Friday, August 20, 2021

Can Superman teach me to be a super dad?

If you haven’t watched Superman & Lois, you’re missing out. Season one just finished this week, and I’m already feeling the loss that comes from a show ending. Hear me when I say this-- If the entire Arrowverse existed solely to bring us this version of Superman, it was all worth it. I definitely had tears in my eyes more than once. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it all on The CW for free, or until it moves to HBO Max or Netflix… Feel free to read on, and I’ll tell you when the spoilers start after I get out of Episode 101.

I fell a little bit in love with Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman the moment he and Supergirl saved the Venture plane together. He only became better when we got to watch the ever stoic Cat Grant pine over him, with Clark being full aware of his ‘sway’ over her to the point of laughter. I realized quickly he was the best Superman out there (not to say it’s a contest, but if it were he’d be winning). He’s happy, strong, clumsy, and sincere. I also really think the entire cast is strong. There aren’t any weak players here. 

Along comes Superman & Lois. Not Lois & Clark (oh wait, they did that already..) Not just Superman, or Superman and the twins. Superman & *Lois* - I wondered about the reasoning here for longer than I should have, but I really think it’s about bringing the humanity out in Superman. 

In Episode 101 we get to see Clark and Lois’ relationship, only to find out that they now have twins - two teenage boys. One of the boys is Jonathan. He’s popular, athletic, and seems to have the perfect teenage life. The other is Jordan, who’s edgy, dark, and deals with Social Anxiety Disorder. He’s difficult to connect with, too. 

And so the story begins. Superman has the super game in the bag at this point, but parenting teenagers is a different story. I’ve literally never heard anyone say that’s easy, but imagine having to have a full-time job, be a good husband and father, AND be Superman to the entire planet. He would have to miss things, and he does. When the boys find out about their dad, they feel like they’ve been lied to their whole lives (you know… because they have been, even if it was the right call.) In one of my favorite clips from the series, Clark reveals himself to his sons.

Jordan: I understand. I understand all the excuses. All the times you were gone, you lied to us. You both did!

Lois: He was saving lives, Jordan!

Jordan: That doesn’t make it less true. You lied to protect his secret! All the things I’ve been feeling. You made me think I was crazy! They put me on pills!

Jordan then tells him he wasn’t sent to Earth to be a father. (ouch...) To be fair, when your father or mother misses something important to you, it still hurts, even if it was important. So, can Superman be a super father on top of all of the other things he’s doing? That’s a good question. It definitely doesn’t seem that way at first. 

But that’s kind of the point. No father is perfect, and each will definitely fail at points. It’s the effort, time, sacrifice, and love that does matter. 

I know a good man named Spencer who pointed out Superman symbolism, which is really about connecting to our Father in Heaven. He comes from a far away place, feeling like he doesn’t quite belong here. Over time he begins to try to find out who he is and goes to his Fortress of Solitude to *commune with his Father*. There his father (Jor-El) teaches him, trains him, empowers him, and sets him on a quest to save the world, serving, learning to love the people of this planet, and to find that love within himself. (I could literally teach a Sunday School lesson about this, and it would be so fun! I mean, the name El was used because it means God!)


That example is quite starkly contrasted in the latter half of the season as we meet Tal-Rho’s holographic father Zeta Rho, who was abusive to Tal-Rho (Morgan Edge) from day one. Not only was he verbally abusive, he basically tortured the poor guy until he could withstand a great deal of pain. Should we be surprised when he gives in to that pressure? Abuse stays with you until you can be free of it, and heal from it.

The series just continues to focus on these father relationships:

  • Lois with her father Sam, who she tells at one point to leave her family and not come back!

  • Clark being a father to a son with powers, who struggles with them. And to somehow be a father to a son that doesn’t, who desperately wants to fit in with the two superhuman men in his life. 

  • Kyle’s strained relationship with Lana and his children, who know he’s been a drunk but is really trying to figure himself out. He really blossoms in the last quarter after he begins to see how much he’s hurt his children.

  • John Henry Irons, Steel, who happens to be from a parallel universe (I thought those were all erased… oh, well, this was fun). He happened to be married to Lois in that parallel universe, only to watch her be killed by Superman. His relationship with Natalie was beautiful, until he somehow got stuck in our universe and left her behind.

  • It just keeps going! I mean, I had to make a chart to understand this:

I am focusing on fathers here, but Lois (Elizabeth Andrea "Bitsie" Tulloch) just shines. She’s the one that points out to Jonathan that they are a super family, doing super things even when half of them have powers and half of them don’t. She’s also the one fighting for Jordan with his anxiety and helping him work through that. 

At the end of the series, after things have calmed down, Clark’s family holds a funeral for Jor-El’s crystal, which was Jor-El as far as Clark knew. With the crystal destroyed, they bury the crystal and talk about fatherhood to wrap it all up.

Clark: Growing up I always felt different. Alone, in some way. (How are you not already crying by this point?! The strongest man on the planet, literally the man millions look up to, is talking about feeling different and alone!?) I had so many questions about who I was and why I was here. All that changed when I met him. He taught me so many things, about my home world, about my family, about myself. But the greatest thing he ever did for me… was just being my dad. (I’m like 99% sure this could have been an Elder Uchtdorf talk) - I also really believe that some dad's are adopted, as mentors, as father figures, or other men in our lives. We don't all have a father here, or maybe not a father that's able to be that person, but the good men in our lives can change us for the better.

So, Dads - Go be your own version of Superman. Your kids need it, even if that just means you being there for them when they aren’t ready. One day they will be, and they’ll be so grateful for someone who just wanted to be their dad.

- Garrett

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