33 – Fighting Ability – Culture & Character

coverblackHow can Jor-El fight or beat Zod?  How could Clark fight and win?  We look at Kryptonian culture in the first five minutes of the film for some answers and challenge the assumptions raised by these questions.  Insight into Zod’s character and Clark’s perseverance.

Answers, insights, and commentary on:

  • Martial arts driven by genre and tropes
  • Having genre literacy before criticizing
  • What we learn in just the first 5 minutes
  • The many martial trappings of Krypton
  • Jor-El and Zod were friends
  • Jor-El proves he can fight
  • Krypton relies on projectile weaponry
  • Feudal and warrior culture influence on Man of Steel
  • Are scientists and warriors are mutually exclusive on Krypton?
  • Jor-El as Kryptonian nobility
  • Would Zod have different training than Jor-El
  • The folly of Kryptonian society
  • How does Kal-El know how to fight?
  • How Zod’s training contains disadvantages
  • How the final fight inspires
  • Speculating on Batman and Wonder Woman’s fighting styles

…and more!

Torquasm-Vo | wikia
Torquasm-Rao, Klurkor, and Horu-Karu | io9
The Professor in the Cage | Jonathan Gottschall
Why Men Fight | RadioWest
The Brain: The Story of You | David Eagleman
The Brain with David Eagleman | PBS
Man of Steel Blu-Ray Release Q&A | Yahoo Movies
Jesse Eisenberg on Diane Rehm Show | Scott Brooks
Snyder at Bob Kane Walk of Fame Ceremony | Variety
Nerdist Podcast: David Goyer | Nerdist
Producer Charles Roven Reveals the DC Brain Trust | Collider
Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend | TED
Free Throws | Surprisingly Awesome

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  1. I like the thorough explanation of Zod and Jor-El. It really brings a lot of the film’s presuppositions to light. That said, while I appreciate the consideration that Krypton’s caste system was somewhat flexible, I think that runs contrary to the point, which is that Kryptonians are genetically slotted into role-based castes. So I don’t think that Jor-El occupied two roles. When he mentions examples of roles — worker, warrior, leader — I think he means that 1) the castes are pretty rigid and 2) Kryptonians are genetically dispositioned and trained toward certain roles, not necessarily engineered for those roles.

    I think these two qualifications explain why Jor-El and Zod occupied distinct roles, but also why Jor-El knew how to fight. Think about it this way: Jor-El is a scientist, and therefore is disposed toward innovation. That’s why he’s the one who creates the Black Zero (and presumably the gateway to the Phantom Zone). Zod is a warrior, and therefore is disposed toward fighting, tactical thinking, codes of honor, and efficiency/function. That is why Jor-El comes to the conclusion that the problem is with Krypton’s genetic-based society, and why Zod only considers the lack of competent decision making by specific bloodlines.

    At the same time, Jor-El and Zod both think outside of the box. We know that they spent time together and that they share a basic recognition that Kryptonian society has a major problem at the top. So I suspect that Jor-El learned how to fight by sparring with Zod in their youth. He may have even been better at it than Zod. I think that better accounts for the rigidity of Krypton, while also accounting for how Jor-El knows how to fight very well.

    • Thanks for listening.

      As often is the case, I think of better illustrations or explanations after publication, but thanks for pushing the idea. I’m not sure you capture my intent correctly, I don’t think the system is somewhat flexible, I think that the caste system is rigid, just not rigidly defined the way people assume.

      Inexplicably everyone assumes that Kryptonian castes are only horizontal, when no caste system in human history has been like that, basically intrinsic in the idea of a caste system is vertical divisions as well… leaders placed over workers (nobles over peasants), for example, not just warriors next to scientists (knights parallel to priests). While the categories go up and down, left and right, it doesn’t mean the people within the system can jump categories.

      Depending on what category is transcendent, if training is attached to that, then access to training may be broader than what people assume.

      Consider this: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard… they all have pilots. That doesn’t mean military hierarchy is flexible or that you can jump between branches easily. It means that air power transcends the role each branch of the military plays. They all want / need / have pilots and flying vehicles. Likewise, no matter how you divide the guilds, there is SOMETHING that transcends that structure. The podcast basically proposes three possibilities: Leadership, Warrior Culture, or Nobility (or some combination of these).

      If it’s leadership and hierarchy, that’s plain to see… if you look exclusively at Warriors, they have a Council Member as a Warrior Law Maker, they have Zod as a General, they have subordinates like Faora, technical warriors like pilots, and then maybe something as low as a guard like the Chamber guards. No matter how strict the guilds, you will always need leaders in each guild. When Jor-El lists leader AS a predestined role, it creates the possibility that leaders transcend the guilds. So people who are born leaders will always be above the grunts within a caste and all leaders might have the same access to training.

      If it’s warrior culture, then that’s also plausible… how else do you explain how someone assigned the duties of scientist, publicly partakes in warrior trappings and culture? If he’s meant to sit in his scientist box, society would shun, reject, and hold him accountable for armor, war-kites, citadels, and training. Jor-El’s training is apparently known because no one grumbles when four armed guards are tasked with taking him away. Why would that be necessary for someone society says should have no training? Rather, it seems apparent they know he’s capable and the guards are justified. This isn’t like Car-Vex escorting Lois alone, Jor-El is a clear and present danger.

