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The Problem With Smallville

by on February 5, 2011

Early in 2010, a friend of mine introduced me to Smallville, which I had not seen up to that point. I watched the first season on DVD and was quite impressed, and so I went on to watch the next several seasons. Smallville, for those who may not be aware, is a TV series that follows Clark Kent from his high school days up to the time that he becomes the Big Blue Boy Scout we all know and love, Superman. If I had to sum up my impression of the series, it would be in the words of a joke I read years ago in Reader’s Digest: The best movie for both guys and girls is one in which the hero talks about his feelings while blowing stuff up.” This is Smallville to a T. Yes, Clark did annoy me at times with his endless angst-y worryings about whether Lana would go out with him or not and whether he should tell her and if she already knew and what about Chloe and on and on and on, but then Clark would blow something up or punch out a steel door, and it was good. I especially liked their choices for actors (Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor=genius), and the nods they gave to the classic Superman mythology, particularly in the episodes where Christopher Reeve was able to guest-star. That was a very nice passing-of-the-torch moment, and they handled that fairly well, IMHO.

Now, however, they’re coming into the final stretch of the final season. I assume that they’ll end the last episode with Clark donning The Tights and unfurling The Cape and soaring off into the sky with dramatic theme music blaring as he finally assumes his destined identity as Superman, defender of truth, justice, and the American way. But if they indeed do that, then they have a problem. Not just a little problem either, like the fact that he can’t fly yet; that’s something I figure can be easily remedied (and from a quick review of the Smallville wiki, I see that he’s already starting to hover. Isn’t the Internet grand). No, this is a huge problem, a massively gaping plot hole that, frankly, the Smallville producers and writers set themselves up from the get-go. I refer, of course, to The Glasses.

Of course, I always thought The Glasses were one of the silliest parts of the whole Superman mythology. I myself wear glasses in real life, and believe me, my face does not change radically when I have my glasses off vs. when I have them on. That’s why when other superheroes like, say, Batman (my personal favorite) want to conceal their identity, they use what those in the superhero line of work refer to as “a mask”. I could also point out that one should probably choose a civilian profession that does not require one to work at the same disaster or crisis one is supposed to stop as a superhero; no one expects a millionaire playboy to be running around putting out fires or slugging bad guys, but journalists are supposed to be on scene. That’s why you very rarely see people going “Hm, Bruce was here by this hot-dog stand a second ago, but now he’s gone, and Batman’s saving the child from falling into the river. Hmmmm….LIGHTBULB!” No, that does not happen, because Batman’s identity is fairly plausible. But, I digress. 🙂

Back to Supes, I’ll readily concede that Christopher Reeve could pull The Glasses off, for two reasons. 1) He didn’t just depend on The Glasses as the difference between the two identities; when he was playing Clark Kent, he had a whole different posture, a different way of speaking, different hair style and behaviour as opposed to when he was playing Superman. Plus, and perhaps more important, 2) The first time anyone in Metropolis saw Clark Kent in the classic movie, he was a full-grown adult man, and he already had The Glasses and the mannerisms fully developed. Thus, when Superman made his appearance sans The Glasses and in costume, no one had seen Clark without glasses and so they couldn’t make that connection. Yes, you could argue the people in the classic movie’s Smallville had seen Clark without The Glasses, but that was as a teenager before Clark ran off  to the Fortress of Solitude for twelve years, so they’d probably all forgotten what he looked like by the time he emerged as an adult. Finally, as far as we know, Clark never left the classic movie Smallville, which I’m guessing doesn’t have a very high population. Not to mention the classic movie Smallville has, oh let’s say, 50s-60s era technology, so he didn’t have to worry about cameras or the Internet.

Smallville, the TV series, on the other hand, can’t offer that explanation. From episode one, they haven’t shown Clark consistently wearing The Glasses except on a very few occasions, and most of those were either an alternate history that only Clark experienced, or a glimpse of the future which, again, only Clark (and Brainiac 5, thank you Smallville wiki) saw. Also, Smallville‘s set in the modern world, which means that Clark’s probably been on TV, cameras, and the Internet a zillion times by now. Remember his high school had a student newspaper, The Torch, which if I recall correctly had its own in-universe web page. If anyone wants to see a picture of Clark as a kid, they could just surf over to that and find lots of pictures of him without The Glasses. Not to mention, since Metropolis is apparently only about five minutes from Smallville (and that’s an issue in and of itself), and since through the series Clark has already started working at the Daily Planet, that means lots more people have seen him without The Glasses. The only way he’s been able to keep his superhero identity a secret is by moving at super-speed and calling himself “The Blur”. That’s all well and good if he were to stay with that, and truthfully, “The Blur” isn’t all that bad of a superhero name. (For a really lousy superhero idea, look up The Red Bee sometime. It’s sad.) But Clark isn’t destined to be a mere blur. He’s Superman. And when he starts soaring around Metropolis in cape and tights, without The Glasses, fully revealed to the world, all those people in Smallville and Metropolis are going to look up and go, “Hey! That’s Clark!” and boom, no more secret identity. I mean, at the very least, he’s shown himself without glasses to the entire working staff of the Daily Planet, pretty much. You don’t think a whole building full of journalists would realize it was him in the cape if he starts flying around?

So, yeah, The Glasses issue is a problem. It’s not an insurmountable one, I suppose, but it’s going to be really difficult. ) I suppose Jor-El could shoot out some sort of ray from the Fortress of Solitude that magically changes everyone’s memory and alters the camera pictures and computer files and Internet pages and hospital records and driver’s license and everything else so that people all remember Clark as wearing The Glasses from the time he was a toddler.  Or something. Who knows? I suppose we’ll find out when they reach the final episode. And after that… well, there’s a new live-action Wonder Woman series in the wings. Plus, now that they’re wrapping up Superman, there is that other famous DC superhero whose teenage years are a relative mystery, live-action movie wise. I can see it now: Gotham City. You never know…


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  1. Couldn’t agree more! My daughter and I love Smallville, but they’ve really blown it in a big way with Clark’s transition to Superman.

    • Indeed they have. Well, maybe they’ll pull something out and salvage it by the end. You never know.

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