In Defense of The Kents

A few years ago DC Comics/ Warner Bros. decided to reboot/ restart/ re-whatever the Superman franchise on the big screen with 2013’s Man of Steel. The movie was sort of a grittier take on the tale of a man who could leap tall buildings in a single bound, being styled with the tone of the previous Christopher Nolan Bat-flicks.

Was it a good movie? It’s still a point that’s debated, even on the cusp of the release of the movie’sman-of-steel-43 sequel / jump off to the DC Cinematic Expanded Universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Overall the film was a’ight the first time I saw it, but it’s kind of grown on me since.

One of the re-branded plot points that came out of this new tone/ focus that I found which was extremely effective was the relationship between Clark and his adopted parents, the Kents.

Played by Diane Lane (Martha Kent) and Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), the story of the Kents fateful meeting with a downed Kryptonian life pod pretty much stayed true to the comics. Where this relationship had some detractors, or might have deviated from the source material, though was the tone struck by the Kent’s, towards Clark accepting his possible role as his adopted world’s savior.

I remember a lot of criticism being directed at the fact that the Kent’s were of the mindset that Clark stay under the radar with his abilities, in some cases, with some pretty harsh lines of dialogue.

Case in point: there’s a part in the movie where a young Clark and his classmates are involved in an automobile accident, when their bus careens off the side of a bridge and falls into a river. The kids are trapped, Clark taps into his Kryptonian roots, and saves everyone in a pretty awesome feat of superheroics.

The possibility arises that someone has possibly seen him do this, and it leads to a heart to heart with Pa Kent, as shown in the below line of dialogue.

Clark Kent at 13: I just wanted to help.

Jonathan Kent: I know you did, but we talked about this. Right? Right? We talked about this! You have…!

[calms himself]

Jonathan Kent: Clark, you have to keep this side of yourself a secret.

Clark Kent at 13: What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?

Jonathan Kent: Maybe; but there’s more at stake here than our lives or the lives of those around us. When the world… When the world finds out what you can do, it’s gonna change everything; our… our beliefs, our notions of what it means to be human… everything. You saw how Pete’s mom reacted, right? She was scared, Clark.

Clark Kent at 13: Why?

Jonathan Kent: People are afraid of what they don’t understand.

Even in the previews for the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Diane Lane has a brief line of dialogue which still sort of speaks to the above sentiment, in present day now that Clark has accepted the Superman mantle, world saving duties and all.

 

First, let me say this: this depiction of the Kent’s is one of my all time favorites.

Secondly: I wasn’t a huge fan of Man of Steel on the first viewing. I thought it was an okay movie, and there were a few things that just prevented it from being pushed into a higher ranking for me.  I still have issues with it, but its gotten a little better for me. How the Kents were handled was partly instrumental in this.

There’s been this suggestion that the Kents were at times just a bit too apathetic. Selfish for keeping their son and his abilities away from the world. Fearful. Distrusting. Etc.

There’s another side of this that I really want people to understand. In the comics, and in subsequent film/ television adaptations of Superman’s origin story the Kents have often been written as a couple who wanted children. For whatever reason they weren’t able to do that. In some instances the Kent’s have been depicted as a couple in their early 40’s, in other instances a bit older, maybe even pushing towards their 60’s, still with this yearning (maybe waning a bit) to have a child to call their own.

Without bringing the added component of whether the couple was religious or not (don’t know if the faith of the couple was ever discussed in the comics, or in other adaptations), the symbolism of the child being rocketed to Earth had to be seen as some sort of miracle to the couple.

So imagine all of this coalescing into a gift from the skies above being dropped in a Kansas field one sunny day. Your prayers/ desires have been seemingly answered. You then find out this kid is an alien from another world, and can possibly change the very course of the world as we know it.

But at the end of the day, all that you see in front of you is that gift from the heavens. Someone that you’ve asked for day in and day out, and he’s there. Your little Clark.

man-of-steel-image04-e1422553488658So yeah, I have no doubt that the Kents would probably be extremely protective of their adopted son. Especially in a world where the common line of thinking is shoot the hell out of it first, then ask questions later. Also, it seems a bit more plausible to me that even if the couple didn’t have the backstory of being childless or having that yearning to fiercely protect their “gift”, they wouldn’t be so likely to push their son out into the world to save the day.

I know a lot of parents who, even when they want to get their knuckleheads out of the house, still worry for the welfare of their child. Of course they eventually get to the point of acknowledging that their child has to become an adult, and has to experience the world. But the depiction of the Kents as not totally being on board with their son “saving the day” immediately has more of a realistic slant for me.

Man of Steel has its faults, and maybe Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will also. But for me at least, the one thing that I can say the screenwriters/ director got right between both would be the Kent’s love for their son, and their desire to keep him protected from an often distrustful and malicious world.

Makes perfect sense to me.

 

About Robert Jeffrey II

Robert Jeffrey II is an award winning journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as UVC Magazine, JaDore Magazine, BlackSci-Fi.com, and The Atlanta Voice Newspaper. He is currently the Editor In Chief for BlackSci-Fi.com. He is a regular contributor for the Tessera Guild, and his comic book work includes client work for the Centers for Disease Control, and Nitto Tires. His comic book writing includes work on such award winning/ nominated series as his creator owned series Route 3, Radio Free Amerika, Terminus Team-Up, and Soul of Suw. He’s yet to fulfill his dream of pop-locking to save a community center. Head to his website at www.robertkjeffrey.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @SYNCHRKJ, Tumblr @robdawriter , and Instagram @robertk.jeffrey.
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