Man of Steel, Ownership, and Entitlement

I'm a little confused - and a lot put off - by the wellspring of hatred I'm seeing online about Man of Steel, which in some corners is approaching near-evangelical proportions.  It's not enough for some folks to just dislike the movie, nor is it seemingly enough for them to let you know they disliked it.  They need you to dislike it, too, and will tell you that you are wrong if you don't.

Now, I totally understand not liking the movie.  As I said in my post about it, I enjoyed it but there were certainly some things I would have preferred to see handled in a different way.  If, say, cutting just 5-10 minutes out of that long fight sequence would have made room in the script to give Richard Schiff's Dr. Emil Hamilton more to do, that would be an improvement in my book.  Schiff's a terrific actor (there's a post to be written about how much I like disliking Toby Ziegler once I get through all 7 seasons of The West Wing), Hamilton is one of my favorite Superman supporting cast members... you hire that guy to be that character, do something with him, you know?  But I digress.  It's not a perfect film; it interprets some characters and goes in directions that some folks may not like.  I don't have those problems, but I get why people do: this isn't their Superman.

Yet this is where the entire argument turns problematic for me, this idea of ownership (and yes, I'm as guilty of it as anyone, seeing as I wrote not too long ago about how Steven Moffat's Doctor Who isn't my Doctor Who).  A character on Superman's level of notoriety isn't just a fictional character anymore, but an icon that crosses most demographics you could name.  When something worms its way into the cultural consciousness like that, it becomes a part of us on a basic and personal level; how we define and relate to that character helps shape how we define and relate to the world.


We don't really own Superman (or the Doctor, or Harry Potter, or Sherlock Holmes, or Tarzan, or or or...), despite how personal that relationship may feel (says the guy who has worn a Superman watch every single day for the last 10 years).  Zach Snyder doesn't own Superman.  The heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster don't even own Superman, no matter how unfair you think that may be.  Superman is corporately-owned property, all about making Time-Warner profits via the sales of movie tickets, action figures, coloring books, pajamas, bed sheets, and maybe even the occasional comic book.  That personal relationship you or I may have with the concept of the Man of Steel means exactly nothing to them so long as it keeps them in that bed sheet money.  They don't, if I may borrow a concept that came up in a Twitter conversation I had with podcaster Peter Rios, "rent him out" to us for our own needs and fictions, no matter how we may perceive the relationship between creation and audience.

Interest does not equal involvement.

You don't like the movie, or this (or some other) version of Superman?  Fine, that's your right.  With a cash cow character like Superman, there's always some new project coming along that may better appeal to your sensibilities.  Heck, in comics alone DC is publishing books featuring at least 4 or 5 separate versions of the guy (each with his own continuity) right now... you've got loads of choices.  If you're still displeased, I suppose you could even write an online screed, create an (admittedly very fun in a sick way) online game, or write 35-40 Facebook posts in a single day and then pay to have some of them promoted by Facebook for maximum in-your-faceness (as an artist in my friend's FB feed did).  I think that's a very stupid thing to do, but it's within your rights to waste time and money that way.

Sooner or later, though, you need to realize that you own exactly no percent of Superman.

You also need to accept that maybe your Superman isn't always going to also be my Superman, and that no one else's own personal Last Son of Krypton is less (or more) valid than yours.  Any feelings to the contrary are just fan entitlement, and don't we put up with enough of that already?

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