Superman’s big change

I’m a big fan of Superman. Always have been. But that’s okay, you probably like Twilight or Coro or X-Factor and I think no less of you. Guilty pleasures are a nonsense. If you like something, you should just go ahead and like it.

The plot for Superman is usually pretty standard. It involves kryptonite or some other contrived coincidence that limits Superman’s powers. Then he gets his powers back and saves the day.

But I never follow Superman for the plot. Plots are for Batman.

No, I follow Superman to see him zooming around in brilliant red and blue doing cool super-stuff. That’s what I liked as a kid. I still do. More than Batman, more than Spiderman, there is something about the pure super-ness of Superman that I have always responded to.

So I am keen to see the new Man of Steel film which opened this week. But (and I can’t believe I am about to say this in public) I am concerned about Superman’s red underpants.

The new Man of Steel costume has no external underpants. They’re not there at all. This is a seismic shift.

The whole costume looks glum and gritty. Measured against the comic book fluorescence of past Supermen, the Man of Steel super suit stands out for its military seriousness. Times are changing.

“Change” and “progress” are nasty words, aren’t they? Some people struggle with a new All Black team. Others struggle with a new walkway. Apparently, I’m struggling with Superman’s new pants.

The problem with trying to keep things the same all the time is that the rest of the world moves on whether we like it or not. People grow older, population booms, economies evolve.

Sometimes progress is good, sometimes it’s not so good. Sometimes we need to roll with the change and see how it goes.

If nothing ever changed, there would be no way to walk around the Waikareao Estuary, we’d still be travelling the long road to the Mount and parked cars would still have the best view on the Tauranga waterfront.

I’m loving the waterfront. I took our three boys to the new playground and it got three thumbs up. Four, if you count mine. I followed our youngest down the steepest slide and found myself squealing like a little girl. (Promised myself that’ll only happen once.)

I grew up on a farm in Mapara Road, Taupo. Twenty years later, nothing looks the same in that area. Trees have grown beyond recognition, new subdivisions are crawling over everything, suburbia is taking over.

It’s kind of sad. On the other hand, the house my Dad built is now a popular art cafe that I can revisit. Our home was fine the way it was, then someone came along with a fresh perspective and gave it a whole new life.

We don’t like change, it’s uncomfortable, so we do the resistance dance. You know how it goes.

You fight the new thing. Then you get used to it. Then the new thing becomes the old thing. Then you fight to save the old thing from the next new thing. And so on.

We need to retain the essence of the things we treasure, while still adapting to progress. Tauranga businesses are grappling with this as they try to retain the best parts of being local in the face of the juggernaut that is online shopping.

The film world has moved on too. It apparently no longer requires a Man of Steel who wears gaudy ballet tights. He still does cool super-stuff, but I will probably miss the bold colours that I’ve always associated with Superman.

I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’d hate to be one of those people who complain about the new thing before I’ve given it a chance to fly. That’s an ugly habit. So maybe I should just go and see the movie.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 28 June 2013. Reproduced with permission.