Clark Kent and Superman – Why I Prefer Clark

This article concerns the Clark Kent/Superman of movies and television, not the one of the comic books.

I saw Superman Returns last Sunday. I felt it was a decent successor to the Christopher Reeve films, and Brandon Routh wears the cape well. But, what concerns me is how well he wears the glasses. While the world, in the Superman universe as well as the one the audience occupies, is dazzled by the invincible man in tight, my attention has always been drawn to the ordinary reporter in glasses.

Superman is too invincible. He has only one weakness, kryptonite. He’s a symbol. A poster card for “truth, justice, and the American way.” This is a noble slogan, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting person. Even his flirting demeanor with the “galactically stupid” (from Lois and Clark) Lois still leaves something to be desired. Superman doesn’t have to risk anything. He’s not opening his heart to her. Instead, he can be the knight in shining armor and know that he’ll always live up to her fantasy.

On the other side of the coin is Clark Kent. Clark is a man from the nowhere town of Smallville. He faces rejection from Lois who views him as just a friend. This is ironic, since she also goes weak in the knees over his alter ego. While I can’t say I personally know what it’s like to have someone pay attention to me while in costume and ignore me the rest of the time, I can say that I sympathize with Clark for feeling invisible. Clark may be as physically invincible as Superman, but he is emotionally vulnerable.

There is also something endearing about his bumbling demeanor. Perhaps it’s my own clutziness that draws me to the clumsy characters. Maybe it’s the idea of a guy who isn’t threatened by a strong woman but is drawn to one. Lois Lane may blush like a school girl when she’s around Superman, but she’s not at all intimidated by her partner Clark.

Another reason I prefer Clark to Superman is Clark is a journalist. I find the ability to write, to make things come alive through the power of words much more interesting than being able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Superman is brawn. Clark is brains.

The series Lois and Clark was one my favorites, precisely because it wasn’t a show about Superman who masqueraded as Clark Kent. Instead, it was the story of Clark Kent, who took on the disguise of Superman. As he said in one episode, “Superman is what I do. Clark is who I am.” The Dean Cain version of Clark is more developed than the movie versions, because the show is telling his story. Instead of concentrating on the villians and the problems with keeping the whole world safe, it concentrated on the problems of being afraid to be honest about who you truly are. While it is possible to scoff at the clutzy act Clark puts on -after all, he still is Superman- it isn’t hard to believe his fears that Lois wouldn’t care for him as an ordinary man are genuine.

The only Clark Kent I don’t like is the one on Smallville. I stopped watching the show a few years ago, because I found it hard to believe that he could grow up to be either the Clark Kent who works at The Daily Planet, or the superhero who saves the planet.

It’s not that I don’t like the character of Superman. He does embody all the noble qualities, and if he existed, I would certainly call on him when in danger. But, as a character on screen, it’s the three dimensional man I prefer. It’s much more satisfying to root for the underdog who doesn’t give up, rather than the top dog who only has one obstacle in his way. This is why I prefer Clark Kent to Superman.

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