Politics and Public Opinion

Romney as Superman as Clark Kent

OK, I am crushing this emerging meme before it spreads any further. Here is Christopher Orr from The New Republic:

I was not a fan of the Kill Bill movies, but I did appreciate one scene, near the end of KB2, that displayed the genius for pop banter that had characterized Quentin Tarantino’s earlier films. In it, David Carradine explains (not entirely accurately) that Superman is unique in the comic-book universe: Whereas most superheroes’ secret identities (Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker) are their true identities–the people they were before their parents were murdered or they were bitten by radioactive spiders or exposed to gamma rays or what have you–Superman was born Superman. It’s Clark Kent that is the invented alias, the pose, the “costume.” And in the way Superman plays Kent–weak, self-doubting, cowardly–we see his critique of the human race.

It occurred to me that the same is true of Romney’s desperate, if never terribly persuasive, impersonation of a conservative Republican. That persona–angry, simple-minded, xenophobic, jingoistic–is exactly what Romney (who is himself cultured, content, and cosmopolitan) imagines the average GOP voter to be.

While being wildly unfair to Romney, the comic book analysis is outdated. Here is the actual bit of dialogue from the film: “Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… He’s unsure of himself… He’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”

This blog post addresses this very issue:

Bill (David Carradine) delivers this now-famous speech to The Bride (Uma Thurman) to try to make her see herself for what she is, she’s special, she’s dangerous, she’s not the normal family woman she was trying to become. She doesn’t have to pick up her sword to be that, like the Green Lantern’s ring or Iron Man’s armor, she is powerful with or without it. While dramatically appropriate to the scene, it’s a relic of an obsolete interpretation of the character.

While this was certainly true, if somewhat exaggerated, of the Silver Age Superman, and his portrayal in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, we have to remember that Bill is an older dude and probably hasn’t picked up a comic book since the early 80s. … at least in their modern incarnations, is that Superman is really Clark Kent, and Bruce Wayne is really Batman.

Read that sentence carefully. For Clark Kent, Superman is the mask. Superman is the costume he puts on when he has to go out and save the world. The default identity, when his mighty array of powers isn’t needed, is newspaper journalist Clark Kent. Even in costume, when he relaxes his Clark Kent personality comes out. You wouldn’t think this is likely, since he is after all a superpowered alien from another planet, trying hard to pretend he’s human, constantly on guard against accidentally misusing his power. But he was raised that way, and likes being human. He’s used to it.

For Batman, on the other hand, Bruce Wayne is the mask. His default state is Batman, prowling the streets of Gotham City by night on a never-ending mission to avenge the death of his parents and keep the streets safe for ordinary, law-abiding citizens. Bruce Wayne is the face he puts on during those unpleasant occasions when he has to interact with the mundane world, play-acting as a wealthy socialite, millionaire playboy, and business tycoon. But that’s not him; he’s a lonely, brooding, unhappy man still mourning the deaths of his parents, beating up super-criminals as a kind of self-punishment and therapy.

5 thoughts on “Romney as Superman as Clark Kent

  1. The interesting thing about the Orr post, picked up by RedState (and other sources), is that it’s from FOUR YEARS AGO. It was written after Romney essentially conceded the GOP nomination to John McCain.

    That it’s still relevant today shows that Mitt hasn’t learned a damn thing.

  2. ow are “crushing this emerging meme before it spreads any further” exactly? You aren’t. Cos its a brilliant observation. And correct. you’re lying or stupid about Batman too.

  3. Okay, let me clarify.
    I didn’t know the Orr post was that old, and I thought the second quote was your own.

    Having said that, the Orr post remains an astute, brilliant observation, and the other one really dumb. It’s from that site, EverhtingToo, which is a place for arrogant would be writers, who still think that reverse psychology works cos it’s so annoyingly wrong. Well, CLEVER reverse psychology might …

  4. OK, so which one is Orr’s partisan mask: 2008 version (Mitt is cultured and–lol–”cosmopolitan”) or 2012 (war-on-women bully/wimp giving factory workers’ wives cancer)? I guess it all depends on that year’s exigencies.

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