Is the Man of Steel’s depiction of Jor-El prophecy or cliché?

Al GoreJune 24, 2013. The most recent movie version in the Superman franchise, “Man of Steel,” was entertaining, but it could’ve been more so much more interesting if the makers of this movie hadn’t abided by the Scooby Doo cliché.

For those who don’t know the story, the scientist Jor-El (Superman’s dad) warns the Kryptonian Science Council that impending doom awaits their home planet Krypton, based on his scientific research. In this particular version on the story, the doom that awaits Krypton is based on the fact that Kryptonians have been fracking. Jor-El is right in this version—as he is in all versions with different (and timely) versions of the impending disaster that awaits Krypton—and Krypton eventually implodes.

It would’ve been so much more interesting, and realistic to those of us on Earth, if the Kryptonians, had believed Jor-El’s rants on fracking. It also would’ve been far more realistic (and timely) to depict the politicians, on the Science Council, believing Jor-El’s chicken little, apocalyptic prophesies, especially when posed against a more rational, but less political, presentation of the facts and figures that suggest this is not what’s happening on Krypton. It would’ve been more realistic to have fear win the day in this regard, regardless how irrational or unfounded Jor-El’s findings are. It would’ve been more realistic to pit emotion versus fact, and have emotion win in the eyes of the Council that fears future electoral retribution by Kryptonians.

It may be the age, the result of so many movies that contain street corner screamers “that no one believes, until it’s too late”, or it may be human nature, but humans, from Earth, have a proclivity to believe the worst first, until they have substantial proof that street corner screamers can be disproved. And there’s never enough substantial proof for those that truly believe street corner screamers, because impending is perpetually impending, and the threat of doom always elicits hysterical emotion that cannot be thwarted by reason.

It may very well be the case that most of us watched too many Scooby Doo shows growing up, but depicting Jor-El as a chicken little, street corner screamer that no one believes, seems to have reached the point of cliché. I realize it’s endemic to the story that Jor-El’s plight take place, but it seems more reasonable (and timely) that most Kryptonians would believe Jor-El, no matter how many times he was wrong in the past, and that they would want their children on the “star-drive” ship Jor-El has designated for Earth. It seems more realistic (and timely) that a Jor-El would be wrong with his apocalyptic prophesy, but that that wouldn’t matter to hysterical Kryptonites fearing for their safety, and the safety of their children. It seems more realistic (and timely) that the vast majority of Kryptonites would believe Jor-El so much that when they found that Jor-El only sent his only son, they would get hysterical and riot, and eventually be led by a Zod in the search for Jor-El to force him to create more star-drive ships to carry more Krypton babies to Earth, for the continuation of the Kryptonite race, before it’s too late. This version may not end in the fiery blast that Hollywood film makers love, but the social messaging could be just as poignant.

It would also be poignant, in this bizarro version, if Jor-El, and Krypton continue to live and thrive far beyond Jor-El’s initial warnings. In this version, Jor-El would likely continue his warnings ad infinitum, without the fear of being called out on all of his previous apocalyptic warnings. He wouldn’t be called out, because impending is always impending, and most beings live in fear of tragedies that are impending.

The idea of Jor-El’s belief in his own warnings might eventually come into dispute, especially when he begins to amass an Al Gore-like net worth of $300 million dollars as a result of the capitalistic ventures he builds on his premise.{1} There could be some scenes in which Jor-El struggles with his research, but there could be an unerlying story that leaves him bitter regarding the fact that Jor-El succeeded to win the popular vote to be re-elected to head the Scientific Council, but that he was kept out by Krypton’s electoral college. (In most versions of Superman Jor-El was once head of the Scientific Council.) This underlying story could depict a man that had to realize at some point that his scientific research was incorrect, but he clung to this idea that Krypton would eventually implode, so he could generate a boatload of money and some kind of legacy that allowed him to sleep at night after that election defeat. The makers of this version could also show Jor-El eventually selling out on everything he purportedly believed in when it came to Krypton’s natural resources, by selling his scientific lab to one of Krypton’s largest natural resource exporters for $500 million, as Al Gore did when he sold his cable network to Al Jazeera.{2}

If any of Krypton’s reporters, or those reporters from the Daily Planet, on Earth, eventually did call Jor-El out on this latter hypocrisy, he could say, “Hey, at least I didn’t sell it to Glenn Beck.”{3}





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