Superman turns 75 this year. This means different things to different people. To some it is a cause for celebration and an excuse to geek out over their favorite character. To others it is an excuse to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and explain why they don’t like the Man of Steel. Some of these articles and essays are well written and well thought out. Others are filled with snark and factual errors. No matter how the writer approaches his or her problems and issues with the character fans of Superman generally react with anger and righteous indignation and with good reason. Superman is a popular whipping boy for…well, everyone. For a variety of reasons (the fact that he does the right thing because it is the right thing to do, his costume, the glasses, etc.) Superman is the one character people feel comfortable in taking a shot at.
For a long time I would react to these articles like other Superman fans. I’d get angry. I’d fume. I’d calm down a bit and pick apart the arguments the writer of said article presented and then feel a whole lot better. I mean I know that Superman is awesome and I know why Superman is awesome and that would keep me pretty calm until the next article comes along and the cycle begins again.
I’ll be honest with you…the whole thing has gotten very frustrating. No matter how many times we as Superman fans leap to the character’s defense the articles keep on coming. This doesn’t include the comic book store and message board arguments that we find ourselves embroiled in. Sometimes it feels like we’re getting hit from all sides all because we like Superman and the other side doesn’t.
After a lot of thought I have finally come up with the best way to deal with these naysayers. It isn’t fool proof but I think in the end it will make us all feel better and lead to a more productive fan experience.
You ready to hear my idea?
Okay…here goes. This is what we should do.
Do not respond to these articles and essays. Do not engage these people in debate. Do not get into arguments on Facebook.
Because it is a zero sum game. Trying to convince someone that doesn’t like Superman to like Superman is like teaching a pig to sing. It frustrates you and it pisses off the pig. If they don’t get it they probably never will. You can’t force someone to see your viewpoint when it comes to the Man of Steel. More often than not these people have made up their mind and there are much better things we can do with our time than get into fights on the Internet or in the comic shop. In many ways Superman is a lot like religion; either you get it or you don’t. Sure you can get a convert every now and then but the ratio of the “saved” to the “damned” is vast. Superman isn’t like Batman or Spider-Man or Wolverine. He’s a more pure character and represents a higher ideal than bad things happened to me so I must be angsty to deal with them. If someone doesn’t want to see that there is very little likelihood of you ever changing their mind.
Beyond that we need to stop going on the defensive. At his core Superman is a reactive character so it makes sense that his fans would follow suit. The thing is we’re not saving victims of a volcanic eruption or dealing with a meteor storm. We’re talking about a fictional character here. Is he a fictional character that we love and respect? Yes, but at the end of the day there are better things we can do with our time than talk to people that at best disagree with us and at worst hold us in contempt. I don’t know about you but dealing with people that are just going to make fun of me doesn’t sound like my idea of fun.
The obvious question is, “Well, Mike, if we don’t leap to Superman’s defense every time an article like this hits the web what should we do?” Well…be proactive. Start a blog about why you like Superman. Share photos and videos on Facebook. Start a podcast. Re-read your Superman comics. Re-watch the DVDs. Find like-minded Superman fans and geek out with them. Have fun. Celebrate Superman and don’t let anyone stop you. And if someone makes a snarky comment or tries to argue with you ignore them. They’re just trying to get under your skin. Don’t let them. Love what you love with all your heart and never let anyone take that away from you. Life is a scary, unpredictable thing and our lives are all too brief. Focus on what you like and to hell with those that disagree with you.
So the next time Cracked or io9 or some other site posts some anti-Superman piece ignore it. Don’t share it to Facebook. Don’t e-mail all your friends with a link to the article. When you do that you are giving whoever wrote the piece a wider audience, which is what they want. If you see someone else post the article walk away, figuratively speaking. Be secure and confident in the knowledge that you think Superman is awesome and no one will be able to take that away from you. Crank up whatever theme you love. Wear your favorite symbol shirt with pride. Tell people how much you love your favorite story. Revel in your fandom and ignore those that would try to take that away from you.
And keep one last thing in mind; if Superman were real he wouldn’t care that people are talking smack about him. He’d just keep fighting the good fight knowing that he was doing the right thing. If nothing else, be like Superman. Let the haters hate. We know better.