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No, I can’t accept it

June 5, 2016

During a discussion last night (in which a lot of otherwise valid points were made), one of my friends told me that I needed to accept the legitimacy of the gritty, “realism over idealism” vision of Superman presented in the recent Zac Snyder films (and Snyder’s stated vision).

A lot of what that friend said was very legitimate and pointed commentary about the unreasonable nature of the BvS backlash (and the treatment of the people who dared to like that film). But that one line…I didn’t much notice it at the time, but it bugged me, and  it’s still bugging me.

Taken alone, there’s no reason not to accept the vision of a more gritty, less idealistic superman in a “real” world. On its own, it’s just what the director felt best fit with his vision.

The problem is, it’s not on its own. Snyder’s vision of Superman is part of the same culture that’s lionizing GRRM’s anti-idealist tract (which masquerade as a fantasy series) and the same culture that glorifies the notion that idealistic people are foolishly naive and won’t achieve anything because “realistic consequences” will catch up to them. It’s the same culture that turned what should have been the most idealistic alignment in Dungeons and Dragons into a walking, talking parody. It’s the culture that looks at role models and idealistic figures and wonder “but how can we take them down from their pedestals”.

It’s the same culture that got another friend, recently, to tell me in pretty much so many words that “Idealism belongs in children novels.”

And I have a hard time imagining a more toxic line of thinking.

No, idealism is not something that’s naive and childish. No, pragmatism is not superior to idealism. They’re two wheels of a bike ; two legs of a human. You need both: idealists to worry about where it is we’re actually going ; and pragmatists to worry about where to turn at the next corner and when to stop for gas. Lose the pragmatists, and the idealists get lost or run out of gas ; but lose the idealists, and the pragmatists just drive around in circle down the path of least resistance.

Snyder’s superman is frankly not even that bad as far as that goes. Except that it’s Superman. Who is, by the standards of modern mythological pop culture, the patron god of Idealists – the single most iconic, shining beacon of idealism in all of western culture. So when you say that “If you put him in the real world, he can’t be that idealistic”…you are essentially claiming the single biggest idealist out there was part of your no-idealism world.

In an ideal world, there would be room for it. There would be room for grit, and room for idealism. But we’re in a time and place where gritty cynicism is all over entertainment left and right. Where “idealist” is seen as an insult. Where people who write, or ask for, idealistic stuff are told that it belongs in children entertainment.

In that world, accepting the legitimacy of gritty Superman is accepting the legitimacy of the entire war on idealism that’s going on all around us.

And that is not something I can do.

P.S. : I know I’m unlikely to get comment here, but just in case I do: I will absolutely NOT tolerate comments bashing BvS fans or insinuating they are wrong for liking the film, etc. That one of the directing choices involved in the film is illegitimate to me doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate for people who like the film to like it.

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