The story of Spiderman is no longer a story for kids that read comics. It’s a story for the whole of humanity, but mainly the Twitter users. Today’s Web innovators are just like spiders, Spiderman’s nets is just a primitive method to capture today’s human expansion on an endless space, that of the Internet. Can we assume that we live among super heroes, then?
Yes, we can. Basically, we always did. We shouldn’t forget that our time is the time of the happy Superman type of man (while the 80’s were the times of the dark loner).[i]
The dark loner could have been someone like Batman, and especially Christopher Nolan’s cinematic Batman. This partly explains the success of the film, Batman’s story is out of fashion, it is retro, Batman is retro (and people love retro, just like cult). That’s why it became such an enormous success; it washes memories out of the sidewalk. The sidewalk must be perfectly clean now; happy Supermen are obsessed with cleaning and order (and the order of cleaning).
Batman is extremely wealthy, he earned his money by himself the way computer technology entrepreneurs did it; it was the times of a promising affluence along with a bunch of social problems, of course. It was a period that Reaganomics promised the world stability and prosperity; it goes without saying, not the whole world, just the “lucky” ones. As for the rest, meaning the vast majority, they shouldn’t worry anymore; market would have given them the answers. They only had to work and wait.
Batman is a problematic character though, angry and frustrated, his world is marked from an era that still had two super-powers fighting for world dominance. It is as if after the communist high sounding collapse, the world became happier; there wasn’t any threat left to our individualistic material pursuits. Tens of millions from Eastern Europe reaffirmed this reality by celebrating in the streets - drinking (cheap) champagnes while dreaming of the expensive ones, the real thing - their capitalistic future.
All of a sudden, Batman became out fashioned; he was way too much of a loner at the times of Facebook and MySpace, two platforms that brought everyone really close to each other. Superman or even Spiderman are better suited for our cause nowadays. Sam Raimi’s Spiderman played by Tobey - baby-face - Maguire, constitutes a part of our truth. The other part is covered by Superman.
Superman is basically us. Superman is everyone able to handle with the digital arts, economics, social relations (the Facebook type), love (meaning sex, more or less meaningless), life (meaning material success), existential questions (meaning the total absence of them, problem is solved after a few thousands of years, we‘re here to enjoy!). Superman flew from one continent to another for his working commitments[ii] the way highly skilled migrants do it too. Despite his affection for the human kind he was an American individualist; that way he resembles with the narcissistic stupid big Ego of our tiny little happy Supermen who show affection for the world’s problems by engaging themselves with the green movement, all sorts of rights debates and so on.
Of course, Superman was a mama’s boy too, a rather conservative guy that voted for human rights, family values, monogamy and so on. But this shouldn’t deceive us. Superman might have been a super-hero for the whole family, a politically correct American hero, but he had his dark side too. To put it better, his dark side was there all along but we didn’t pay enough attention.
Superman’s cover identity was Clark Kent, a prestigious journalist. He was working on the most influential newspaper of the city at the times where newspapers had the biggest share on manipulating the public. Yes, he was kind of clumsy and looked innocent (if we are naive enough not to interpret this as a clever act to keep his real identity secret). But wait a minute, isn’t it the same way that goes for today’s influential and powerful men? Isn’t Bill Gates a nerd, a computer freak? Doesn’t he look like an ordinary American guy making a descent living for his family? Isn’t he the greatest charity bitch in all human history?
As everyone that owns a pc on this planet knows pretty well, he is the most successful capitalist of our times. His company is the epitome of the capitalistic spirit, the one that sees no obstacles on its way. Microsoft’s monopoly abuse of power against the international laws was a common practice for Gates’ financial and not only, miracle.
So much goes for Superman’s geeky profile. How could it be otherwise? Our own happy Supermen today look geeky quite often, they wear glasses too, only this time more stylish (then they stab you on the back wearing a big postmodern pseudo smile).
And of course, there is Superman as a super weapon for the capitalists to maintain the world order. An American hero he was, a hero for the upper class as always. For me it only goes natural to assume that our own happy Supermen are capitalism’s secret (and more elegant) weapon for the 2.0 era. All these bright young men/women are the finest example of the system’s rightness. Their success and social acceptance sets an example for all of us. It is exactly their fragmentation as it is rewarded from today’s common understanding that tears our world apart. It is a painful fragmentation for any individual and it’s only forgotten because of happy Supermen’s altered state of mind.
Their state of mind is somehow possessed not by genius but by a loss. This loss is a loss of memory, the one our hero, Superman, suffered too. Superman wanted to recollect his memories, something that was of course undesired by the world’s authorities as he ought to focus on the world’s protection. Any traumatic or even explanatory memory from his life outside this planet could have created an obstacle to his work.
In the beginning of Superman Returns we are informed: “when astronomers discovered the distant remains of his home world, Superman disappeared” (for the public’s huge disappointment as we learn later on the film). When philosophers re-discover how to construct rather than deconstruct, then we might be able again to disappear into the night in order to meet not the creatures of the night, but our own self naked and Real, real to our own desire, a Desire to desire.
Superman didn’t have to know who he really was, where did he come from, how was life on Krypton. The same goes for us, little Supermen living in a capitalistic heaven. No one seems to know who he/she really is, where he/she comes from, what is the meaning of our existence. Existential questions seem not to matter anymore, and I don’t mean Sartre generated -and widely distributed from lazy students- simplifications of the notion of existence and being. People today are forced not to question things; we don’t live in the times of the silent (and stupid) majority but of the super duper noisy (and stupid) majority: “we like what we have, we‘re here to enjoy!”
In other words, people today have chosen death instead of real life. Will happy Supermen have Superman’s fate? Superman might have poisoned our youth[iii] (sic) but he did it before his own death as he is definitely banal, a long forgotten pop culture icon in the times of Jack Shephard and Jack Bauer and of course, Iron Man.
That, we do not know.
[ii] On a beautiful scene on Superman II, Superman saves a boy when he accidentally fells to Niagara Falls. The boy is excited and asks Superman if they can do it again. Superman replies with a big smile, “no, I’m sorry, only one ride to a customer!”
[iii] He did that by disappearing from the symbolic space and entering the Real, possessing human bodies and altering consciousnesses.