« Flagbert | The RCP Blog Home Page | The New York Times' Damage to Our Nation's Security - Jed Babbin »

Truth, Justice and the Capitalist Way

I saw Superman Returns the other day, and one line caught my attention. It's apparently caught a lot of people's attention. Of course, the premise of this movie is that Superman has returned after a long absence. The editor of the Daily Planet asks (roughly), "Does he still stand for truth, justice ... and all that stuff?"

Not, mind you, the American way.

Apparently, this was quite deliberate on the part of screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, who talked about the decision to The Hollywood Reporter:

"The world has changed. The world is a different place," Pennsylvania native Harris says. "The truth is he's an alien. He was sent from another planet. He has landed on the planet Earth, and he is here for everybody. He's an international superhero."

In fact, Dougherty and Harris never even considered including "the American way" in their screenplay. After the wunderkind writing duo ("X2: X-Men United") conceived "Superman's" story with director Bryan Singer during a Hawaiian vacation, they penned their first draft together and intentionally omitted what they considered to be a loaded and antiquated expression. That decision stood throughout the 140-day shoot in Australia, where the pair remained on-set to provide revisions and tweaks.

"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," Ohio native Dougherty explains. "The ideal hasn't changed. I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

While audiences in Dubuque might bristle at Superman's newfound global agenda, patrons in Dubai likely will find the DC Comics protagonist more palatable. And with the increasing importance of the overseas boxoffice -- as evidenced by summer tentpoles like "The Da Vinci Code" -- foreign sensibilities can no longer be ignored.

"So, you play the movie in a foreign country, and you say, 'What does he stand for? -- truth, justice and the American way.' I think a lot of people's opinions of what the American way means outside of this country are different from what the line actually means (in Superman lore) because they are not the same anymore," Harris says. "And (using that line) would taint the meaning of what he is saying."

The movie was entertaining enough (though way too long on time and way too short on internal logic). But is treating America the way a congressman treats an advisor caught with a transvestite hooker really the best way to open a movie the week before the Fourth of July?

In the filmmakers' defense, however, they're simply trying to maximize profit. And nothing could be more American-way-y than that.