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17 September 2006 @ 06:06 pm
Smallville: Seven Basic Plots (Part VI)  
So a million years ago I started this series of essays on plot in Smallville. These were intended to trace the way the seven ‘classic’ plots (Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth) are used in the TV series. I’m finally going to complete the series. *breathes a huge sigh of relief* I’m also summoning up my courage, because I think this essay’s going to be the most controversial of the bunch.

6. Tragedy
A long long time ago, Al Gough was asked about his series: ‘how will it end?’
”Badly!” Mr. Gough said cheerfully. “It’s a tragedy—he doesn’t end up with Lana, and he and Lex are mortal enemies. How is that good?”

While fandom is often frustrated with Al&Miles’s seemingly blasé approach to their show, I think it’s interesting to know that the show’s creators are clear that the plot arc of the overall show--across five, going on six seasons--is one of tragedy.

The five stages of tragedy are:
Anticipation stage: the hero is in some way incomplete or unfulfilled and his thoughts are turned towards the future in hope of some unusual gratification--he has found a focus
Dream stage: he becomes committed to his course of action and for some time appears to be ‘getting away with it’
Frustration stage: things start to go wrong, he may be compelled to more ‘dark acts’ that lock him on his course of action more irrevocably; a ‘shadow figure’ may threaten him
Nightmare stage: things are seriously out of control and fate and forces of opposition align against the hero creating despair
Destruction or death wish stage: pretty self-explanatory, yes?!

6.1 Character arcs: Lex, Clark and Lana
The character most readily associated with the tragedy plot arc is Lex. It is easy to see how in Season 1, Lex was in an ‘Anticipation’ stage, and the source of hope and focus for him came in the shape of Clark. Seasons 1 and 2 were, relatively, ‘dream-like’ for Lex: he pursued a friendship with Clark and spoke of his belief in their destiny together. But by mid-Season 3, Lex was firmly locked in a frustration stage. ‘Shadow figure’ Lionel was threatening him more than ever before, and Lex himself had been compelled to more and more ‘dark acts’ of obsession with Clark’s true identity. Seasons 4 and 5 have seen a Lex who is facing his ‘nightmare’ stage. He has articulated a death wish to Clark. In Lexmas he experienced his own death, with his mother Lillian, this time, playing ‘shadow figure’, threatening/manipulating him with the dream image of what his life ‘could be’. His resolution coming out of that experience to pursue power and wealth signifies the finality with which he is now set on his ‘dark path’.

So Lex fits the tragedy mould. But it was not Lex that Al Gough was referring to in his quote: it was Clark. Clark also finds a focus in Season 1--through the revelation that he comes from another planet. But this is not immediately a positive ‘Call’ for Clark. Booker explains:

The great differerence between Tragedy and other kinds of story begins with the nature of the summons which draws them into that adventure. When the hero of an Overcoming the Monster story or a Quest receives the ‘Call’ … we are in no doubt it is right for him to answer it. When the hero or heroine of Tragedy reaches the same point we are uneasy.

It’s exactly this sort of uneasiness that Smallville created with the AI’s suggestion that Clark should ‘rule them with strength’. Over the seasons Clark learns more about his origins and about his destiny. However, in contrast to Lex, this is not a focus that Clark embraces willingly. He see-saws between fascination and a desire to understand himself, and horror and total rejection of himself and his past as presented to him by the AI of his father Jor-El. Seasons 1 and 2 were relatively dream-like for Clark--his powers increased but his parents protected him and he was relatively insulated from the wider world. From season 3 onwards Clark has been far more obviously in a ‘frustration’ or ‘nightmare’ phase, resisting the AI’s demands on him, and meanwhile struggling with the true consequences of his actions. He has embraced a more active ‘saviour’ role, but in Season 5 faced his biggest test yet. Clark temporarily lost his powers but his mortal life was short-lived. Returning his powers, the AI tells Clark that another life must be exchanged for his. In ‘Reckoning’ Lana dies and Clark once again fights destiny, resulting in Jonathan’s death.

