32 – Tornado Part 3 – Understanding Themes

coverblackCreative choices.  The tornado scene intended a “cave of questions” to organically shape Clark’s character, rather than 12-years in an actual literal cave.  Exploring why the alternatives of Jonathan living, saving a child, or dying of natural causes frustrate this intention.  How to find themes and how this scene fits-into and supports those themes.

“If you wanted and expected sameness, perfection, tradition, and safety… why in the world would you ever invite an alien immigrant into your life?  The alien immigrant represents something new, different, foreign, and challenging.”

Answers, insights, and commentary on:

  • Jonathan dying a hero or in a clearly unavoidable way issues
  • What the tornado teaches Clark better than the heart-attack
  • Nonlinear telling softens tragedy and sets the stakes for following acts
  • Interpretation beyond creator intent
  • The pain of birth is worth the potential
  • Organic is better than engineered
  • How the film shows multiple facets to every profession
  • Defying film formulas to set stakes
  • Japanese art of Kintsugi and its philosophy
  • How Superman and Batman approach brokenness differently
  • Remembering brokenness and restoration in religion
  • Should Superman be more unbreakable than Jesus?
  • The climate of angst that gave rise to Superman
  • How an immigrant hero in 1938 causes cognitive dissonance
  • Superman’s heritage of controversy and questions
  • Kintsugi applied to the tornado scene and Batman v. Superman

…and more!

A Thesis on Man of Steel | Reel Analysis
Bring On The Learning Revolution – Ken Robinson | TED
Introduction to Kintsugi | Unknown
Kintsugi: The Art of Embracing Damage | Nerdwriter1
Why Superman Will Never Be Cool | Cracked
Cognitive Dissonance | Wikipedia
Commentary! “Heart Broken” LIVE | This American Life
Dr. Horrible Commentary! “Heart Broken” | Joss Whedon

Web: ManOfSteelAnswers.com
Twitter: @mosanswers
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  1. Hi Dr,

    Just want to know where can i view the ruin of metropolis mockumentary? Is it from the Blu ray extras?

    • Officially available in low-resolution segments here:

      Composed together as a single TV-quality fake-documentary as a Blu-Ray extra.

      • Thanks for the link. It definitely fascinates me on the planet krypton attentions to details.

        In addition i would like to know your opinion on should man of steel using the approach of captain america winter soldier? Many people say that winter soldier prove that captain america ideal is still relevant in our modern society without changing his essence and core personality despite of the obstacles and challenges in his way

        Do you think that Man of Steel sequel should follow the example of captain america winter soldier?

        • I think this was addressed in Episode 22’s Mailbag: “How does Superman’s characterization compare to Captain America’s?” There were probably some comments in posts preceding it asking this too… I recall 3 or 4 people asking the same question around then.

          • Hi Dr,

            Thanks for the headsup sorry i did not go through all your podcast and i still look through the previous comment pertaining about winter soldier comparison with man of steel.

            Regarding about the planet krypton mockumentary, it is indeed very interesting and very attention to details. However what am i looking most forward to is the mockumentary that talk about the destruction of Metropolis and how humans and the world react to the existence of the aliens and how we perceive them. Too bad i still cannot find that on the internet.

          • Oh Sorry just want to clarify my earlier question, i’m aware that both superman and captain america basically embody the same absolute goodness traits and ideals. I’m just wondering should zack snyder approach the man of steel in the same way as winter soldier approach? How man of steel film might have turned out to be it follows the same way as winter soldier film treating the captain america in our modern society

          • Both approaches have their places. Basically, Winter Soldier is heroism on Easy Mode. Steve is allowed and excused black-n-white self-righteousness of the 40s. When he’s confronted with the dilemmas of greys, the story writes him out of having to actually make the hard choice. Which is fine. That’s probably how most mainstream comics and entertainment deal with dilemmas, they either never raise them to that level or they write the hero out of having to make the hard choices. Black Widow never has to deal with allied soldiers or embedded agents dying, or doomsday technology plans becoming public domain because she reveals all of SHIELD / HYDRA’s secrets… you know, the consequences that make that kind of disclosure a difficult choice. Steve didn’t have to decide whether he was going to turn against his government because it turns out they were HYDRA all along. And although he had to fight his friend… he never had to truly decide between his friend or innocents. In Easy Mode, it’s easier to come off a hero… the weight of that is arguably less though. It’s feel-good and comforting, which is fine, but it’s a shallow kind of inspiration in my opinion.

