Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why the World Doesn't Need Superman

Once again, we’ve been had.…

Casey Weierbach, 27, traveled the “lecture circuit” telling her story of childhood rape and consequent infection with AIDS. She “lectured” for over four years to anyone who would listen (read: news reporters, churches, and medical professionals). Finally a pastor demanded some proof from Weierbach and accused her of duping her congregation. It turns out Weierbaugh used fabricated laboratory records to indicate she had AIDS so she could receive medical benefits in 2003. She was arraigned on Friday on charges of theft by deception, forgery, tampering with records and making false statements. She may have defrauded Pennsylvania of up to $66,000.

I guess my only question is: how do I get on the “lecture circuit?” Apparently, you don’t need any proof or documentation to get on it and make money. It sounds like a gravy train to me. Weierblech figured out what televangelists and Republicans already have: it doesn’t take much to dupe a congregation. She takes her place next to James Frey, Jimmy Swaggart, and Pat Robertson--people who have taken advantage of the fact that in our now soulless, scientific, post modern age people need something to believe in. America is quickly making itself out to be a vast wasteland of sheep who absorb Ophra’s latest book club recommendation, nod their heads approvingly at the next guest speaker in church, or cast their vote for the next politician with the best anecdotes.

Speaking of hero worship, I saw “Superman Returns” this weekend and hated it. Let’s face it, “Superman” is an ideal created out of our best hopes and dreams to fight our worst fears. The original Superman fought Nazis, the 2006 version is a deadbeat dad. He's been gone for five years and during the interim Lois Lane has borne his son and wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning essay: Why the World Doesn't Need Superman. We don't get to read the article but it's reasoning is established nicely just by watching the film. Is the Man of Steel humbled to learn he has produced a son? Is he saddened to have missed out on every bit of his life? Is he anxious to make up for lost time by trying to be a Super dad? Nah. He returns, imparts an adjuration to his son (while he sleeps) and then flies off. The movie is savvy enough to give us the Lois-Superman-child subplot, but certainly doesn't trust us or Superman to deal with it on any reasonable level.

And, I guess that’s how it is in 2006: everyone wants to be a mommy or a daddy, but few want to be parents. Of course Superman, like so many of us, is off the hook because he has important business to tend to. Personally, I think he should own up to his responsibilities and raise his child. But he doesn’t even have to erase Lois’ memory to make this one right. She’s already suckered some other guy into believing the child is his. My heroes!

No, box office sales have not sagged under Superman’s new, mundane weight. They’re held up like George Reeve’s gut—by sheer willpower. We see what we want to see in the people before us. The woman behind me audibly sighed every time Brandon Routh came on-screen—not because of what he was actually doing, but because of what he symbolized. He is Superman, after all, regardless of how he conducts his personal life. At least in“The Wizard of Oz” the characters had to kill the witch before Oz revealed they didn't really need him at all. He was the symbol, they were the real thing. Imagine that! The emblems he gave them were just reminders of that powerful fact.

I can’t help but find a common thread in our hasty acceptance of symbols. We produce them as fast as we can, whether through CGI or TV. There’s the guy who really didn’t walk across America, the guy who really didn’t have a drug addiction and fabricated a story about it, and now the woman who really didn’t have AIDS. Our desire shouldn’t be to help us find someone to believe in, but to help us believe in ourselves. Because I think we’re getting cheated.

But don’t get me wrong, all in all it was a good 4th of July weekend. Except for that North Korean missile launch thing. That sucks too. Luckily we have real heroes, people of real integrity in Washington, who will figure a way out of this mess! Will the evil Kim Jong Il be slapped with sanctions? Stay tuned!

1 comment:

CP said...

I am participating in a Blogathon on July 29th to benefit the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and I was looking for like-minded individuals. Your name came up in my search. Thank you for posting a very relevant and poignant article about children growing up and living with HIV/AIDS.

Stop by the blog and check out the Blogathon! It's 24 hours of non-stop blogging to earn money for research for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.