Thursday, September 24, 2015

Superman - The Embodiment of White Privilege

I'm not a big fan of the term "privilege" as it is used by my fellow liberals. It started with "white privilege" and quickly grew to include "male privilege" but now the use has extended to "straight privilege" and "gender privilege." It seems that anyone who does not fit into a recognized minority and faces discrimination as such is privileged.

Is that fair? Without a doubt, these groups face greater discrimination than their counterparts, but does lack of discrimination equal privilege? As a socialist, I do believe in privilege, but I think it's economic in nature. The biggest difference between Batman and Daredevil is that Batman has a ridiculous about of money while Matt Murdock had to work hard to put himself through law school while raised in a Catholic orphanage. You could say Batman is "sight privileged," but I think that misses the point.

Lack of discrimination is not a privilege... it is a power, and perhaps the greatest icon representing white privilege is Superman. Sure, he isn't rich in the sense of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, but when it comes to happy childhoods, is there any superhero who had a better one than Clark Kent?

Superman's childhood is literally modeled after the American ideal depicted in the artwork of Norman Rockwell paintings. Growing up in the farmlands of Kansas, he is solidly from the heartland of America. Although religion is rarely discussed in Superman, you can't help but think that his upbringing is solidly Protestant (whether that's what he believes as an adult is a question for another day).

The very idea that Superman is invulnerable is a representation of white privilege itself. Superman has absolutely nothing to fear. Those few things capable of hurting him are also things that he can easily avoid, if he chooses to. Unlike the X-Men or Spider-Man, Superman is not chased down and actively discriminated against for who he is (Lex Luthor being the exception). He doesn't even have to wear a mask!

Unlike many of the others I've mentioned, it is virtually impossible to depict Superman as anything other than a white heterosexual male because every aspect of his upbringing and character is compatible with that identity. If Clark Kent were black or gay, we would naturally be concerned that his rural upbringing was full of tragedy and strife that helped shape the hero who he had become. If he were a woman, his gender would be politicized as much as Wonder Woman's. This kind of pathos is great for most superheroes, but with Superman, it is the idealism of his upbringing that makes him into such a pure being.

And yet, Superman is not a negative character. He is not meant to show the problem of white privilege, but rather the responsibility of privilege. Because he is invulnerable, he considers it his responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable. He wants everyone to have the same chance at happiness that he has had.

Recent Superman comics and movies have been trying to make Superman cool and edgy. They insert a lot of tragedy and pain in his life. They show his frustration at having to hide who he is, creating some obvious parallels to homosexuality. They show him getting angry and frustrated, shaving his head into a crew cut. They pair him up with Wonder Woman to show that he can get the greatest piece of ass in the DC universe... but they are getting further and further away from what makes Superman great.

Superman isn't great because he's like us. He's great because he's better than us, but he is 100% on our side. He isn't you. He isn't your friend or your brother or your dad. He is the mentor that we all want. He is the leader who stands out from a crowd of politicians and speaks to your heart. He's great because we want to be him... not to impress anyone, but just to feel what it is like to be so happy and safe and secure... so much so that you can spend your life giving without ever wanting for anything.

That's privilege... and we should all be so lucky.

1 comment:

wight rabbite said...

he was the Good old amarican dream - he is the abidoamy of perfecton , he was Hope wene we needed it , he is stranth wene the world is week - i agree to try to humanize , A alian perfecton is silly and we like any other should exsept supper man for what he is - a Ideal