In both Lex’s case and Clark’s, it is true that the tragedic plot arc does not end with the traditional resolution of character death/destruction. Although it is certainly interesting that both figures passed through a ‘death’ experience in Season 5. And there is a third figure for whom this also holds true--Lana. Lana’s ‘focus’ is not as clear as Clark’s or Lex’s. She expresses a desire to be ‘free’, to experience happiness in a relationship that is both passionate and honest, and to move beyond the narrow world of Smallville. In the early seasons we have no reason to believe that she won’t be successful, but of later her path has been far darker. In Season 4, she entered a truly nightmarish period, ending in her killing Genevieve Teague. And in Season 5 she faced death twice. Rewatching the episode ‘Relic’ recently it was fascinating to hear Lana articulate the idea that in some ways her aunt Louise was lucky--she experienced a grand love that was cut short by her death, but at least she got to be ‘free’ in the romance with Clark’s father Jor-El, albeit briefly. Lana’s own life could have mirrored that of her aunt Louise, had Clark accepted her death in the episode ‘Reckoning’. Clark’s gift of life to Lana is not necessarily a happy one for her--in the short term she experiences the collapse of their relationship and she seeks out a dangerous near-death experience of her own in ‘Void’. This near-death experience is a turning point for Lana, as it was for Lex and Clark. Season 5 ends with her aligning herself with Lex, now a figure of darkness.

Booker writes: ’It is the very essence of Tragedy that the hero or heroine should become, step by step, separated from other people.’ In the episode ‘Hourglass’ we were given a vision of the future of two lonely individuals: Clark and Lex. In each of their visions they appeared alone in a cold and desolate landscape. Many fans interpreted Clark’s vision as one of longevity--that he would outlive all those he love (and whose gravestones surrounded him). We are told that Lex likewise will end up alone, though his solitude may be self-created. No equivalent image of the future has been shown for Lana, but she’s already lost many of the important figures in her life--indeed death overshadows her whole life. In Season 5 she lost not only another high-school sweetheart in Clark, but also a best friend in Chloe, who protects Clark’s secret.

As the hero or heroine embarks on a tragic course, they draw away from their network of relationships. Often they separate themselves in the most violent way possible--by causing other people’s deaths. Booker outlines four classic types of victim who are particularly likely to suffer as a result of the hero’s reckless course. They are all recognisable from the Smallville universe. They are (with examples from SV):
1. the Good Old Man (Jonathan in Clark’s plot)
2. the Rival or ‘Shadow’ (Jason Teague in Lex’s plot)
3. the Innocent Young Girl (Kyla, Alicia, potentially Lana, in Clark’s plot)
4. the Temptress (Helen in Lex’s plot).
Some of these deaths are ‘accidental’ yet they are all traceable in some way to the actions of the hero--they all result because of a collision between that character and the hero’s plot trajectory.

Tragedy traditionally ends with ‘an incomplete, egocentric figure who meets a lonely and violent end’--and as Booker points out this figure, once the hero, resembles the Monster of earlier plots. With the knowledge of future canon, viewers of Smallville may be resigned to the idea that Lex’s endpoint is as Monster. But surely that’s not what Al Gough was suggesting for Clark? or for Lana? Possibly not, but I actually think there’s a lot of ambiguity in this aspect of the Smallville universe. Clark’s capacity for greatness, for saving humanity, is explored, but so too is the ‘dark’ side of that power--the necessity of constant deceit and the resulting breakdown of relationships (with Lex and Lana), the self-sacrifice, the guilt associated with responsibility on such a great scale, and the possibility of great wrongs. When Clark says to Chloe in Season 5, ‘I think I have made a great mistake’, he acknowledges that his own actions have led to the death of another. At the very least, Clark’s tragedy is that he must live with that knowledge for the rest of his life.

And Lana? Could she end as an ‘incomplete, egocentric figure’? Yes, I think she could be. As we’ve seen in exploring the ways she figured in the earlier plots, she was often set up for union with the hero figure (Clark) after darkness was overcome--this resolution will not come. There are already signs that her path is increasingly egocentric and obsessive. It is hard to imagine a happy ending for Lana that would work within the framework that Smallville has set up.