      If it’s nobility, then that can explain the trappings as a matter of lineage and it’s supported by the fact that Krypton has billions of citizens but only 14 elite houses. In caste systems there’s always a top dog who gets more access to everything by virtue of their station in life, rather than societal function.

      Again, this doesn’t mean that if you’re a peasant you can become a noble or that if you’re a knight you can become a priest… but it means that the benefits may coexist in more than one category.

      I don’t really accept the “innovation theory” because it’s basically a hybrid of “secret training” and “hyper intelligence” already debunked in the podcast. You’re basically proposing that Jor-El’s training was out-of-the-box and social norms, which doesn’t jive with all this public martial trappings and Zod’s men taking Jor-El seriously as a prisoner. If scientists aren’t allowed to fight, it’s strange everyone would tolerate him running around in armor, riding war-kites, living in a castle, and befriending Zod. If you argue that society turned a blind eye because they’re a martial society then THAT’S the explanation, you don’t need Jor-El to when young to begin with, the culture ALREADY allows him to train. Similarly, innovation doesn’t really drive fighting talent or ability in any meaningful sense… it’s more of equivocation of terms than something that meaningfully translates into martial ability.

      All that said, if it works for you as self-consistent, that’s fine.

  2. Hey Doc! Love your website and your youtube channel. Simply amazing all the considerations that you have been making all theses years about such a great movie. Thanks so much for all your hard work debunking all the plot holes. But I have a request to make. Everytime I argue with my friends about this movies being so f.. cool they tell me to read this website:[redacted]
    A lot of the plot holes indicated there makes sense, but like they say suspension of dis belief, right? So my request was If u could make a topic debuking all the allegations of this website. I know a lot of them have been adressed, but other didnt. I would much apreciate that! Thank u very much! Regards.

    • Thanks for reading and watching.

      I know 30+ episodes is a lot, but I’d recommend listening to the podcast which addresses nearly every alleged plot hole raised. I honestly don’t think they make much sense if you really think things through, but in those remaining cases, I agree, suspension of disbelief. I might do a podcast summarizing the big points of insight and contention already discussed, but not sure when.

      Until then, unfortunately, my policy has always been (and you can read other comments or posts on the blog saying this) I don’t do “hit pieces” countering specific works of criticism. 1) I feel no need to give them more traffic; 2) It’s easier to make a thoughtless criticism than to provide the right answer (my common example is “The Sun goes around the Earth” or “The Earth is flat”, responding back takes magnitudes more work than to assert the wrong thing); 3) I focus on the positives and what I like about the film, which in turn reveals it’s self-consistency… so if you listen to the podcast you get the answers affirming the strengths of the film; rather than try to excuse an alleged criticism.

      • Thanks so much for the answer. You are right on every point! Indeed, people always try to criticize and make the things they don’t like look crappy, even if it’s really good. I’ll make sure to tell all of my friends about your work here. I’m from Brazil and I know lots of people that would enjoy accompanying you in this journey. Once again, thanks and keep up the good work.

  3. Hello Doctor, once again I arrive with a question, I’m not sure if you can answer it, but you’re the only one I can think of to ask.

    It’s about Supergirl, you see, I know it’s fairly normal that the ratings suffer one or more flops after a series’ debut, virtually all shows suffer that. It’s just that with all the things surrounding Supergirl, I’m not entirely sure what to hope, or if I should feel any hope at all;

    * The fact that the series became the No.1 in its debut means that the expectations became even higher for the first season.

    * The fact that “Agents of Shield”, an ABC series, suffered a similar flop during its first episodes, but still managed to get a third season, would mean that there’s hope for Supergirl. But, I can’t help but feel that Supergirl is even more expensive than AoS, and thus having slightly bigger ratings than the latter’s first season isn’t exactly a good thing.

    * There’s still the DVR viewings, right? But turns out that someone told me that the Streaming boost in the ratings don’t matter, since those skip the commercials only the live ratings are taken into account when considering another season. Is that true?

    I wanna be hopeful, really, I wanna count the blessings instead of the sorrows like you suggested, but when everything says “No Hope!” it’s a little hard. <:(

    • There’s only be three episodes. I would relax and not worry about the long-term ratings until episode 6 or 7 of the 13-episode order, with the expectation that the ratings might drop again for episode 4.

      I have some thoughts about free-riding on the marketing for BvS and Wonder Woman, but they’re premature at this point.

      I would worry only about things you can change. You generally can’t change the opinion of people who dislike it. You can’t deny the fact the ratings did drop. However, you can enjoy what you’re watching, share that with people who aren’t in the hopes they’ll like it too, and express your appreciation to CBS. Buy Dr. Pepper and tweet at CBS and others to do it too. 😛

      • Are international ratings something that could help?

        Supergirl airs in my country tonight, and while I won’t miss that episode for nothing, I can’t help but feel that those companies only care about the “Home” audience.

        Plus Supergirl is in the list of nominees for the “Best New TV Drama” in the next People’s Choice Awards, voting and asking others to support Supergirl as well is something I can do, but if it does win, would that actually help the ratings?

        I swear I have never wanted a series to succeed as much as Supergirl, finally the chance to make the Superman mythos interesting and appealing to the world at large, I would do ANYTHING in my power to support the series.

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