First of all, you have got to love Hugo Chavez, even if you hate him. He is going to be making news for years like a socialist version of Ann Coulter without the looks and the writing skills, but with diplomatic immunity.
Why is everyone yelling about what he says about Bush, anyway? He is Bush’s best friend right now, probably yanking him up in the polls the way no policy speech ever could. Nancy friggin’ Pelosi just defended the President. That’s like Oscar picking up after Felix, or Bluto rooting for Popeye. Like with Ahmadinejad, the more he talks, the more we understand what he is really about.
On the other hand, Chavez did go too far. He suggested that we should be reading Noam Chomsky instead of Superman and Batman. Now that’s ridiculous. Chavez claims to hate our government, but love America. This should mean he loves American culture and American values. If he thinks reading comics is a waste of time, he knows nothing about us.
Superman and Batman represent the best of us, or at least they did before the trend was to make superheroes darker, more flawedand modern, which is when yours truly stopped reading them.
Superman the archtype, is virtually all powerful, the closest thing we have to a pagan god like Hercules or Thor (unless you count the Marvel Comics versions of those deities). He could easily rule the world or be an absurdly powerful super villain. In spite of that, he lives a modest life in a regular apartment, and seems only to want to help people.
Remember Carl Lewis, one of the fastest sprinters and easily the best long jumper that ever lived. Maybe he is a real nice guy. You never know with celebrities. But at the height of his fame, he became incredibly cocky, even predicting superstar celebrity status for himself. Superman can run around the world while Carl’ s blinking, but seems unimpressed with his abilities, preferring character to prowess. Hard to believe of course, but then again, he’s a comic book character.
When real people set out to be roll models, like most politicians or some athletes, they often fail because of their human flaws. Superman was drawn without character flaws, at least most renditions of him. Even when he temporarily becomes evil or crazed, as frequently happens, it works emotionally for us because its Superman, and the true inner Superman can only be unearthly good. At some point he must revert to form, just like we always know no matter how much punishment he takes Rocky Balboa will summon the courage and will to prevail.
Superman represents enormous power and energy, but also humility, good faith,charity, fair play and common sense with which he defeats even super intelligent criminals. Americans may not be able to say they have these characteristics more than any other people, certainly some less so, but they are no doubt American ideals, and Superman has them in spades. I want kids reading Superman.
There are other super heroes who are just as powerful. The Martian Manhunter was always Supeman's equal and could even turn invisible, alter his shape, and see through lead, powers that leave Superman in the dust. Arguably, the Green Lantern, could just wish Superman away and his ring would take care of it.
So why do we prefer Superman? Its because his American values make him irresistible. That’s why there have been numerous Superman movies, books, comics and television shows in the decades since his birth. Will there ever be a Martian Manhunter I or II? Not that he was a bad guy for a Martian, but you know how cranky they can get.
Batman, The Dark Knight, has always been a little grimmer, but then again, he watched his parents get shot when he was a little boy. In real life, he’d be popping pills, working things out at the therapist, or dating Paris Hilton and wrecking Mazzeratis. Yet despite his Bill Gates like wealth, he also dedicates his life to helping people and fighting crime, despite having no super powers.
Batman represents hard work, ingenuity, overcoming adversity and that “can do” mentality thing. That’s why he has such a nifty utility belt. Boy Scouts should be so prepared. He also represents obsessive-compulsiveness, which is a pretty American characteristic too.
Because they are fictional characters, Superman and Batman can realize American values in a way that flesh and blood Americans can't, because they can represent our ideals and "better angels of our nature" whereas we can only write and dream aboutit. Plus, they fight easily recognizable bad guys.
Chompsky cannot captivate, nor inspire people, the way our greatest heroes can, even if they are fictional characters (hats off to the creaters, writers and artists, of course). If Hugo Chavez wants to convince Americans of anything, or just insult the President, he ought to read a few comics first. They have Superman comics in Venezuela, you know.
- I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .