Sayyed Chowdury argues that the new Superman film is a metaphor for destructive US imperialism.
Recently I went to see the new Superman movie “Man of Steel” to understand what the fuss was all about. Some reviewers say it’s the “next big thing”, others are already talking about sequels. So I felt obliged to write my own review hoping to peer a little deeper under the surface.
Throughout our illustrious civilization and our rich history, Muslims have always identified with the notion of “good and evil”, particularly during our childhoods.
For many, this sometimes transcended religious and scriptural narrations to the imaginary figures concocted in our minds and finally later to a more down-to-earth political representation of it.
Beyond the action
And those who enjoy more than the temporal climax gained from smashing sky scrapers to pieces and the adrenaline obtained from watching men flying about in fancy costumes will love this new remake.
But a little investigation will enable the keen viewer to figure out what on earth the character of “Superman” or the “Man of Steel” stands for, or at the very least what he represents un-masked.
If the bright colours of blue and red fitted on a white, handsome, tall muscular man aren’t a big enough clue, then perhaps the small flag blurred with the same colours as Superman may clear matters up for you.
Superman undoubtedly stands for nothing but America – its values, its spirit of pride, and its supposedly unstoppable power of “good” embodied in a man of “indestructible steel.” A rare concoction of humanity under-pinned by unequivocal powers that will serve as a strong message to the late communist and socialist movements as well the emerging Islamists of the world.
But I think this is a far cry from the truth, the real ugly face of American hegemony beneath all the moral aesthetics is none other than the colonial America the world knows all too well.
As the story unfolds, it emerges that Superman (Henry Cavill) was a great sacrifice by both of his loving parents for our distant world (Earth), and his father (Russell Crowe) was a highly respected individual who acquired a position of authority in a council which helped facilitate this noble aim.
This child was to be the flicker of light that represented hope, a better life, liberation from backwardness, and a force of good for planet Earth where he was sent to as a baby.
Superman was a child conceived in a world full of destruction, war, tyranny and political coups. This destructive planet was known as Krypton. It is presented as a cryptic place where there are more supermen flying around in spaceships causing more property damage than a Godzilla double bill.
Krypton was self-destructing because its civilization was harvesting its own core for resources, causing major instability to its inhabitants, eventually leading it to destruction.
After a coup attempt on the current council of Krypton to save the planet by General Zod (Michael Shannon), he required a unique “codec” that contains a special formula which would ensure Krypton’s continued existence along with its people in other planets. But Krypton required a “host planet” in which it could sustain its survival.
Superman’s father Jor-El, saw that the formula of the “special codec” was embodied in his only son. His son would be the future saviour for existence itself, since he bore liberty, a choice even if against cultural and political rules of the failed system of Krypton.
So in a very Bollywood-type emotional scene, the child was launched out of a decaying planet in a spaceship only to skip Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus along the way to finally head for somebody’s backyard barn in Kansas.
To cut the dreadful story short, it suggests that the saviour America was born out of destruction, bloodshed and tyranny with a unique formula (its values and ideology) to save the world from destruction.
Modern day Krypton
But discerning viewers will realise that the planet Krypton is doing the exact same “harvesting and usurping of resources” to cater for its people as capitalist America has done in the past and is doing in the present.
The movie espouses a very deceptive view of America and its so-called “pristine” moral values, when in reality a nation built upon the creed of compromise and secularism has provided nothing but destruction, divide and conquer, the usurping of resources, bloodshed, violence and the free choice between being slaughtered by infantry, drone strikes or being tortured in dungeons like Guantanamo Bay.
It is true that whenever evil prevails like that of General Zod, it leaves behind a trail of waste so that the good can track it and set it right like Superman. In reality, putting aside the fantastic action packed fighting scenes, the hidden message of the movie represents nothing but the arrogance of capitalist America emulated in the character of Superman.
Man of Steel is currently showing in cinemas throughout the UK.