I have to admit that, when Smallville started, I was really good about watching it on a regular basis.
There was so much to enjoy - the kind of Buffy-esque take on the Superman mythos; the "no tights, no flights" rule that kept it grounded (pun fully intended); its willingness to tweak mythology - and sometimes ignore it - for greater storytelling opportunities. (Plus, I have to admit - having an angst-ridden late teens Superman has some appeal). After the third season, though, I dropped off - not that the quality dipped; mostly because living in St. Louis meant that one channel, for the longest time, shared UPN and WB programs (making it hard to find). Within the last year, I have been able to catch the odd episode, especially with the series "introducing" other DC characters. However, there's been something that has been bothering me....
...and that's the fact that Clark Kent hasn't left the family farm.
Part of the key to the appeal of Clark Kent/Superman is that he is the outsider amongst others - an alien amongst Terrans, a paragon of heroism amongst other costumed heroes, a powerful entity disgusing himself as a "mild mannered" individual...and a farm boy in the big city. But another key aspect of the character has been his willingness to push himself forward, to take chances, to do whatever it takes in order to be a hero. It also has meant Superman facing not only threats without, but within - knowing that he is "special", and using those talents for the greater good.
However, by keeping him on the farm, the producers of Smallville seem to be denying Clark the same potential for personal growth that they allow for the growth of his abilities. The Smallville supporting cast seems to have greater flexibility - Martha Kent has become a senator and a widow; Pete Ross has left, unable to deal with knowing Clark's secrets; Lex Luthor is becoming increasingly Machiavellian. Lana, Lois, even Chloe receive better opportunities to grow in character by moving into greater circles. Clark, however, seems to be stuck on the farm, able to perform greater abilities, but not able to grow from "super-boy" to "super-man".
Compare this to the handling of Superman in WB's animated LEGION OF SUPER HEROES. The first season focused on Superman just before heading to Metropolis - recruited by the LSH, his first episode saw him learning about his "freeze breath" from a fellow Legionnaire. That first season focused on Superman growing into his legend, and taking chances. The current season focuses on a more seasoned Superman, as well as introducing his clone from the 41st century. (Which is, ironically, the closest we'll get to an animated Mon-El). Early on, there were attempts to see one Superman "mentor" another...but the season is still early yet, but is rife with potential.
(In all fairness, the producers are attempting to handle this by introducing Clark's cousin, Kara, and I have to admit that...I have mixed feelings. It's not Laura Brevoort, the actress' fault - she is doing the best she can with limited material. There seems to be a mixed approach - it seems as if the producers can't decide if she's an immature 19 year old...or a very mature 16 year old).
But there is hope - it has been announced that the eighth season of Smallville will be its final season. Although many are looking forward to Clark flying, I am looking forward to another scene: Cut to an interior shot of an empty apartment, filled only with boxes. Cut to a window scene - we see the Daily Planet in the background. Then cut to a hand holding a "Metropolis University" brochure. We then cut and pan up to Clark Kent, standing amongst the boxes, wearing a pair of familiar glasses. Because then the producers of Smallville will have learned the greatest lesson of Superman:
We may not be able to change the course of mighty rivers...but the most heroic thing we can do is to change the course of our lives.
Please feel free to e-mail me with comments, disagreements, and/or suggestions for future columns at email@example.com. Until next time, remember, keep your feet on the ground...and your Legion flight ring within reach.
For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
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