Superman is a) gay, b) Jesus, or c) Nietzschean hero?

143249__super_lIf Superman had an office, he’d be sitting in it right now, superfingers massaging his supertemples, staring at a phone that won’t stop ringing. "Man, oh man," he’d sigh, "everybody wants a piece of Superman. Can’t a guy just Return already?"

Everyone does want a piece of Supes, of course. Because Superman belongs to everyone. For weeks, the Superman-is-gay debate has raged, focusing on the duality of Supes’ personality, his hidden identity, his suppressed fabulousness. (No, no, no! say the filmmakers, with utter predictability.)

There’s the Superman-is-Jesus thesis, centering on his function as a "savior" and the fact that he’s a man, yet not a man. There’s also the reading of Superman-as-immigrant, or, more specifically, as the quintessential American Jew: Cast out of his birthplace, his power waxes as he assimilates. And, theologically speaking, that’s not incompatible with the idea of a Messiah. (Supes was created by two Jews, after all.)

And then there’s the idea that Superman is, well, a superman, in the Nietzschean sense, an idea best advanced by David Carradine’s Kill Bill Vol. 2 speech, which notes that Clark Kent is Superman’s chosen disguise, his imitation of the typical human: weak, cowardly, "a critique of the whole human race." On a possibly related note, Frank Miller (and others before him) saw Superman as an embodiment of the American superpower: proud, mighty, and blinkered. (He set him in opposition to Batman, the American id.)

So who/what is Superman? It seems pretty certain that Superman, like every icon, is all of the above, and more. The test of a good icon is its ability to absorb a multitude of interpretations. Like mine, for example: Superman, clearly, is a vertically challenged entertainment writer from North Carolina. What’s the Kryptonite in this metaphor? Oh, like I’m telling you.

Comments (37 total) Add your comment
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  • brandonk

    I don’t see the Superman-as-gay angle, but all the others are plausible. (I’m gay and a huge Superman fan, so I’m not rejecting the first interpretation out of any anti-gay bias.) Mostly, though, I just think of Superman as the ultimate hero, and that’s how I like him.

  • mike

    I’m with brandonk. I never thought about Superman being gay. I’m not sure why the “gay buzz” started a month ago. It could be media gay bashers seeing Brokeback behind every movie marquee.

  • chardonna

    As a straight girl with an uncanny ability to always pick a hot guy only to find out that he’s gay, can we just leave Superman alone? Give the girls a chance to have SOMEbody!

  • Mario

    The tights, the matchy-matchy outfit, the knee-high boots… yes, the dude is gay.

  • Mario

    I suppose Jesus was gay too.. after all, he lived with his mother his whole life, never married, never sired children (something that was expected of every male back then), peace loving, and… a young man wearing only a loin cloth ran out of Jesus’ room when they came to arrest him. (look it up, it’s in the bible!)

  • Miles

    Jesus was Jewish, Jesus had superpowers, Superman is gay — therefore Jesus was Gay and Superman is Jesus.
    I on the other hand, being Puerto Rican background, say… Superman is an immigrant. A culturally diverse individual with a fabulous (gay?) native custome, who proves why some immigrants should be allowed in the country. Because my grandfather fought in the Korean War for the U.S. Because immigrants develop a sense of pride in their new country that is rarely shown by Americans, and because, yes, immigrants would do the jobs that most American’s don’t wanna do… like saving the world and melting things with their eyes…. (My mom’s french and she can do that! I swear!)
    Yes, Superman is a parable about being an Immigrant and also a parable about a gay Jesus.

  • J.

    Where do you people come up with this stuff? The costume denotes sexuality? The X-men all wore spandex in the comic books, and now wear tight black leather costumes! Does that mean all the X-men are gay? Superman wants to make it with Lois, come on people! You know he enjoys using his x-ray vision to peek at the goods now and again. Sheesh!

  • agnes skinner

    the teaser trailer… Brando’s voice-over? gazing at the world from the heavens? “They could be a great people, Kallel, if they wish to be. They only LACK THE LIGHT to show the way. For this reason above all – their capacity for good – I have sent them you, MY ONLY SON.” regardless of ultimate allegorical intentions, someone in marketing is playing the Jesus card.

  • Sypes Marka

    gay gay gay! All superheros are gay! Please, which str8 dude would wear those awful tights? None that I know. I am waiting to see a lesbian superhero (why not the new lesbianish Batwoman???) wearing a plad logger’s jacket. Now, that’s reality!

  • The Ottery

    Return of Superman

    Scott Brown of Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch just managed to do something unheard of: he made Superman sound interesting to me. Check out his summary of theories about Superman: Superman as gay (parallels to recent X-Men conversations), Superman as…

  • GatorBait

    if you start a rumor about supes being gay, then you will generate more buzz about the movie. Simple as that.

  • George

    Please, Superman is not gay, not a parable for Jesus, Jews, or Immigrants…he is just a Superhero. Plain and simple. Let’s not over-analiyze him, please. He was created as what he was, a guy in tights who fought crime, back in the 1930s.
    While he does have a legacy and history, the only way to describe is, he’s a symbol of doing things right, using (rather than abusing) his power to help people, and someone all religions, races, countries, etc, should follow.

  • Ron B

    STOP trying to find things wrong with superman, he is Jerry Sinefelds hero and thats good enough for me………………..Rotten Ron

  • Miles

    george dewd, it’s all in fun that I theorized the immigrant. You know what ultimately is, a money making machine that has made lots and lots of people rich.

  • Chris McVetta

    “Superman Returns” …to Cleveland???
    An open letter to Warner Bros. and Bryan Singer, director, of “Superman Returns”
    The id and I – “Can I have 10% of my paycheck sent back to my mom in Smallville-?”

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