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Super controversy is super silly

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

You never know what is going to interest people.

In the new Superman film, the Man of Steel returns to Earth after a five-year search in space for his home world. He doesn't find it and comes back to resume his life here

His return is met with general acceptance, but for Lois Lane the new isn't necessarily good.

You see Lois is hurt that the man she loved took off without an explanation, especially since there was a little complication: a son.

So I thought some folks would be enraged that Superman and Lois had pre-marital relations, but no one seems too upset about that.

Instead some conservative commentators have latched onto the scene in which Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet, is talking to his staff. He wants to know everything about Superman and his return. He asks if Superman still stands for "truth, justice and all that stuff?"

Apparently the writers and the director wanted not to include the phrase "American way" because this film will play to audiences world-wide and this nation's policies are not uniformly popular.

Carol Platt Liebau writes on the web site for The American Spectator, "Certainly, Hollywood filmmakers want to distribute their films overseas. It's possible that someone felt that explicitly aligning Superman with American values and interests might alienate some foreign audiences. After all, these days, moviegoers abroad are used to seeing American films that depict the worst, rather than the best, of the American character.

"But if that were the case, the phrase 'the American way' could simply be dubbed out of the film's foreign versions, treated like other culturally inappropriate material when films are adapted for an overseas audience. As ridiculous as that arrangement would be, it could, at least, be defended as a business decision, albeit a repugnant one.

"But there's more to it than that. It's not only that the film's creators believe that non-Americans would find the phrase offensive they themselves do, too.

"According to reports in the New York Post, the screenwriters of the film wanted to avoid 'outdated jingoism.' One of them commented, 'I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945.' The other noted, 'He's not just for Metropolis and not just for America.' Apparently, he's a new Superman for the global age."

It would be nice is Liebau actually knew something about the character and its history. The 1940s animated cartoons made by the Fleischer Studios used the phrase "truth and justice." There was no mention of the "American way" even in the cartoons produced after the start of WWII.

The early Superman was indeed a champion for the underdog as written by his co-creator Jerry Siegel. He fought mobsters, quacks and dictators and the police didn't like him very much. They considered him a vigilante.

By the time the 1950s rolled around and the production of the popular television series the character was far more establishment. In the light of the cold war, the phrase "American way" was added to the list.

I always thought the phrase was redundant is truth and justice inherently supposed to be the American way?

This is the kind of subject that some talk show hosts love because it means nothing and yet gets some people very angry.

As a piece of pop culture I found the film to be a fun but thoughtful look on the burden a real Superman would have to carry in this world. The character is not one that would lend itself to a politically charged story.

Liebau doesn't bring up that Superman is the ultimate illegal alien. He was brought into the country illegally, given a fake identity as a child, adopted a second fake identity as an adult, carries no passport and files no flight plans with the FAA.

And we expect him to help us out and no one seems upset that he doesn't get just compensation for his labors.

Perhaps she doesn't want to consider that aspect of "the American way."