6.2 Final observations
There are two observations I’d like to make before ending this essay and moving to the final plot: rebirth. The first is that while both Clark’s journey and Lex’s journey can be read as tragedic, there is one significant difference between them: that of agency. Lex has free will. Yes, an incredible series of circumstances result in leading him on a path of darkness, but he’s self-aware throughout the journey. In this way he’s the far more traditional tragedic hero--struggling with his conscience while being inexorably drawn into obsession and darkness. Clark’s tragedic path is thrust upon him and he rails against it--or is it the very railing itself that creates the tragedy? If Clark had submitted to Jor-El’s ultimatums much tragedy would have been avoided--or would he have become a tyrant? Fandom opinion is divided; the show itself is ambiguous. But the result is a hero who is just as tormented by his conscience as Lex, but not even the audience is always sure which is the right path to ‘goodness’. Unlike Lex, Clark denies his own agency--he lacks self-awareness and so his journey is more like that of someone stumbling through a forest in the dark than someone making clear but difficult decisions that result in dreadful consequences. But the results of Clark’s stumbling are just as dreadful as that of Lex’s conscious decisions. Who is the greater ‘Monster’--the self-aware decision-maker or the guilt-ridden, responsibility-avoider? It’s more a matter of audience perception than you might at first suspect.

The final observation I wish to make is that I think it’s fascinating that a show like Smallville is constructed as Tragedy. On the surface this is a show obsessed with romance, beauty, perfection, the American ideal. It’s light-weight entertainment with classic heroes and villains… isn’t it?

Up next, the final and perhaps most fascinatingly relevant plot: Rebirth.
 
 
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
 
 
 
Becky: [SV] Lex swishing about on the roofsadface on September 17th, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Zodbop_radar on September 17th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
Thanks, sweetie!
(no subject) - sadface on September 17th, 2006 10:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
Moonwitch Iconsmoonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:02 am (UTC)
I don't watch Smallville at all but reading this essay makes me want to watch an episode. I really appreciate the time and effort you've taken to write this up, and I'll definitely be looking at the other essay links you've provided when I have more time. :) You write very persuasively, and I admire that.
Moonwitch Iconsmoonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:05 am (UTC)
Oh, and reading over your profile, I was wondering: if I'm not already on there, could I please be put on the 'books' filter? :D
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moonwitch on September 17th, 2006 11:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
supacatsupacat on September 17th, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)
past as presented to him by the AI of his father Jor-El

Thank you for not conflating the AI with Jor-El! :D

Clark’s tragedic path is thrust upon him and he rails against it--or is it the very railing itself that creates the tragedy? If Clark had submitted to Jor-El’s ultimatums much tragedy would have been avoided--or would he have become a tyrant?

The AI's ultimatums are fascinating to me because in a sense they exist to be reacted against, and hence subtly highlight and undermine the choices of the show's hero with constant "But what if...?" questions. Focusing just for example on the ultimatum at the end of S5: What if Clark did kill the vessel (Lex)? A Clark capable of killing intentionally is a frightening prospect and not one I'd advocate, yet it would certainly avoid future tragedy, as Lex's destiny is to kill hundreds of people. Hence even when Clark makes the most correct of moral decisions (not to kill) the AI throws it into question in the viewer's mind.

Further, the AI makes big picture decisions, Clark day-to-day decisions, and the two are often in conflict. I wonder if one reason why fandom is so divided on the Clark vs the AI question is for this reason: the AI has a God-like omniscience and detachment, but instead of God-like morals, it shows an almost (dare I say) human pragmatic willingness to sacrifice the few for the good of the many. Clark in direct contrast has the human failing of getting bogged down in emotion and detail, but a commitment to a higher moral order. Currently both Clark and the AI could be seen as flawed halves of a single god/saviour-figure. (Which is why they need to learn to work together!)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark identity crisisbop_radar on September 17th, 2006 11:52 am (UTC)
I did my best not to conflate!! *has learnt*

Hence even when Clark makes the most correct of moral decisions (not to kill) the AI throws it into question in the viewer's mind.
Yes--I find that so fascinating, especially as it works against the supposedly straightforward moral agenda of the show's text.

