K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick! (bop_radar) wrote,
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!

Are you calling me bird?

This post has a sneaky double purpose. It is the long-owed meta post I promised talitha78 on her masterpiece talitha78's That's Not My Name but it doubles as some pre-season-9 reflections on Smallville and, most importantly, Clark Kent.

talitha78's vid has a very special place in my heart. Watching it, I reflected a lot on my personal journey with Smallville, which has for a large part been a journey with Clark, even if I haven't always constructed it that way. When I first started watching Smallville, Clark was not at the forefront of my reasons for watching. I was invested in the Clark/Lex relationship, I liked Chloe, but mainly I was interested in Lex and Michael Rosenbaum's performance. It's not Clark's fault I overlooked him: I usually struggle with main characters in TV shows, especially those that are heroes. I find it easier to identify or sympathise with the characters around them than with them. The truth is there were times when I disliked Clark or failed to understand him, when I failed to forgive him. But over time that changed. In Season 5, my sympathy in the Clark/Lex relationship switched to Clark, irrevocably. Lex is still a character I find fascinating and who I do still love at some level, but I could no longer condone his actions and his inner world was too black to remain in his point of view comfortably. At the same time, Clark was maturing more than I ever expected him to. And he continued to mature through seasons 6, 7 and 8. Even then, once Lex had gone, I thought I was still watching for other reasons: for Lois, principally, and for the Clark/Lois relationship. But when that was written in a way that I didn't care for in Season 8 and yet I still felt invested in the show I finally realised the truth: it's now Clark who I primarily care for as a character, who I find most sympathetic and whose point of view I am in most of the time. Watching 'That's Not My Name', I actually felt like my love for Clark was consolidated. I now look back on my earlier viewing self as naive, and I feel sure that watching the earlier seasons I'd have a very different reading now. Sure, heroes may not be the character type I'm naturally drawn to, but in Smallville's Clark Kent they have given me a hero I can understand and relate to, one that is not without faults (yay!) but who learns and grows through his mistakes, which is the best model of heroism.

It's not been a smooth ride for Clark (or Tom) through the seasons. The nature of serial television shows means that each season the writers aren't sure if they'll have another season or not. The uncertainty of when Smallville will end (and therefore how far they can push Clark on his path) means that Clark has often had to take a step back for every step forward. This can be frustrating to viewers, but I no longer feel inclined to blame Clark for that. Also, I can honestly say I never expected to see Clark so close to being his iconic future self and I am thrilled. Despite my discomfort with heroes, Clark/Lois has been my ship for most of my life, and I am invested in Clark getting closer to being Superman. Season 8 was not one I greatly enjoyed, but I did enjoy one aspect very much: seeing Clark be a true hero, in a Metropolis setting. He's all grown up! I'm not quite sure when he moved from being a boy to being a man, but he has made that transition and I'm glad I was there for the journey. He works independently now, and I have been thrilled to see him reach that point. I know the end of Season 8 sees him in a dark step, but I'm personally happy with the idea that Clark needs to distance himself from humanity for a while. He used to rely on others (his parents, Chloe) so much, and he underestimated himself for a long time. No, turning his back completely is not the solution, but he'll learn that too. But I'm excited that he's got to a place where he trusts his own decisions over those of others' (and oh my, if the end of Season 8 didn't show that he's right to, I really don't know what would!).

So Season 9? I look forward to more brilliance from Clark and I am thrilled that Tom is taken such an active, public role in promoting the season. I've always loved Tom, even when I struggled with Clark's characterisation, and I think he's grown so much as an actor and does a smashing job as a director as well. He's taken us all with him on this journey, and we've all grown up, and I trust him to take us forward as well. I am 100% sure that Season 9 will contain some EPIC FAIL. Every season of Smallville does. In fact, I'll be waiting for that 'no points, Smallville!' episode rather expectantly (always good to have the one truly horrendous episode out of the way in a season!). I also am sure it will contain some awesome. It always does. Even my least favourite seasons have a few great episodes. And a whole lot of gorgeous to tide you through the other parts. ;) I'm sure I'll laugh, I'm sure I'll get angry at something, I'm sure I'll hate the writing at some point, I'm sure something will send me skyrocketing into squee. But mostly I have calm trust that I'll love Tom's performance. That's a really good feeling to have at a time when nearly all other aspects of TV have disappointed me deeply to the point where I trust just about anything. (Yes, it's insanely ironic that I am trusting SMALLVILLE to deliver on my expectations, but my expectations are pretty low! :p)

In preparation for Season 9, I can think of nothing better to view than That's Not My Name.

