non-Ted Rall America begins to at least acknowledge our see-no-evil concentration camp in Cuba, government surveillance of citizens, and standard warfare atrocities committed by our troops it will be interesting to see if this Superman represents super power in its most innocent and unambiguous purity: a force to combat evil that has no complicated amplication, no collateral consequences and invites no blow back.