What’s Wrong With “Truth, Justice, and the American Way?”

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Comics, Commentary, DC Comics, Entertainment, Science Fiction, Superman
Tags: , , , ,

By Todd Matthy

As someone whose thesis was about Superman embodying America, I felt I should comment on this. To celebrate the 900th issue of Action Comics, Superman has renounced America. Or at least that’s what Batman Begins screenwriter David Goyer would have us believe. The nine page back up story revolved around Superman participating in a non-violent protest against the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran. An action the petulant dictator called an “act of war” because he believes Superman to be an instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy. The state department gets miffed and Superman decides he will clear up the confusion by renouncing his U.S. citizenship declaring, “truth, justice, and the American way-it’s not enough anymore. The world’s too small, too connected.” I wondered why DC would make such a drastic move and I realized it boils down to the phrase, “truth, justice, and the American way.”

For the past couple of years DC has been phasing out, “the American way” to make Superman more appealing internationally. It’s why in Superman Returns, Perry White said “Truth, justice, all that stuff.” For some reason, “the American way” has negative connotations. The Sean Penn’s of the world don’t like it because it sounds like a jingoistic rallying cry for invading whomever we please. I think differently. To me,  “the American way,” is not a battle cry but an idea, the idea of perfection.

Attainable or not, we as American’s are always striving for perfection in our lives and country. It’s why we work so hard. It’s why we innovate.  It’s why we are who we are. American’s are always thinking, “This could be better.” It’s why we are always trying to improve things. It’s why we put bacon on cheeseburgers. It’s why we vote. We may have different ideas about what perfection is but we strive for it nonetheless, even when the odds are stacked against us. What is wrong with this idea? Why is is it offensive?

Does DC really believe Superman renouncing America will make him more appealing internationally? I don’t know. I don’t think it will. James Bond still fights for “her majesty’s secret service” and continues to remain popular worldwide. How will Superman fighting for the idea of the American way diminish his? I’ve heard complaints about Superman [he’s too good, he’s too powerful, his disguise stinks] none of them are that he’s too American.

David Goyer’s story ends with Superman flying off to formally renounce his citizenship. Nowhere in the story does he follow through. Until I read an issue where Superman makes this infamous speech to the UN, I will chalk this up to him saying something he didn’t mean out of frustration. He may be Superman but he’s still a man and we all say things we don’t mean sometimes when we are angry or irritated. Besides, if Superman were to really renounce America, he would have done so when Lex Luthor was elected President. If he didn’t do it then he won’t now.  That’s all I have to say.

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