About half the time I’m driving–to work, to church, traveling, or just running errands–I like to listen to podcasts, lectures, sermons, audiobooks, etc. I like to feel I’m being productive, to not just drive but also to try to improve my mind. The other half of the time, I need to unwind and I like to play music. Usually Pandora over my bluetooth speaker. Which usually means one of three channels–Tenth Avenue North, my default Christian channel; Wicked, my default Broadway channel; or Owl City, my default alternative/pop channel.
I’ve listened to these three so much over the years that they are pretty much tailored to all the songs I like. One particular song that comes up frequently on the latter station is a favorite of mine (not an especially meaningful category, since I have hundreds of favorite songs, but anyway). It’s called “Superman” and is by a band called Five for Fighting.
I’m not a Superman fan. Superheroes isn’t my favorite genre in the first place, but where I do like a superhero, it’s almost guaranteed to be Marvel, not DC. I like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but I’ve yet to come across any other DC comics heroes that I really can enjoy watching. Least of all Superman.
In my mind, Superman is the essence of everything wrong with superheroes in general and DC in particular. Too unrelatable. Too much power. Too little weakness. Sure they give him his token Kryptonite, but really, it’s not like there’s Kryptonite at every corner Mini-Mart. Superman is basically a god. And gods don’t make very compelling protagonists.
Or can they?
I’m more than a bird,
I’m more than a plane,
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
and it’s not easy
to be me.
Maybe it’s the very lack of humanity that can make these characters human. It’s like an inverted fish out of water story–instead of a fish on the land with the beasts, it’s a wolf tossed into the water among all the fish. He may know he’s better, he may be able to walk and may have superior mental motor function, but he’ll always feels like he’s drowning.
It was always the appeal of the character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He could have been content with his superior status, his strength, intelligence, and relative immortality. He could have reveled in being impervious to disease and emotion and all the drama and weakness that humanity faces. Instead, he pursued humanity. He craved all that we take for granted, because in his perfection–he was lonely.
It reminds me also of another story of a god among men, of the one true image of perfection, who came so that He might better relate with us, to allow us to follow in His steps, but who would never walk with anyone who could truly relate with Him.
And I know it wasn’t easy to be Him.
Does this make me a Superman fan? I’ll admit, I still just can’t bring myself to care much for the character. But it does remind me that whenever I myself create superior characters, to remember that sometimes their humanity is found in the very thing that separates them from it.
And it also makes me feel a new empathy and compassion for those far above me in status of whom I might otherwise be envious.
Maybe in our own ways, it”s not easy to be any of us.