I know this isn’t like my usual blog post. Superman? Coronavirus era? This has nothing to do with horror unless you’re counting the horrors of the reality we’re all living in right now. And our reality is horrific. Empty grocery shelves. People knocking over grandmas for toilet paper. A complete evil clown-show of a government. And of course, the Coronavirus. It’s scary. Too scary for me to escape to my usual getaway of slashers and revenge flicks. Too scary for anything Stephen King or Octavia Butler. Right now, the only thing I can stomach, the only thing that’s saving me, is Superman.
Superman is Too…
Before you start, I know our boy in blue tights and red underwear is corny. I know he’s too powerful and people think his storylines are outdated. To be honest, I might have even thought that too. I only just realized it, but I’ve been a Superman “fan” for all my life. I put the fan in quotation marks because I never really gave it much thought. Superman was just always around. But why am I running to Superman while the coronavirus rages around me?
When I was little, I watched the classic Christopher Reeve’s Superman I and II with my mom countless times. I don’t remember ever seeking it out, but I remember vivid details of it. I remember him pushing up his glasses with his index finger and Lex Luthor wrapping a Kryptonite necklace around him and pushing him in a pool and him flying around the world to turn back time and save Lois Lane. In elementary school, I watched Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman every day when I got home. The show that my best friend and I bonded over every Thursday morning in highschool was a show that came on Wednesday night, Smallville. What I’m saying is that Superman was always there when I needed him, and I need him now.
Somebody Save Me
When I was coming out of the darkest part of my depression, I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I was still in college and finally seeing a therapist, and finally on medication, and the haze that had been clouding my thoughts and making everything around me dark, meaningless, and devoid of any hope was finally starting to clear. One of the things that stuck with me about that book was Plath’s description of her own depression. I remember her saying something about the veils that had once separated the days from each other had been pulled away and made them all seem like one endless void. That was how I felt.
I also remember her saying that she couldn’t read anything that required too much effort. The words got all jumbled up and looked like nonsense to her. The only thing she could read was trashy tabloids. The kind of magazines with people claiming to be abducted by aliens or giving birth to spider-babies. I kind of know what Sylvia means.
Superman vs Depression
Right now, I can still read. Words make sense. But it’s an effort. If the subject matter is too dark, I have to take it small doses for self-preservation. I’m too sad right now to take in anyone else’s sadness. The world is too scary to handle anyone else’s scariness. I know that this is a weird and probably stupid thing for a horror writer to say. A lot of people cope with frightening situations by escaping into horror. I used to be one of those people. But now feels different. For the first time in my life, I’m not looking for the darkest, scariest thing to watch or read. I’m looking for something…nice.
A few weeks before the Corona outbreak became the only thing that anyone was talking about, I decided to re-watch Smallville. I mentioned before that I watched it in high school, but that isn’t a full explanation of what the show meant to me growing up. Smallville was my number one show
until season 7 for a very long time. I liked learning about Clark Kent before he was Superman and how he developed his powers and how he found the Fortress of Solitude and met Lois Lane. The show filled in some holes about Superman’s origin for someone who didn’t read the comics.
A Little Kindness
The only thing I hated about Smallville was how dumb and naïve Clark could be at times. Every time Lex betrayed him, he gave him another chance. If someone was clearly untrustworthy, he gave them the benefit of the doubt. If Clark was tempted with something even slightly outside the realm of truth and justice, even if it was just teenage fun, he refused. Clark was a wet towel, but he was sincere, and his heart was in the right place. He saw the good in everyone. Always.
At first, I was just re-watching Smallville because I never made it past season 7 and I wanted to remember why I loved the show so much. Now though, it’s spurred some kind of Superman obsession. Maybe “obsession” is the wrong word, but it’s definitely a need. Someone on Twitter was saying that creatives shouldn’t feel pressured to create right now. I agreed, so I retweeted and added that the only thing I can manage is watching Superman-related content because at least he’s a nice fucking person. I don’t know why I typed out the last part, but as I read it back to myself, I finally saw how true it was.
My Need for Superman During Coronavirus
Even more so, I was talking to my mom today about how I was watching the Justice League the TV series and Smallville because they both had Superman in them. “Oh?” my mom said. “Why?” Without thinking I said, “Because he’s kind.” At the word “kind”, I broke out into tears. Once again, I didn’t know how much I needed that. I know that most people think Superman is an outdated, relic of a superhero. Right now, dark mysterious anti-heroes with ulterior motives and villain origin stories are all the rage. Trust me, I’m on that bandwagon. I love a good villain origin story. But what about truth and justice? What about nice? What about kindness?
Right now, it seems like the entire world is folding in on itself, or maybe it’s just America. Even Superman would be disappointed in how we’re handling the coronavirus. On Twitter, I read stories about people stealing groceries out of elderly people’s shopping carts when they’re not looking, and I see Senators and Congressmen talk about the expendability of human beings. Big corporations and the bottom dollar mean more than lives and keeping a business afloat is more important than keeping each other safe. There is no kindness.
Clark Kent vs Corona
So, I go back to Superman during this coronavirus era. I watch him talk to The Elite about how every life is precious and no one should ever play judge, jury, and executioner. I watch him fight the same villains over and over again, and hand them over to the police, knowing that they’ll escape later, but hoping that maybe they’ll change. I watch him forgive Lex Luthor. He does all of this, and I wonder what he sees in us. Why does Superman keep trying? Why does he believe in our potential for good when he sees so much of our evil? Whatever he sees, I can’t see it now. It’s hard to believe what Superman believes. It might actually be the hardest thing in the world.
If this were an episode of Smallville, Clark alone would be immune while he watches those around him fall ill. He’d race around the clock trying to find a cure, even if it cost him. In one episode, when an explosion at LuthorCorp releases toxins into the air that makes Smallville inhabitants hallucinate their worst fears then fall into a coma, Clark offers up his blood to Lex Luthor because he thinks there is a cure within him. He offers his soon to be mortal enemy the secrets of his being to save people.
The World Needs Superman
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Superman were real and here while the coronavirus spread throughout the world. What lengths would he go to to save us all while we won’t even commit to staying home to save each other? Would Superman fly around the world and stop the coronavirus outbreak from ever happening? Would he offer scientist his blood on the slightest chance that within it lies a cure? Do we deserve that kind of sacrifice?
I know that Superman isn’t real. Superman can’t stop the coronavirus. There is no one coming to save the world from itself. But he represents something that I need right now: hope in humanity. I don’t have that, but I think Superman has enough for both of us and maybe, just maybe, he’ll help me to have it too.
Want to see a little corny kindness? Watch Smallville. If you’re the kind of person who escapes the horror of our reality by reading fictional horror, check out my book, Cirque Berserk here. Want a synopsis? Look here.