            MOS isn’t Impossible Mode… far from it. You could place Superman into unthinkable, dark, and twisted dilemmas. However, he wasn’t put into those situations because despite what some critics think, this wasn’t a “gotcha” or an attempt to demean, darken, or deconstruct Superman. Imagination doesn’t need to go to those unspoken corners. However, MOS heroism level was very much on Hard Mode. Why? For exactly the reasons people have criticized, denied, and ignored Superman for decades! For the reasons listed above… it’s easier to come off a hero (when your life is perfect, your moral compass infallible, you have no reason to doubt or be unhappy, and your powers allow you to do anything)… and the weight of that is arguably less… leading the general audience to prefer other heroes (if you hold that Superman is exceptional, then the rule is that most heroes don’t lead such idyllic and carefree lives; and if the market is supporting all those other characters, it means the market prefers heroes without such frothy lives). By approaching Superman’s heroism on Hard Mode (ostensibly grounded reality-ish) and following the trappings of Superman to their natural conclusion (…you know, the consequences that make these things difficult choices…) it stands against those assumptions of perfection and ease and allows people to stop taking Superman’s heroism for granted.

            Steve gets to be in a world that already accepts heroes, their tropes, and where a villain (HYDRA) is purpose-built to suit his black-n-white Anti-Nazi frame-of-mind. There’s little struggle to that, he simply gets to be who he is and introduce that to the public. Superman can’t do that because the public has already rejected who he is in cinematic form… Man of Steel served to challenge that rejection and either broaden appreciation for Superman’s tradition or deepen appreciation for what he means in a realistic context. Man of Steel can be appreciated for its own merits, but it also causes people to appreciate Returns, Reeve, and Supergirl (TV) in a way that is unlikely unless Snyder asked the question, “What if he had to deal with the real world and not the forgiving world of comic books?”

            As much as people like to parallel the two, they’re not the same. Steve was born in a backwards era so he’s forgiven his backwards and quaint thinking. Superman was that “Aw shucks!” backwards country bumpkin at his core in the 70s- when he was in his 20s and would have been raised in the 50s- he didn’t need Steve’s frozen time machine because he really was a throwback… but we’re over half-a-century from that time. You can’t explain it as Clark being from an Kansas farm in the 50s anymore. He would have grown up with a modern perspective and values. The Back To The Future hype puts it somewhat into perspective… Marty in 1985 was as far removed from his parents in 1955 as we are today from Marty in 1955… so a grounded and relevant Superman can’t remain static like the defrosted soldier can. And, frankly, that’s to Superman’s advantage because he remains a living breathing character whereas Cap has to relentlessly play the Man-Out-Of-Time Card until the next soft reboot.

            I’m rambling, but to sum it up: Humans don’t embody absolute goodness unless reality is on Easy Mode. Easy Mode lets you take your characters for granted. Superman already had ~5 films on Easy Mode and was being taken for granted. So rather than repeat that insanity expecting a different result, they dialed it up to Hard Mode so Superman wouldn’t be taken for granted. This has resulted in division but also a new appreciation for Superman in different and multiple levels. Lastly, people who equivocated Cap and Superman are being overly simplistic.

  2. Great episode! Possibly my favorite thus far. I really enjoy thinking about Man of Steel from the level of themes, so this was right up my alley. I have thought for awhile now about the subjects of identity, fatherhood, and religious mythos, and the theme of “organic is better than artificial” (which first stood out to me in hearing the creators talk about the design of Krypton) but I’m now going to have to think more about the theme of “the pain of childbirth is worth it to bring forth new potential.”

    And it was also really interesting to hear Dr. Awkward’s thoughts about how the filmmaking itself embraced the organic … I hadn’t thought about it on that level, but I felt deep down that I appreciated the direction and the realism that they took with the character (realism not just as “gritty” but realism in terms of “this is how people really might react”).

    • I’m glad you liked it. It’s out of my typical comfort zone but definitely something we have to keep in mind when we’re negotiating contracts, trying to reach settlement, sentencing a criminal, or even dealing with grading a student… even if the hard facts say one thing, the people involved may have created a theme or story of their own to how this means more than just the facts and it’s important to recognize that to either appease, oppose, or address that it accordingly. So it’s not my go-to, but I have a little practice and really happy you got something out of it!

