Genesis: It’s one of those bands that’s fashionable to dislike, but you can’t deny it had popularity in its day. Personally, I come and go with their music; occasionally I’ll play a track or two, but it’s not often I seek it out.
But when Donald Trump was elected, I spent months with a refrain from one of their songs looping in my head. From “Land of Confusion”, I kept thinking of:
Oh Superman where are you now
When everything’s gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour.
We’ve had a huge resurgence of the superhero genre on both TV and in movies of late. The Marvel universe has been dominating the superhero movie platform for a while: Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Captain America, and so on. DC has gained some mojo with Superman: Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League. Marvel’s TV genre has focused on topics aligned to The Avengers, while DC’s TV is running effectively in a parallel universe to the movies, giving us series such as Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, etc.
Superhero movies and TV are enjoyed, as much as anything else, because of their escapism; you can forget about the real world for a while and immerse yourself in a world far more fantastical than our own.
One thing you don’t see often in superhero movies though are characters like Donald Trump. (Or if you do, they’re more likely than not going to be on the side of Lex Luthor and co.)
In the world of superheroes, mendacious and xenophobic leaders elected via dubious results are not something you see often, and again, when they are, it’s usually in terms of being the villain in the episode or comic. As paragons of moral virtue (indeed, one calls to mind the quote from Amadeus, “people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!”), certainly on TV and movies, we don’t often see superheroes dealing with the mad or bad leader. The political world does not impinge much on the superhero, and when it does, it’s usually just a B-plot.
Maybe though this is an area that has been left ignored for too long. What would happen if a president, incapable of speaking for five minutes without lying, told Superman he had to shutdown the “fake news”? What would happen if a misogynist leader attempted to grab Wonder Woman by the p_ssy? How would Captain America react to receiving a presidential order to assassinate Kim Jong-un?
Amongst other things, superheroes have been teaching us for generations of morally imperative behaviour: don’t lie, act with integrity, use your power for good, protect the weak and the innocent, and don’t do the wrong thing just because it’s easier than doing the right thing.
Maybe it’s time for the superheroes to stop pretending leaders like Trump don’t happen, and deal with them head on. Maybe that way, society might learn some new lessons from Superman.