So the Internet has been blown up discussing Man of Steel's portrayal of Superman these last few weeks, but even before that one of my favorite authors Neal Stephenson was contemplating the science fiction author's role and responsibility in guiding and influencing society. He considers how earlier science fiction tended to inspire hope through depictions of utopian futures, while more recent science fiction (and fiction in general) has gravitated toward dystopian futures and pessimism.
Comic book author and columnist Steven Grant responded with an article applying this to Man of Steel, considering specifically what Superman has meant for audiences in the past and what he means now. His take is a little bit long winded, but makes valid points about the similarities and differences between utopias and dystopias. He does, however, lose points for discussing the film without actually having seen it.
The infamous Devin Faraci, independently of Stephenson, must also be tapping into the zeitgeist, as he published this article recently that breaks down the history of the hero and how modern heroes (Superman in Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger, Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness) have become selfish, egotistical, and mundanely normal. No longer can we look up to our heroes, but instead writers strive so hard to make them relatable as to remove anything that makes them admirable, instead clinging to destiny tropes to instill a sense of "special".
So what's happening here, folks? Many heralded Iron Man (2008) and Star Trek (2009) as a resurgence of optimism, the new optimism as Obama came into office. His second term, however, has started off bumpy but maybe there's still hope? Are we bound to see a flip flop in the direction of heroes as ideals and fiction as a tool for learning, or more boom boom splosion Joe Sixpack stumbles into his fate?