When Superman: Man of Steel came out people were saying that the film was too gritty and cynical and it was that cynicism that destroyed the Superman we have always know and loved.
That it was that very cynicism that had Superman break his cardinal rule of do not kill and had him that very thing, kill.
As the reviews come out about Batman vs Superman and the bleakness and cynicism of that film I posit that the reason Superman has killed and the reason he is so unrecognizable as the hero we grew up with and the hero we loved and looked up to is because every essence of his Jewishness has been meticulously and calculatingly been scrubbed out.
Superman was written by two Jewish teens in the early 30′s and they imprinted onto Superman a Jewish identity.
Superman is in Diaspora. His homeland gone, his language, his culture, and his heritage both alien and foreign to were he lives. Living day to day with a part of himself hidden so as to be live a somewhat unmolested life.
He must struggle with what it means to be a member of his people while not having his people or culture around him and while having the outside culture imposed upon him and expected to assimilate to this outside force.
A great example of this can be seen oddly enough in Man of Steel when Lois Lane asks Superman what the S on his chest stands for. He tells it means hope in his people’s language and Lois responds by saying that here it is a S.
Superman is expected to accept this new reality and to let go of his culture and understand that he must rather assimilate instead. That he must let go of what it means in his language and culture and understand that it is now a S.
It is the internal struggle of the Jew. To survive in Diaspora. To endure and still maintain a sense of self and one’s roots. To keep your people’s language, customs, and culture alive especially surrounded by a world where you are the alien. You are the foreign being and you must assimilate and then be grateful that you were allowed to be forced to assimilate in the first place.
Superman has two masks. The mask of Superman and the mask of Clark Kent. Kal-el, is the face of Superman and not the mask. Kal-el is the struggle to survive when you are the alien.
Superman in the films and especially Man of Steel and even more so in Batman vs Superman is meant to be a jesus figure. A Messiah.
But that is not what he really is. He is rather the personification of Tikkun Olam.
Tikkun Olam is that each and every person is obligated to fix the world. To leave it a better place that when it was when you got there. To work towards justice, peace, and truth, the three pillars of Judaism.
Superman is meant to reflect what each of us can be. What we should be and should do. That when given the opportunity to good we should take it with both hands. That is whatever way we can with whatever our own abilities and powers are we should help others when given the chance. That is Tikkun Olam and that is Superman.
The new Superman does not fail because it is cynical. The new Superman fails because he is not Jewish.