Loser's Guide Loser's Guide

 Loser's Guide to Life

Sunday, June 18, 2006

An Interesting Case 

I used to wonder quite a bit about Clark Kent. He's a classic case of restraint and self-denial. Everything we know about him derives from his role as the alter-ego of Superman, but it is Clark Kent who shows up at work every day and pays taxes and so on. And yet, the comic book based on his life is not "Clark Kent" but "Superman", and most people know him as "Superman". Nobody knows or cares about "Clark Kent".

Clark presents as an extremely repressed individual. We know next to nothing about his desires, for example. Does he like working at The Daily Planet? What does he do on vacation? Does he have any hobbies? Does he like his profession? Does he find Lois Lane sexually attractive? I think you will look in vain for any clue about this. Clark admits to no opinions about anything. In his "Superman" persona—which, by the way, conveys not merely the "manliness" he feels lacking in himself, but "more-than-manliness"—he goes aound "fighting evil" and "doing the right thing", often "saving people", without any stated motivation. Why does he do this?

It is my opinion that Clark Kent is really trying to save Clark Kent; that deep down it is Clark Kent who is in danger and must be saved, paticularly from unacknowleged desires. And how does he do this? By taking off his clothes, renouncing his true identity, and physically subduing evil men. (The fact that he wears a costume under his clothes is really only a sop to conventional prudery; in fact, every super hero costume is an enhancement, rather than a concealment, of the naked body). But this is something he does as "Superman", and Clark will go to any lengths to distance himself from "Superman".

Apparently Clark spent his childhood and formative years in a small town that he refers to as "Smallville", which is to say that he considers both the town and his life there petty and irrelevant. Clark Kent regards himself as completely unlike his fellow residents of Smallville. His explanation is that he is not even of this world, but that he came from a distant planet which, incidentally, blew up after he left, thus assuring that there aren't even any fellow Kryptonians out there. He also had a girlfriend in Smallville named Lana Lang, whose intitials are the same as Lois Lane's. That means the two are interchangeable, because women mean very little to Clark. At some point, he broke things off with Lana and left Smalville to live in Metropolis (the "Mother City"). Why did he do this? As an only child, he would have inherited the homestead. He could have married Lana Lang and eventually become chief editor of the "Smallville Gazette" or whatever. Who could ask for more?

I think for Clark, a life as Clark Kent is impossible, and he needs the anonymity of a great city in which to act out his fantasy of Superman. In sum, you could say that Clark Kent has rejected Clark Kent. But who is he? What does he want?

These are questions that only Clark Kent can answer. And he needs to start asking them.


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