  3. Hi Dr. Awkward

    Did you see the viral marketing campaign for Batman v Superman that was a Fortune Magazine interview with Lex Luthor?


    I included the link to the article. It includes some world building for the DCEU.

    • Thanks for the link! Yeah, it looks like we’re getting a steady drip of information and marketing between Fortune, NYCC, Total Film, Paris CC, Empire, etc. I expect we’re going to get a little bit more right before the Investors’ Call and probably a few confidence boosters during the call itself.

      I’m dying to pour over it all, but haven’t had the time.

  4. Fantastic episode.
    And there’s a claim from the detractors (I prefer haters, that’s what they deserve being called in my opinion) that Superman isn’t a realistic character because of the nature of his powers and the powers themselves, hence they claim Man of Steel missed the mark completely (and I may be repeating some articles you’ve already responded to, it’s not my intention) as to Kal-El’s personality and that humanizing the Man of Steel (or bringing him down to our level) defeats the purpose of the character in the first place. so, which questions should you ask yourself in order to debunk that claim.

    • I’m not going to join you with that because there are intelligent and well-reasoned people who dislike MOS for valid or taste reasons and don’t necessarily have strong emotional component to their view. Not saying there aren’t haters, but addressing hate seems a little pointless since there’s no argument to reason with. If it’s a dispassionate detractor I can at least make my point even if we’re not going to agree. Anyways…

      I mean, that’s a trite sound-bite argument and if that’s all they’re willing to put forth, I wouldn’t really waste my time. If they’re not open-minded enough, not nuanced enough, and not sophisticated enough to distinguish between two uses of the word “reality” and think that equivocating the two is a solid or valid argument… you’re going to spend more time frustrating yourself than convincing them. The “reality” at issue are two different things. The reality we like is “self-consistency” with the real-world as the ultimate example of self-consistency by necessity. Contrast that with the “reality” they’re equivocating it with, which means “nothing that is found in our real world.”

      So, for example, you can praise a simulation for its “reality” under our definition… but by their definition it can never be praised because, by definition, a simulation ISN’T reality. It’s a foolish and unconvincing equivocation but because the word is used in both arguments it tricks the unsophisticated into believing they’ve made a valid point.

      This kind of equivocation a little clearer with other dual-meaning words:

      “1. Criminal actions are illegal; 2. Murder trials are criminal actions; 3. Thus, murder trials are illegal.”
      “The sign said, ‘Fine for parking here’… since it was fine, I parked!”
      “All child-murderers are inhuman, thus, no child-murderer is human.”
      “The priest told me I should have faith. I have faith that my son will do well in school this year. Therefore, the priest should be happy with me.”

      It’s silly, but to get around this arguments then routinely descend into semantics and trying to replaced “realism” with other words like grounded or verisimilitude, which really make no difference if they didn’t understand the point to begin with. Sometimes, however, they’re actually open-minded but just falling back on a lazy defective argument… equivocation is a fallacy and an otherwise worthy participant in a discussion may simply be fallible. You can politely point out the difference in meanings and move on.

      It’s a bad argument I see all the time… so I might do an entry on this one day (after the dozens of other unwritten entries I have to do, ha!)

      • It’s the same with Dragon Ball fans/”fanboys”, who suddenly claim after seeing MoS that Superman is actually a terrible hero for not taking his fights out of populated areas unlike Goku. the thing is, Goku is a hero in the traditional sense of the word like MCU Cap and Steve’s other counterparts. while DCEU Kal and some of his other counterparts exist in a world that contemplates whether Superman is doing more good or harm by saving people. and with that I’ll conclude this discussion on my end.

        • I love analyzing MoS, its just such a beautiful movie and it made me see that Superman isn’t just this 2-dimensional character with ridiculous feats. (Then I read a Superman comic and realized it had always been like that but that’s not the point.) Unfortunately a lot of people didn’t see it that way because they were too focused on the third act with Zod. Despite comics becoming mainstream most people still don’t realize that comics can be and have been more then just fun action adventures. Just like any form of literature it, if done properly, it can challenge how we view the world, ourselves, each other, etc. AND can be fun and entertaining. It sounds like Goyer and Zack found that balance, but we won’t really know till we see people’s reactions.

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