Truth, Justice and All That Stuff
The latest Superman movie says more than it probably intends about the current global climate of anti-Americanism, and it does so not by what is actually says as by what it refuses to say. Anyone who's seen the older Superman movies, television series or comic books knows all the standard lines about the Man of Steel leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, being faster than a speeding bullet, etc. The newest movie makes very clever use of the "It's a bird. It's a plane... It's Superman!" phrase.
What is strange, though, is the movie's treatment of Superman's mission statement -- truth, justice and the American way. In one scene, Daily Plant editor Perry White wonders aloud if Superman still stands for "truth, justice and all that stuff." All that stuff! It was a pretty obvious slap at American patriotism, and a significant departure from the spirit of the Superman comics upon which the movie is supposed to be based. One imagines the producers sitting around complaining that inclusion of "the American Way" would only turn off international viewers. As I watched the movie yesterday, I figured the edit was a bow to the increasingly knee-jerk anti-American international audience. But if it were as simple as that, why not just refer to truth and justice, and leave out the sarcastic "all that stuff"? On deeper consideration, it's pretty evident that the filmmakers wanted to cut that mission statement down to size, to highlight the comic book nature of American patriotism so reflected in this comic book superhero. And a little web surfing proved this analysis correct. It turns out the screenwriters admit that they wanted to expand the character to be an international hero here to serve all mankind. Certainly, the service of all men is a noble calling. But apparently the writers never stopped to consider the implications of Superman's defense of the American Way. It gets back to the eternal American belief -- so central to America's unique patriotism -- that the American Way is to serve all mankind. It is ingrained in our national identity that we have a special calling to share our way of life and our way of government will all mankind. Superman got this. His movie's writers don't, or they reject the universalist aspect of American patriotism in the first place. Either way, the seemingly minor change of phrasing is a slap in the face to America.