Friday, July 12

Superman and September 11th





Our topic for today is a special mix of history, music, comic book (manga), and movie.



Mainly, we are going to talk about a song titled “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” by the American singer-composer John Ondrasik, also known as “Five for Fighting.” It was first released in 2001.



image courtesy of stock.xchng



The song became part of history because it was popular and entered the US Billboard Hot 100 charts in October 2001. A month before that, the tragedy of September 11th happened in New York and Washington.



Superman (It's Not Easy)” became the unofficial song for that tragic event, and through it, people remembered all the victims and heroes of September 11th. Many Americans know this song in connection to that event.  



Aside from this, almost everyone in the world – young or old, man or woman, knows the topic of the song. Superman the superhero is an icon* of American culture.



*icon = someone who is very famous

copyright DC Comics, Inc.



Indeed, many people are so familiar with this imaginary character that they know the story of his life: his real name (Clark Kent), his love (Lois Lane), his biggest enemy (Lex Luthor) etc.




First, the Comic Book



Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. That was back in 1933 when they were just high school students. This means that Superman as a character is already more than 75 years old!  


copyright DC Comics, Inc.



Superman is considered as the first comic book superhero. And just two years ago, he was placed No.1 on a list of the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of all time.



Like I said, many people around the world are familiar with some parts of Superman’s story, about his life. Because he is a cultural icon or symbol.



A person may know everything about Superman or he may know only bits and pieces:



1. He escaped from his home planet right before it was destroyed. He rode a ship designed by his father and came to Earth.



2.  He was adopted and raised by a kind couple who lived on a farm in Kansas. His name became Clark Kent and he was raised as a polite, gentle, and caring person.



3. He became an ordinary news writer in a company called The Daily Planet, where he also met the love of his life, Lois Lane.



4. As Superman, he has extraordinary abilities like super strength, super speed, X-ray and heat vision, flight, etc.



5. His biggest enemy is a smart, rich, and bald guy named Lex Luthor.



Knowledge of the character helps us understand references*, whether in film, a scholarly book, a magazine article, or just conversation.  



*reference = a comment that mentions someone or something



Superman has also influenced the English language in the form of expressions like “I am not Superman” or “You are not Superman.” The phrase: “____ is my Kryptonite” also means something is my weakness because in the story, Superman is strong except when he is affected by a special stone called Kryptonite, which makes him lose his powers.



In short, because Superman is a cultural icon, most people expect that you know something about him.



Second, the Movie



These days, Superman’s story has once again been refreshed to entertain new generations of viewers.  The movie titled “Man of Steel” opened last month and tells Superman’s origin story (how he started and became Superman).



If you still haven’t seen the movie, you can watch a trailer of it here:








Finally, the Song



The song “Superman (It's Not Easy)” wasn’t an official collaboration with the creators of Superman the character. But as an icon, Superman is already a part of world culture.



The song was a hit in many countries when it was released in 2001.



Music Charts (2001 – 2002)

Charts

Peak Position
Australian Singles
2
Irish Singles
5
Italian Singles
11
New Zealand Singles
2
Norwegian Singles
12
US Billboard Hot 100
14
US Billboard Pop Songs
15
US Billboard Adult Pop Songs
1
US Billboard Adult Contemporary
2



First, here are the music video and the complete lyrics of the song:






I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
I'm just out to find
The better part of me

I'm more than a bird
I'm more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It's not easy to be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see

It may sound absurd but don't be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won't you concede
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me

Up, up and away, away from me
It's all right
You can all sleep sound tonight
I'm not crazy, or anything

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
Men weren't meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I'm only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me

It's not easy to be me.




The Meaning of Superman



Of course there are many ways to understand the words of a song, every person who listens to it will have a different opinion. In other words, the art of the music depends on the listener.



Here I have used 2 ways to try and understand the lyrics of the song. First, I connected it with the story of Superman and, second, I related it to the life of an ordinary man.



Let's start...




In the first stanza of the song,


I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naïve
I'm just out to find
The better part of me


the singer says that he is afraid to fly. He knows it’s risky or not safe for him. But he wants to improve himself, to grow, or maybe to find another person (a lover) who will help him do these things.



The second stanza talks about Superman:


I'm more than a bird
I'm more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It's not easy to be me


because when Superman flies, most people think he is just a bird or a plane. People also say that Superman is faster than a train. And although the singer seems perfect or happy, he tells us that:



It’s not easy to be me.


In the third stanza,



Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see


we can see that although Superman is strong and nothing can harm him, he is weak deep inside. The words “a home I’ll never see” mentions the fact that Superman came from another planet which was destroyed and he is almost alone. Perhaps he misses his home. This part may also be talking about ordinary people, especially men who always try to look strong and happy outside and grew up thinking that crying is a shameful act. Deep down, everyone is lonely and weak.



The chorus gives us the main message of the song:



It may sound absurd but don't be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won't you concede
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me


This part tells us that especially those who try to appear strong, like heroes or leaders, have problems. No matter what other people think, they are still human.



Now, take a look at the fourth stanza:



Up, up and away, away from me
It's all right
You can all sleep sound tonight
I'm not crazy, or anything


This is another reference to Superman because the phrase “Up, up and away” was a popular expression made by the creators of Superman’s radio program. Because listeners of the program couldn’t see Superman when he was flying, the radio actor always said, “Up, up and away.”



In the song, the singer wants to fly but he wants to fly away from himself. To escape. He then says that he’s not crazy. This is probably talking about Superman’s appearance which, with his colorful costume and red cape, actually looks strange.



In fact, he keeps on talking about this in the other parts of the song:



I'm only a man in a silly red sheet
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me


This means that the singer is just ordinary but he hopes he will find something special and great inside him.



Lastly, the song talks about the opposite things in Superman’s life: he is super strong as Superman but he is also human as Clark Kent:



Men weren't meant to ride
With clouds between their knees


In the end, the singer tries to find a weakness behind his super powers. He doesn’t want to stay perfect and strong but he wants to become imperfect and weak:



Digging for kryptonite on this one way street



(Kryptonite is the special stone that makes Superman lose his powers. The only thing that can beat Superman.)




In Summary



For me, this song was the perfect song to rise on September 11th. It tells the story of a man who appears very strong outside (perhaps like America in the eyes of the rest of the world), but someone who in fact can also be hurt.




It also represents the spirit of Superman who, if he were real, would surely have saved all the victims of September 11th. But even though he wasn’t there to do it, many other people sacrificed their lives instead of him, to help others and to save lives during that emergency.  These brave people were the real heroes and Supermen. 




Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !












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