I'm very intrigued by the rest of your response--I had never thought beyond the omniscience and detachment issue--I can understand people kneejerking against those 'godlike' qualities. But yes--the AI shows Lexian pragmatism. Clark gets so angry at Lex for pursuing any 'ends justify the means' argument--I think it makes a lot of fans uncomfortable that the AI seems almost Luthor-like at times in it's lack of emotionalism and it's single-focus perspective.

I loooove the Clark and AI as two flawed halves concept.

I found it SO HARD to discuss the AI and Clark's Season 5 plot with restraint in this essay. I tried! But woobie!Jor-El kept springing into my mind... Meep!
*hijacks conversation to fangirl Jor-El* - supacat on September 17th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: *hijacks conversation to fangirl Jor-El* - bop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: *hijacks conversation to fangirl Jor-El* - supacat on September 18th, 2006 11:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - supacat on September 18th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Naomi: Clark wet by oxoniensisfrelling_tralk on September 17th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Wonderful essay!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: TW smilebop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:04 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Vicki: Lex bare neckmyownghost on September 17th, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC)
how very interesting. i'm glad i read this -- it helps put the elements of SV that have bothered me into a frame that makes a lot of sense. the quote from al gough is new to me. i had assumed they didn't SEE how mangled clark's ethics often get or that lex was potentially so good. i thought they were letting things get muddy and dark out of a kind of stupidity. well, i guess i was wrong and am glad of it.

what i'm working at here is a personal thing, in that i have ached for lex because of his treatment at the hands of, e.g., jonathan kent. he could've been a hero. knowing that there may be an arc in the making that's not casually cruel to lex but purposive really helps.

i'm not sure i'm making any sense, though...
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex mysterybop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:12 am (UTC)
Oh, that's great! I'm glad you got so much out of the essay. I do think the producers' intentions are unclear sometimes--but I think that's created more by the pressures on them to keep the whole thing palatable to the 'family entertainment' network execs. I do think that Lex's arc is purposive--although it's certainly still difficult to swallow. However I've always loved it because I love tragedies--and I honestly believe they intend Lex's journey to be tragedic in the traditional sense--the exploration of a soul that struggled with right and wrong and got lost on the path (and through that insight into the human condition). But it IS very hard to show that over a sustained period of time (6 years!). I think that's one of the reasons I tend to be a little more forgiving of the writers than others--because I think what they're undertaking is very difficult, especially in the context of having to serve up weekly parcels of entertainment that work for the execs!
(no subject) - myownghost on September 18th, 2006 10:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 18th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - myownghost on September 19th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 19th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - myownghost on September 19th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on September 17th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you're writing these essays again--I was just thinking the other day that it had been a while since you updated the series.

I'm trying to figure out why you thought this particular one would be controversial--maybe because you're including Lana and Clark as tragic figures?

I don't have any specific comments on the essay at the moment--I want to mull it over for a little while--except I did love the parallel you highlighted between Lana and Louise.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lana iconbop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! I do intend to finish them. Hee.

Yes--because I'm including Lana and Clark as tragic figures.

The Lana/Louise parallel hit me like a ton of bricks when I rewatched 'Relic', an episode that I must say I didn't pay a lot of attention to when I first watched it.

Would love to hear your thoughts post-mulling in. I've got lots to write about 'rebirth' as well.
Erintigergal05 on September 17th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC)
I love how 'in-depth' you go with your essays-they are wonderful-really!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Ericabop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:21 am (UTC)
Thank you! That's lovely of you! I do ramble on... ;-)
mahaliemmahaliem on September 17th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
This was extremely interesting.

