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"Why did I agree to do this horrible fucking movie?!"

“Why did I agree to do this horrible fucking movie?!”

Lots of people have said it much better than I ever could, and in many different ways, but Batman vs Superman was a really, really, epically horrible movie.

I could talk at length about why this is the case, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just offer reason #3182:

You know what the most unbelievable thing about Batman vs Superman is?

It’s not that Superman’s bulletproof or can shoot laser beams out of his eyes.

It’s not the idea that Perry White is the editor-in-chief of a major newspaper but is sending Clark Kent to cover a local football team.

Those are nitpicky criticisms of poor writing or the absurdity of fantasy. I can suspend my disbelief about the laser beams.

It’s the notion that the United States would convene a Senate hearing on the deaths of innocent civilians in a third world country in order to bring Superman to justice. American soldiers kill civilians all over the world without a second thought from the vast majority of Americans. Zack Snyder presents a righteous vision of America that would only be familiar to the most blindly patriotic Republicans, and doesn’t exist in reality. It’s a vision of an America that puts itself out into the world in order to do the right thing every time, and is always looking out for the little guy. In reality the United States does exactly what Superman does: drops into volatile situations it doesn’t understand, throws its muscle around, protects a narrow version of American interests, and leaves without any concern for the chaos, destruction, and death it’s left behind.

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SupermanSuperman’s weakness is not so much Kryptonite as it is his moral code: he won’t kill or be otherwise immoral (although he has been known to be deceitful, especially when dealing with with foes such as Mr Mxyzptlk). He is the paragon of virtue, the defender and best example of The American Way. But his virtue can hold him back: he refuses to kill, but how often has this refusal led to greater suffering later on? How many times has one of his foes escaped, only to wreak further havoc, surely including death? Granted, death and pain are not so much a part of the Superman universe compared to Batman, but certainly amid the destruction wrought by battling titans in the middle of Metropolis, sometime somewhere someone has been killed. What responsibility does Superman feel? Not as much, it seems, as characters like Spider-Man or Batman, characters whose entire motivations for being superheroes are based on feelings of guilt over the loss of loved ones or the desire to avenge their deaths. Superman, however, despite the loss of both parents (biological and adoptive) is a pretty together guy. He represents the happy, well-adjusted face of American culture, with a never-say-die, can-do attitude. He is the principled volunteer who went to war to make the world safe for liberty, whereas Batman is the hardened veteran whose motivations are good but just might burn down your village to save it. Therefore, Batman is the stronger character, even though he has no super-powers, because he’s willing to do nearly anything to win the fight. Superman is held back by his morals, which are ultimately more important to him than winning, and because of that, Superman is much more likely to lose. (It needs to be said that in the comic books, Superman of course never loses–he’s too powerful. What we’re talking about here is the real world, if characters like Superman and Batman existed in it.)

I’ve always known that the depiction of characters in superhero comics is highly stylized and unrealistic, with some artists, for example Todd McFarlane, guiltier than others.  Proportions are just vaguely human, skin-tight costumes hug every perfectly-formed muscle, and shoulders are improbably broad while waists are impossibly narrow.

And then there are the breasts.

Power Girl breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges the enormity of the situation.

I recently came across an illustration of the DC Comics superheroine Power Girl that was eye-popping, even to my seen-it-all comics-reading eyes.  I was more of a Marvel fan during my rabid comics-reading days so, although I was vaguely aware of Power Girl, I can’t recall ever reading any stories that featured her.  I knew that she was an alternate universe version of Supergirl, and related to Superman.  And I remembered the costume, a white one-piece bathing suit with long sleeves and an inexplicable cleavage window.  I googled Power Girl images to see if this particular artist had taken liberties with his illustration of the character.  As it turns out, no.  In fact, I discovered that Power Girl, in an industry noted for its idealization of the female form, had gained a reputation for having the biggest breasts in the DC Universe. David Campbell, on his blog Dave’s Long Box, explores the phenomenon in depth, with tons of illustrations to support his theory that Power Girl “is a tabula rasa that comic book fans and creators alike can project their conscious and unconscious desires on to.”  Comic book fans and creators, in short, love breasts.

For all of the hyper-sexualized, pornstar-esque bodies that populate superhero comics, however, it’s a decidedly juvenile sexuality.  There aren’t a lot of mature romantic or sexual relationships in comics, and when sexuality is acknowledged, as Campbell notes, it’s more likely to be in a leering, double-entendre fashion.

And that’s probably why comics never address the in-your-face issue of genitals. Strange, because these are characters who routinely traipse around in their underwear.  Look lower in the picture of Power Girl, and you’ll see that her costume is noticeably French-cut, and quite revealing.  All I’m saying is that Power Girl must have taken time off from fighting crime to fly down to Rio for a Brazilian wax. Superheroines are hyper-sexualized depictions of women, with perfect measurements and curves.  Superheroes have different challenges, the opposite of the famous Seinfeld “shrinkage” issue.  When you’re wearing skin-tight underwear and little else, there’s nowhere to hide, but comics have solved this potentially embarrassing situation by under-sexualizing the men.  Like Ken dolls, male superheroes don’t seem to possess genitalia (or, at least, not functioning genitalia).

And so while debates can rage about which superheroine has the best figure or the largest breasts, we will never be able to discuss which superhero has the biggest muscle in the DC Universe.

Superman: strange visitor from another world.  Jesus: died for our sins.  There wouldn’t seem to be many similarities between them, but in fact these two powerful figures have quite a bit in common.  All of the following statements apply equally well to both the son of Jor-El and the Son of God:

His father is a distant omniscient presence who only appears to him in a ghostly form.

His conception was immaculate.

He has powers beyond those of mortal men.

He was sent to Earth by his father to save mankind.

He was faster than a speeding bullet.

He was raised humbly by a man who wasn’t his real father.

His whereabouts are a mystery between a young age and when he reveals his presence to the world.

He was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

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