A few weeks ago, Supergirl finished it’s first (hopefully not last) season on CBS. The show was family television of the most traditional kind. It was light, airy, and most of all kind. Why are Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow so much better on TV than the Zack Snyder led films have been on the screen.
Obviously “better” can be debated. People would say that the movies have made more money and been seen by more audiences than the television programs. My marker for better is simple, it is what I have enjoyed more. The DC television shows are all different in tone and work to achieve different things. But, they share some commonality; the casts have an easy diversity that outside of Shondaland so few programs have, the stories move, and there is a sincerity in the proceedings.
These are all things that the DC films are lacking. Even the Nolan Batman movies, that I like, stick with a somber and serious tone and take place in a world without much hope. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel shows a Superman filled with pain and already dour and suspicious. That kind of Superman story can work as a one-off in a comic book or as an alternate timeline, but stumbles when looking at the Superman of popular conception. Superman is a character who is a God on this Earth but because of his adopted family and what they taught him he sees that his job is to always model bravery and kindness.
I understand that things in the real world right now are pretty upsetting. The idea that 46% of people think Donald Trump is anything other than The Joker with a Twitter account can make one feel the worst about humanity. Seeing Batman act like the angry, obsessed libertarian of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight series can be cathartic. If only we had Superman’s power or Batman’s money. We could stop so many of these idiots. But, once we give in to every dark fantasy and thought, we become no better than the villains. Who do you cheer for when everyone is wrong?
When you watch The Flash or Supergirl or Legends of Tomorrow you see a world where people still want to do the right thing. They want heroes and to be heroes. The world sees a bad guy and works hard to stop him. The good guys believe in the better nature of the average man and many times they are rewarded for that belief. Even moral relativists like Captain Cold are working to make things better and stop destruction. Instead of blowing up every building and reducing entire populations to rubble they want to save build up and save. The difference is between believing we cannot be saved and believing we can always do better.
We have been re-watching Smallville at our home and our 8 year old daughter loves it. We see how easy it would be for Clark to become a God on Earth. But, he looks at how he is raised and those values. They make him humble and kind. He uses his powers to save people whether they are his friend or not. Superman is a GOOD GUY. That is the most important aspect to his character.
I hope that DC’s film arm learns how to do better. Add texture and color and diversity of style to their stories. Their characters have many moods and styles, the films should explore that. I will leave you with these wise words from Bat-Mite.