A lot of people have abandoned Smallville for a variety of reasons but the reason that seems predominate is not liking the direction the characters are going. This essay makes me wonder if Smallville is being rejected by some because the story line is coming closer to it's tragic conclusion. In other words, it's the tragedy aspect that's turning some viewers off.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex golden fieldbop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:23 am (UTC)
I definitely think the tragedy angle plays a part. It seemed really striking to me as a latecomer to SV fandom. When I read a lot of people's dissatisfaction with the show I was kind of baffled--because to me the character direction seemed predictable--not necessarily easy watching but purposeful. I quickly realised that many early fans really didn't want to watch a tragedy. Luckily, I've got a tragedy kink! ;-) (especially when the path is littered with fun and slash and gorgeousness!)
(no subject) - enderwiggin24 on September 23rd, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 23rd, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - enderwiggin24 on September 24th, 2006 11:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on September 24th, 2006 11:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
serenographyserenography on September 17th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful reading, thank you for posting it.
I actually need to read it again, that's an awful lot to absorb.
One quick comment though, I think Al's comment, while accurate in general, doesn't really reflect the actual tone that I believe they will end the series on. In other words, I don't really buy that they will leave people with a sense of "tragedy" when all is said and done. I think we'll have resolution for Lana, acceptance for Lex, and Clark in the suit with a message of hope for the future. Or maybe I'm just projecting a bit. ;)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex bitter endbop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC)
*nods* I think that's an excellent point you make and I tend to agree with it. I think they're constantly balancing the (for lack of a better word) 'background' plot with the need to put a palatable gloss on it--for the network and for the viewers. They draw a huge audience that doesn't think far beyond the surface image. So I agree that they will placate that audience with some uplifting hopefulness in the ending. And honestly I like it when they give us those little thrilling signs of hope. But I also believe that they've deliberately created subversion within their own plot--which is why I find the show satisfying at a deeper level than the sometimes-painfully-shallow text. ;-)
slinklingslinkling on September 17th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
Interesting stuff to chew on, and I'm definitely going to have to look through your back catalogue of essays one of these days. (This could be a question that gets answered in one of those, but who is Booker?)

This plus a comment discussion with supacat has got me thinking about issues involving tragedy and time, which I think I'll putter with in a post of my own..
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex fascinated with youbop_radar on September 18th, 2006 09:30 am (UTC)
Booker is Christopher Booker, author of The Seven Basic Plots who I acknowledge in the first in the series of essays (I got kinda sick of acking him each time!). I explain at the start that I'm borrowing Booker's own structure because it seems the most logical way to progress from the least-complex plots to the most complex. His book's a minefield of interesting material--to agree with, disagree with, deconstruct, apply to other texts, etc.

Looking forward to reading your post! *g*
Deecarnivouroslamb on September 19th, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
This essay is so well written, and I know it probably took you ages so thank so much for providing such a great read.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex feedback makes me smilebop_radar on September 20th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! What a lovely comment!

(and hey, I need to leave YOU feedback--on the vids you made with saltwatergirl, yes? I dled them the other day and looooved. So much Clexy goodness! I wanted to go and write a detailed feedback, but hey impromptu feedback is also good, right?!
Billie Bones: The perfect visual representation.literaryll on March 20th, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)
I don't know how coherent a response you're going to get out of me because holy cow this is thrilling (seriously I AM THRILLED) and I'm not so good with analysis and close examination at the best of times much less when I'm excited. Just. There was this loud click! as I was reading and now my brain is happily humming. This makes bucket-loads of sense and I think I just fell in love with Smallville all over again as as though it were new and I'm beyond thrilled. I'M AT JOYGASM LEVEL HERE. Who knew the meta could do this to me.

I'd never seen that quote from Gough before and ooh looky here. Is that a teensy bit of respect for him I'm feeling? Horrors, it can't be! ;)

It’s exactly this sort of uneasiness that Smallville created with the AI’s suggestion that Clark should ‘rule them with strength’. - This is where you really grabbed me. A second before that and I was ready to put in a big but 'He's superman and doesn't everybody want him to be superman'. I've always been enthralled by that twist and now I'm even more enthralled with it in this light. If they did that on purpose, how very clever. And if they didn't, well how very clever of you.