The reading of the vid I provide here is a personal one--it's what I take away from it, what makes me squee, and what excites me. Feel free to share your own thoughts in comments, because it's such an epic work, I'm sure others see things differently. I know one thing I love about it is how true to Clark it is. I could never have made that because I've viewed Clark from outside for so long, but I watch it and I think 'omg! YES! That! That is Clark bottled!' And it gives me this sweeping, soaring feeling in my heart that is the euphoria of loving this character SO MUCH.

Enough gush, more meta... :p (yeah, right! *eyeroll* this post is largely squee!)

I adore the intro! It's the perfect choice because that scene from Season 1 where Clark pushes himself to do something he doesn't know if he can do is a defining moment on his road to hero-dom. To save the lives of others he takes a leap (literal) of faith. Don't overlook that first shot--Clark looking up into the sky thinking 'can I jump it?' Little does he know he will become the 'bird' other people look up to in years to come. Also, darling Clark has vertigo. Bless! He has to overcome his own fears to make that leap and the fact he does is proof that he had what it takes to be a hero, way back then when he was just a boy. It is a deeply cute and awesome scene and one of the first times Smallville did a big action stunt. Very special!

Verse 1
One of the things I love about the vid is that you don't need to know the words to understand or enjoy it. However, knowing them does allow you to see other connections--and some cute humour moments. The verse opens with Clark getting shot by Green Arrow. Seems a bit unfair seeing as he just proved his heroism, doesn't it? ;) The lovely idea in this verse is that Clark 'bites on his tongue' in response to Oliver's critique of him. Oliver, though a friend, is critical of Clark. talitha78 puts us in Clark's point of view straight away by showing him sighing and saying nothing in response. What can he say? There's a cute moment to the lyric 'keeping it together' and then we find Clark face to face with some other characters who expect Clark to fulfil a particular (leadership) role. We're already seeing how much others project on to Clark their expectations and vision of him, a central theme of the vid.

Verse 2
One of the things I love most about the vid is that it combines wry humour with warmth and love for Clark. There's irony in the line 'don't want to be a loner' cut to Clark's farewell letter to the Citizens of Metropolis. Also in the line 'every day the same' with Clark fighting Doomsday--supposedly his biggest showdown yet, actually just routine life for Clark. Another day, another villain to fight. There is truth behind the humour in the exaggeration--Clark is a lonely figure and he hasn't chosen this for himself. He's a very warm person but he's cut off from humans. Why? At the end of this verse we get to the heart of the matter: 'they forget my name'.

Warrior Angel sums up what people want from Clark--and it has a lovely meta meaning as well, in that it also sums up the viewer's desires to see him become his comic hero self. I love the way talitha78 introduces it in steps here... from the comic image through a range of shots (like the Smallville crow mascot) that relate more and more closely to Clark--from the image of his cape (of eternity) to the S scorched directly into his chest and his own actions published (linking back to the published text of the comic). He can't escape!

Chorus 1, Part 1
The first chorus launches into a fun exploration of all the different ways the 'S' of Clark's future crops up--police badges, hilarious armour, scorched cornfields... you name it, Smallville's done it! That show sure loves its future anvils! I find this section cute because in part I can hear Clark thinking 'really?! o.O you guys? leave it alone, already!'

On the first 'that's not my name' we see the vid come back to the Kent identity, from the future reporter to the classic Kent farm, which was Clark's security blanket for so long. The baseball with 'CK' on it is another cute touch--a shoutout to the other nicknames given to Clark, in this case by Jimmy. And from there to the Clark that wanted to stay a 'normal boy' (epitomised by football, lol), yet even back then the future was sneaking up on ... the 'man of tomorrow'!

Chorus 1, Part 2
'They call me quiet girl' is one of my favourite lines in the song (though hard to make out) and I love Clark's 'whatEVER' eyeroll to that. This section allows talitha78 to explore Clark's other personas: his RedK self (Clark with no inhibitions) and Bizarro. He is, in those selves, indeed a 'riot'!

The second 'that's not my name' sequence has lovely irony to it and starts to play against the lyric even more. We see a sequence of Clark's iconic 'hero' moments. This has a double purpose (at least for me): it reminds us that the true Clark is the hero Clark, for all that he flirted with RedK, and that while he may say he's not a hero: he is. Oh, Clark!

