For over three quarters of a century Superman has been ever present in popular culture. His iconic blue and red suit has made its way from humble comic book origins to television, movies, video games, clothing and even action figures. He has a legion of fans that dress in his image and follow his every adventure all over the world. But why do people love the man of steel so much?
The Lust For Power
The appeal and popularity of Superman is not as easy to explain as you might think and has been debated by modern philosophers and cultural theorists for decades. There are many factors to consider when analysing the impact of the famous hero, and Superman means something different to varying cultures and peoples. There’s much more to the character than him being a basic superhero.
A lot of the appeal for Superman is due to his power and strength. People are fascinated by him because he transcends normal humanity. He can do what normal human beings can only ever dream of – he flies, has super strength, super speed and is practically invincible. He has many more powers in his roster including x ray and heat vision, super hearing and super breath which can allow him to breathe ice. He’s almost the complete package and practically has no weaknesses, apart from the infamous Kryptonite. He’s admired by anyone who feels vulnerable and wishes they were strong and had power to control their destiny.
Admiration for Superman goes beyond his powers though because he also has a personality that people respect. Superman stands for justice and all that is right and good in human nature, and he has a strong moral code that’s above that of normal humans. He defends the vulnerable and fights the corrupt and immoral, never abusing his strength or killing unnecessarily. His portrayal is that of the perfect human being – a shining beacon of pure, incorruptible good. This makes him a strong role model for young people to follow and for young men to aspire to. It’s also worth noting that it’s comforting to read about a fantasy character that’s so valiant when the real world is full of selfish people.
A Hero You Can Relate To
A great deal of love for Superman comes from his dual personality and alter ego Clark Kent. Clark Kent is a news reporter and lives a normal life outside of his Superman role. He has to behave as everybody else does and fit in, despite the fact he’s an alien with incredible powers. Clark Kent is also a vulnerable character in contrast to his Superman alter ego, which makes him all the more relatable. The Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, admitted themselves that a part of Superman’s appeal lies in his duel personality that audiences wish they could have. Normal people want to escape their dull and dreary lives and become special and powerful, even if only briefly. The desirable characteristics of Superman and superheroes in general are what comic book readers aspire to because they represent the power, control and excitement fans lack in their own lives.
Superman’s appeal goes beyond his immediate personality traits and abilities though. He’s a cultural icon that has come to represent America itself. People get a sense of patriotic pride from Superman, not only because the colours of his suit are present on the American flag, but because he represents the ideals of the American Dream. He’s an alien from another planet and yet manages to have success and blend into life on foreign soil, and people have interpreted his tale as that of the positivity of immigration.
Although Superman is highly appealing, some of the factors that make him beloved can also be viewed in a different light. His immense power and impeccable good nature for instance aren’t universally praised, instead seen as setting unrealistic standards for men to aspire to. The fact he’s almost invincible diminishes some of his heroic accomplishments too. People prefer a triumph from adversity in their stories, and Superman’s overwhelming power can mean he is rarely ever in any danger. His infallible morality also makes him a less interesting character than those that occasionally step onto the dark side – it’s why often the villains are the most compelling characters.
It’s not difficult to see why Superman has grown to become such a beloved character. He stands as a great role model and his sense of justice is something to aspire to for people of all ages. He represents what many of us wish to be and probably never will be. Superman is an icon with great appeal and his story will probably continue to inspire millions for generations to come.
Charlie Simmons is a geek culture and movie blogger that’s been a big fan of Superman ever since he watched a cartoon when he was a child.