Thursday, November 30, 2006

Some Superman Chapter Bits, it started out academic *but ended up demented** .per.fucking usual.

*Academic bit:
Superheroic Bodies: The Corporealities of Contemporary Film Superheroes

Section I: Supermen and Wonder Woman

Chapter One:

'Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel?' The Births and Rebirths of Superman.'

He may technically have been an alien from another planet, but Christopher
Reeve’s Superman was one of cinema’s last great traditional heroes. A man who
knew right from wrong, he was a superhero driven by a belief in truth and
justice rather than by childhood trauma and genetic mutation.

Obituary of Christopher Reeve, The Times, 12 October 2004.

In a country dedicated to propositions of progress and the "new", Superman
appeared with his invulnerable body: the body that retains no marks, on which
history cannot be inscribed….Superman was the New Man, the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow…who could suffer the brutalizing shocks of modernity with neither broken bones nor neurasthenic breakdowns. Superior senses and a body so strong that "nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin" made him the first perfect citizen of the Metropolis.

Scott Bukatman (2003: 197, 202)

Superman actor Christopher Reeve died of a heart attack October 10, 2004, aged 52, he had been paralysed from the neck down since a fall from a horse at an equestrian competition in Virginia in May 1995. Much of the obituaries and news commentary in the following days either used or played on the terminology of the Superman ethos: "A Man of Steel: Reeve battled like movie superhero until death at 52" The Sun; "Superhuman to the Very End", The Daily Mail; "Christopher Reeve: a super man to know", The Times. Some reimagined Reeve as a 'real-life superhero' not only for the physical aspects of his condition but also for his political support of stem cell research, pitching him as a progressive campaigner against a fundamentalist Christian president.

These articles are an interesting starting point for showing how the almost 70-year-old Superman mythos continues to be relevant in contemporary society for what it says about the body, gender and masculinity. According to Michael Gove’s "Comment" in The Times :

Superman may have been a creation of the 1930s but his is a myth for our
times….The potency of the Superman myth lies in the perennial human yearning to
escape the constraints of the human condition. To be human is to inhabit a world
of vulnerability and limits. The weakness of the flesh, and its end in death,
frame all human endeavour…Superman appeals as an idea, and has survived as a
character, because he transcends these limitations. (Gove, 2004: 18)

Gove contrasts such larger than life myths of masculinity and the actual physicality of Reeves
'trapped by the frailty of his own body' (Gove, 2004: 18) and considers what effect embryonic stem cell research would have on our conception of humanity, 'Once we turn human life into a means rather than an end, an object not a subject, a toolbox rather than a daughter, we diminish what it means to be human'(Gove, 2004: 18).

For a generation, Christopher Reeve was the definitive screen Superman and one of the first successful big screen superhero franchises from Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978) to Richard Lester’s Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983) and Sidney J. Furie's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). One of his last roles was a Smallville cameo as Dr. Swann[1], who gives a young Clark Kent (Tom Welling) some information on his intergalactic origins in episodes “Rosetta” Season 2, air date 25 Feb, 2003; and “Legacy” Season 3, air date April 14, 2003).

The Superman films formed a template that subsequent franchises such as the 1980s-1990s Batman franchises followed: a nine year run of four films with quality and financial returns; shifts in tone from mythic and large-scale to smaller more camp and comical tales; groundbreaking multi-media marketing campaigns; distinctive pseudo-classical theme tunes; and actors in 'villain' roles, Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) and Jack Nicholson (The Joker), almost eclipsing the title star in popularity. One of the major differences of the two franchises is Reeves himself. Whereas the masked Batman (as I will discuss in the next chapter) is often a monosyllabic cipher in which audiences can inscribe their own masculinities and be more easily recast, Reeves personal and physical connection to the role was one of the hallmarks of this film franchise. It would be almost 20 years before another cinema superman appeared in the form of Brandon Routh in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006.

[1] This is a reference to Curt Swan one of the longest –serving Superman comics artists working on the character from 1945 until 1995, defining the quintessential look of the character, it is Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson’s Superman that Andy Warhol used for his 1981 iconic screen print. Swan died 1996. and a Superman engraving in featured on his tombstone (Zeno, 2002: 192).

Just added these epigraphs to a section:

2006: Superman returns in more ways that one

“Watching Superman again isn’t just like being a kid again. It’s better!”

DVD Cover of Superman: The Movie (The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection)
“That’s all you were good for! Ten year olds and shut-ins!”

Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) to George Reeves (Ben Affleck) in Allen Coulter’s Hollywoodland (2006)
**Demented bit: Was freaking out a bit this week because I was writing a Superman chapter in a week when a) Hollywoodland came out and b) Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut came out so I've been frantically trying to grab all the quotes and bits needed. Calmed down now though, it's part of the joy of doing film/media studies it's always changing, so you have to keep up, fuck, tempted to start quoting Ferris here.
Or Lebowski: New Shit has come to light, man, there's all these references and your PhD has been owing references all over town including to known film studies academics... man.
You know what's like if you're studying contemporary media, you've gotta be writing down notes in the cinema or when you see a Lynx ad (you know one I mean) ps The Lynx Site(<=ladies and gents read this link! they are honestly connecting Keanu Reeves' choice in The Matrix to whether or not to use Lynx!, what's next? "Use Lynx, that's what Tyler Durden used and then a whole universe of ladies fell on his riny dink!! or when that fucking Deja Vu ad is rammed down your throat 20 times a day.
Sometimes you hear people talking about being 'experts' in contemporary cinema, it's because they've seen Star Wars and ET , fuck them, they didn't have to watch Steel, Barb Wire, Generation X, and Return of the Swamp Thing (Jim Wynorski in the Houseki!!...a little joke there for the one person who a)knows who knows who Wynorski is and b) who watches abc 1 too much*. Anyway my point is there's always film studies academics (hey watch BBC Four any day this week!) who bang on about Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator, The Matrix (I won't make links, you may have heard of them? they're probaly great films, I wouldn't know) etc and act like they're sci-fi film experts but never mention Cherry 2000, Buckaroo Banzai, Space Hunter, fuck, even Enemy Mine 's probably obscure.
Jeez I'm being awful bitter, but you know what it's like, if you're into something, you're into it. Now geek stuff's cool, you've got these people that are mainstream and not really into it but see it's cool and maybe academically lucrative to be into it and suddenly they're asking questions about what they should watch and read. I've got questions from people at conferences where've they said stuff like 'how do I get into this superhero stuff?' my real world answer is giving them a booklist and ideas and such (but my internal monologue is : "Get a fucking time machine and go back in fucking time and spend all your lonely teenage years reading comics, sci-fi, and watching movies of the same ilk and then you'll be into it. ) It's just me, I've watched so many 'behind the scenes' documentaries (sorry that's a bit grand, featurettes, fuck! that's a bit grand: glorified trailers!) where fomer-cheerleaders-turned actresses appear on the red carpet claiming that Spider-man/Daredevil/Hulk/Ghost Rider/whatever's out this week is their favorite superhero ever, when it's painfully obvious that they've never read a comic or even seen a vaguely geeky film because they were too busy drinking lots, taking drugs, and having sex. but now they want be in such a film, or are actually in such a film and have to pretend that they're into it. Ahh
*That wasn't any in joke for anyone I know, I would be genuinely pleased/surprised if anyone thought that was funny.

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