Verse 3
This is a favourite moment for me--Clark 'missing the catch' when the Justice League 'throw him the ball'. Hee! Again, talitha78 smartly vids against the lyric, showing Clark in the time when he DID accept the challenge to work with (indeed lead) the Justice League. But the line also plays well to fans who know that Clark has for now turned down that path. I like how it leads into Clark as a lone hero instead: the 'last kid standing up against the wall'. Here we see how Clark sees himself, in hero mode, for the first time--and he did construct himself in Season 8 as the one person against the tide of crime in Metropolis. There's also some cute meta here about Clark's, er, outfits. ;) Gotta love Clark's washing basket. And 'sitting on the fence' was MADE to be vidded to Clark's cloak (of destiny) literally on the fence. Clark's getting all dressed up in that red and blue but he's still not (quite) there yet.

Verse 4
Straight away there is another instance of the lyrics being perfect for exploring a particular aspect of Clark: his loneliness and his solitude, whether it's the official Fortress or his personal haven, the barn loft. He finds himself in devastating circumstances (the Phantom Zone and Doomsday's wreckage of the barn) and he faces them alone. Although he does sometimes reach for Jor-El. I wonder whether there's not a bit of sarcasm in vidding the Fortress to 'Listen to me, I'm not'. I love the ambiguity there: is it Jor-El who's not listening to Clark, or vice versa? ;)

From here we see Clark get 'dressed up' in his hero outfit and superspeed into action. The relationship of image to lyric has shifted. Is Clark still expressing frustration at having the hero role thrust on him? Or is it, more subtly, frustration that people don't see what he's already doing towards that?

Chorus 2, Part 1
The second time the chorus comes, I find it starts to shift into background noise. That sounds horribly dismissive, but I mean it in a positive way. The vid has taken us on a journey through Clark's world and we've seen that this issue of 'not my name', the issue of identity, underlies all aspects of his life, we can kind of tune out the specific lyrics, now that we're familiar with the chorus and focus on the aspects of Clark's personality that the vidder explores.

In this chorus Clark's alien self is reflected in a dense sequence of images related to his Krpytonian origin and identity. The 'otherness' of this identity culminates with the (terrifying to Clark) headline of 'Clark Kent from Krpyton'.

Juxtaposed with that we find Clark at his most human: goofy, doing comunity service, peek-a-boo-ing at his birthday cake, and messing around with his dog and a football. We also see him taking on an identity critical to his human self--that of reporter (and looking very chuffed with himself doing so!). It's a beautiful way of showing the contradictions that exist within Clark and the fact that they are both parts of him.

Chorus 2, Part 2
The second half of the chorus explores the Kryptonian identity further with Clark confronting it personally and through his history with Smallville and the meteor showers and the resulting 'freaks'. Clark, for a long time, considered himself the freak. We see the fear he has of being uncovered in the article 'The Truth About Clark Kent'--he's been close to discovery many times.

Clark seeks for answers in books. This is possibly my favourite part of the vid. I always loved that Clark read up on humanity. ;) He does so so earnestly and without embarrassment. He honestly wants to understand! :) Cleverly, here, as in the show, he may think he's reading about others but he's also reading about himself. The 'identity crisis' book is the perfect culmination of this for me. Aw, sweetie!

Calling refrain 1
This is the most beautiful part of the track and it gets stuck in my head every time I watch. I wander around the house humming it and thinking of Clark. It is most happy making! I love the sequence where we watch Clark see himself in the eyes of others as a hero. He waves back uncertainly at first and is overwhelmed by the attention.

I also love the sequence of iconic 'saves' of various women: Lana, Lois, Chloe, Mercy... and of course that wonderful nameless chick who jumped off in order that he would catch her! The romantic fantasy of Clark as saviour is explored so warmly here, and Clark owns that role so wonderfully--humble but yet committed.

Calling refrain 2
I have so much love for this sequence! It is so smart. In the span of one line ('Are you calling me darling?') talitha78 draws a parallel between three characters who take Clark as romantic saviour that step too far... who try to call Clark their own personal 'darling' and who are sure he is 'calling' to them, that they share a destiny. They are devastated when that link is broken.

This leads beautifully to a less intimate, but no less inappropriate way that this projection of expectations onto Clark can be carried out: those that cast him as a Jesus/martyr figure. That includes the show itself--it has very explicitly drawn that connection visually, and also Clark himself, who in placing his baby self in the ship agrees to his future role on Earth, for better or worse. Clark has always had the capacity for epic self-sacrifice.

Chorus 3
By this stage the 'calling' refrain is working in tandem with the chorus and I tend to bliss out on the flow of beautiful cutting... we get a lovely montage here of Clark's 'glasses' disguise. It wouldn't be a Clark vid without the glasses somewhere! This one is particularly cute because it ends with the Zorro mask which Clark took to so fondly. The glasses are, of course, a mask in their own way, being linked to the dual identities or separation of identities in his future. This is followed by a beautiful tribute to the barn loft as Clark's place of personal reflection.