it is certainly interesting that both figures passed through a ‘death’ experience in Season 5 - I was nowhere near noticing that. And then to tie that in with Lana's own 'death' experience. Certainly interesting indeed. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rewatching the episode ‘Relic’ recently it was fascinating to hear Lana articulate the idea that in some ways her aunt Louise was lucky--she experienced a grand love that was cut short by her death, but at least she got to be ‘free’ in the romance with Clark’s father Jor-El, albeit briefly. Lana’s own life could have mirrored that of her aunt Louise, had Clark accepted her death in the episode ‘Reckoning’. Clark’s gift of life to Lana is not necessarily a happy one for her--in the short term she experiences the collapse of their relationship and she seeks out a dangerous near-death experience of her own in ‘Void’. This near-death experience is a turning point for Lana, as it was for Lex and Clark. Season 5 ends with her aligning herself with Lex, now a figure of darkness. - You are tremulously close to single handedly turning my mind around on Lana. Seeing her this way is almost moving. Especially if you put this together with what we see in 'Promise'. I tend to tune her out most of the time but she's expressed a desire for 'freedom' so many times it can't help but sink in. If someone had asked me a week ago I would have said that her wish was coming true with Lex - he provides her almost infinite access to the world outside of Smallville and a romance with him is about as far away from a small town confining romance as you can get. Taken now though - she's ending up exactly where she didn't want to end up. That's the thing isn't it? All three of them are going to end up right where they've been struggling to get away from. Man. This is bruising stuff.

I told you in your post about 'Promise' that you made me find Lana beautiful and you're doing it again. There's a delicious imagery to the way you've articulated her tragedy. Very fairy talesque. It makes me think of this story where the princess was cursed and trapped inside the mirrors of her palace. This new beautiful Lana goes great with the I-Live-To-Mock-You-Lana and Shut-The-Hell-Up-And-Get-The-Hell-Off-My-Show-Lana that I already have. She's three dimensional now!
Billie Bones: Fly my pretty! Fly!literaryll on March 20th, 2007 07:18 am (UTC)
Tragedy traditionally ends with ‘an incomplete, egocentric figure who meets a lonely and violent end’--and as Booker points out this figure, once the hero, resembles the Monster of earlier plots. - This would be the point where I'm breaking down from the angst and simultaneously whooping with my fist in the air. I don't think you have to bend your neck that far to see Clark as the 'Monster'. He's alien and separate - an unknown - and once he becomes Superman there's no hiding/denying that. Maybe he's not actively out trying to conquer the earth but he's become that cave drawing - that conqueror from the sky that he was afraid of whether he's helping people or not. I mean he's flying and using these gifts that give him unimaginable power - taking lives into his hands - behaving in a god like way. And all he wanted to be was normal. There are the points you mentioned - the lying and the hurt and rupture that causes, the responsibility and the guilt - but besides that, I can see how Clark would see himself as the Monster - see himself stuck in that position too compelled/obligated/destined to get out of it.

The final observation I wish to make is that I think it’s fascinating that a show like Smallville is constructed as Tragedy. On the surface this is a show obsessed with romance, beauty, perfection, the American ideal. It’s light-weight entertainment with classic heroes and villains… isn’t it? - I find it fascinating too and like I said I feel as though I'm falling in love with Smallville all over again. Superman is this American institution - to take truth, justice, and the American way and put a tragic spin on it is all kinds of interesting.

Besides being inherently 'American', Superman is inherently 'other' and well, queer. Living this charade of a life until the time when he can bust out of the closet and be his true self flying around in bright colors. Smallville's only added to the subversive 'otherness' of the Superman myth - I mean seriously that image of him tied up in the field alone - so when I was first thinking about the implications of making him tragic, I was disturbed by what that was saying about his 'queerness' - about making his otherness a tragedy.

Reading this made me think about how Superman is precisely as great as he is because he is both the All American and The Other. He ends up being celebrated for his otherness, embraced for it. So maybe the true tragedy with Clark is that everything would have been okay if he had just accepted his otherness and celebrated it too - from the start. He might not have lost Lex. Or Lana. Who knows.

Thank you for this ♥
(no subject) - bop_radar on March 20th, 2007 09:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on March 20th, 2007 09:20 am (UTC) (Expand)