Each season we announce our new titles individually, each in their own post, to give you a little extra background...Posted April 2nd
Superman's Moral Evolution
Superman is a mirror to American society. He reflects the moral and technological expectations of Americans. And the American public re-absorbs the ideal that Superman represents. It’s a two-way exchange. As American society has changed, Superman has changed. In the Golden Age, Superman had a robust view of justice that reflected the opinions of the average American citizen. If there were to be superheroes, this was how they would behave. The superhero tackled clearly bad people with straightforward force: he used violence to thwart their misdeeds, to extract information, to punish and rehabilitate them. Superman’s moral universe at the time is nicely illustrated by this exchange with Lois Lane in Superman No. 18:
SUPERMAN: (striking suspects) Need I remind you boys that crime doesn’t pay?
LANE: Your fists should convince them better than a dozen sermons!
Things are different now. The American citizen has a more nuanced picture of the threats to orderly civilian life. Social convulsions of the 1960s etched a deeper appreciation of civil rights, and alerted people to the fallibility of law enforcers. Later decades have instilled an awareness of the sometimes intractable problems of social conflict. The changing behavior of Superman reflects this increased sophistication of public understanding. In recent years, Superman has faced the moral tension of serving a democratically elected President who had formerly been a key player in organized crime, namely Lex Luthor. This is a deeper conundrum than Superman had to face in the Golden Age.
Superman has undergone evolution, not revolution. There have …
More from Peter B. Lloyd
on our daily essay, giveaways, and other special deals
We’re, um, really excited about the Veronica Mars movie getting fully funded on Kickstarter. Like,...Posted March 14th | 125 Comments »
Teddy bears are cliché, roses die, and too many chocolates? That’s how you spend Valentine’s Day with an upset stomach...Posted February 8th