Clark tears! Noooooooo! I think it's safe to say that there is hardly any Smallville fan who can remain stonyhearted in the face of Clark crying--and thankfully it is blessedly brief in this vid, but enough to pull my heart out of my chest in sympathy, that's for sure!

It's followed, so perfectly by a sequence of those gorgeous light-up-a-room sunshine beams from Clark. The kind that make you smile back in response. I love the range of eras these are drawn from. Clark's looks have matured so much over the years but that smile of Tom's remains a defining mark of Clark. I think many of us live for those smiles. Clark is so burdened and serious yet he has a gorgeous sense of humour underneath and when he gets to be free and joyful those moments are oh so precious to us.

Chorus 4
Following on from tears and smiles, we see Clark's superpowers and the extraordinary situations they create for him: speeding past people, watching (and catching) bullets, directing fire from his eyes, being spun into the Phantom Zone, having super-hearing... it's a crazy world!

Of course these same powers allow him to take on the hero role, and we see in refrain here both his willingness to take a leap of faith and his uncertainty. There are a lot of 'iconic' shots in here--from Clark flinging open the doors of Lex's mansion to him catching Lois. I love the three strands of lyric going on at this point. It builds this wonderful density and complexity, yet energy to Clark's inner headspace. He may be repeating 'that's not my name' but he's also got this strong, underlying pull towards these heroic actions, and he's in a constant internal dialogue with himself about it. At least that's my reading. ;) I think Clark's head would be a pretty noisy place these days!

Chorus 5
It's about this time that I draw another cool reflection from the lyrics. 'They call me hell' is a very cool line about how serious an opponent Clark is. He's 'hell' to villains--he's superhuman.

'So alone, all the time' is the most wonderful lyric about Clark. Yes, he is. But it's sung over the top of so much energy that it is not at all self-indulgent, just a simple statement of fact, and far more emotionally affecting for that. I have personally accused Clark of wallowing at times, but a) he had good reason to, and b) he never stays there forever (even if feels like ages in TV time! ;)). The graveyard sequence has particular power because we know that young Clark saw in a vision of the future himself alone in a graveyard full of those he loved. At the side of Lionel's grave he is 'alone' because it is the ultimate separation from Lex. He is alone too in his grief for his own father, and in the complex tangled grief for Lex.

Male voice
I find it really awesome that the male voice takes over the track from this point on. It has been the least noticeable of the three threads, and I kind of like the way it reflects Clark's own internal voice. I think a lot of Clark's journey has been about finding an inner self that he trusts and can listen to, and about learning to listen to himself even when that self is conflicted. He's matured in his ability to withstand internal conflict. This voice is 'chattery' but also determined and I find that the momentum in the track (and the musicality of the vidding) reflect the place that Clark has got to himself by the end of Season 8. He's no longer stuck in youthful uncertainty or in grief and he has a strong inner core that he relies on. Yes, he still faces immense challenges--and he suffers greatly, as the vid shows. He's also struggling with himself and against so many forces that threaten to rip what is precious away from him (captured so beautifully in the vanishing barn image).

I think the very end of the vid will probably read very differently to people depending on your own position on the point Clark reaches at the end of Season 8. Personally it makes me want to call out 'no, Clark! don't shut that door!' at the same time that it makes my heart soar with pride that he's so strong and independent now. We see him walk out, leave the vid, wave goodbye and shut us out into darkness. I believe the final lyric is 'gotta get some feeling'. If it's not, it probably says something about me that that's what I hear! ;) Because I really understand how Clark can become numb from all of this pain that he experiences and takes on as his personal burden. Clark's strength lies in his compassion, and he can't just cut that off. In his conflicted expressions in the final sequence, I read that he never will, he can't. His heart is too large for that. He is taking a step back and silencing all the messages from others that say 'be a hero the way WE want!' but part of his journey is about learning to live with his emotions and let them be his strength not paralyse him.

I thank talitha78 tremendously for the gift she has given to us in this vid. For me personally it allows me so much insight into why I love Clark and how the fact that I sometimes feel frustrated with the writing of his journey is ultimately irrelevant because the overall sum of achievements in Clark's journey far outweighs the set-backs. He's my hero. He's our hero. And he's just Clark. Cleverly the vid reminds me / the viewer also not to project onto Clark. I think it has a gentle layer of meta about fandom too that way--at least I take it that way because I like the message. Let Clark be Clark. In his own time. It turns out that's a wonderful path to follow and I look forward to future steps along it.
Tags: smallville_meta, vid_meta, vid_recs

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