The American Way

Jonah Goldberg is pissed at Superman.

In the new film “Superman Returns,” the Man of Steel no longer stands for “truth, justice and the American way.” These days he is dedicated, according to the movie’s promotional materials, to “truth, justice and all that is good.” Though, in the movie, the phrase gets edited down by Daily Planet Editor Perry White to “truth, justice and all that stuff.” Typical editorial arrogance, if you ask me!

More likely a typical marketing decision by a studio that needs international box office to make a profit.

Goldberg tells us that “conservative talk radio has surely gone overboard in bashing the film,” which I say is one good reason to go see it (although there are others). But even though Goldberg admits the “American Way” line might irritate some overseas audiences, he sniffs about a “cosmopolitan” outlook “that sees national boundaries and geographic loyalties as quaint and even backward.” And taking a swipe at the majority opinion in Hamdan that stipulates the U.S. must honor its old commitment to the Geneva Conventions, Goldberg says there’s nothing wrong with kicking off the shackles of international opinion and being the Lone Ranger.

Maybe not, but as I recall the Lone Ranger was into saving innocent people from bad guys and then riding into the sunset. The innocent people weren’t left wondering, three years later, when the heck he was ever gonna leave. Nor did the Lone Ranger run an alternative secret criminal justice system, but instead turned bad guys over to the public lawful authorities. And riding around with that Tonto guy whiffs of a little multiculturalism, if you ask me.

But in spite of himself, Goldberg stumbles on to some truth in his last sentence:

What is disturbing is that “the American way” now seems to have become code for arrogant unilateralism that falls somewhere outside truth, justice and all that is good.

Well, yes. And whose fault is that?

Speaking of old film heroes and the American Way — remember Hopalong Cassidy? If you do, you may be, um, as old as I am. But never mind. I ran into this on the Hopalong Cassidy web site:

Time Magazine in 1950 said, “Boyd made Hoppy a veritable Galahad of the range, a soft spoken paragon who did not smoke, drink or kiss girls, who tried to capture the rustlers instead of shooting them, and who always let the villain draw first if gunplay was inevitable.” Boyd himself said, “I played down the violence, tried to make Hoppy an admirable character and I insisted on grammatical English.”

That’s how the American Way was portrayed in the early 1950s, when the Hopalong Cassidy films and television series were popular around the globe. Back in the day, the American Way meant holding true to your values and doing the right thing even if the bad guys are doing the wrong thing. Now the American Way seems to be shoot first, and ask questions later. We’ve also turned We’re the good guys because we do what’s right into We’re the good guys, so whatever we do is right.

Yep; “arrogant unilateralism that falls somewhere outside truth, justice and all that is good” hits the mark, I’d say. As Superman Returns scriptwriter Dan Harris said, “I don’t think the American Way means what it meant in 1945.”

10 thoughts on “The American Way

  1. Nor did the Lone Ranger run an alternative secret criminal justice system, but instead turned bad guys over to the public lawful authorities.

    🙂 Really?

  2. As we all know the last thing this administration, congressional republicans, and the conservative wingnuts stand for is TRUTH, let alone JUSTICE. And, with these guys running the country, the American way stands for torture, war, death, and destruction–all this from the right to life group.

  3. According to a recent NYTime article, the filmmakers (consciously or not) were simply returning to their hero’s comic book roots. When Superman first burst on the scene in the early 40s, it was to wage “a never-ending battle for truth and justice.” It wasn’t until the 50s that revisionists added “the American way”.

    When I first saw The Petrified Forest (1936), I was struck by a sign in the restaurant that read, “Tipping is un-American.” More than a symbol of the changes in the structure of payment for service workers, it suggests a very different conception of “the American way.” It was a rejection old European class system, under which wealthy nobles might toss a few coins to a servant who had pleased them. In America all citizens were equally noble. We might serve, but we would never be servants. In another decade or two, this conception of the worth and nobility of the common man would sound dangerously like communism, and by the time Superman started fighting for the American way, “Tipping is un-American,” would sound vaguely un-American itself.

    With America’s entry into WWII, ‘fascism’ became a dirty word in this country, but the supporters of fascism didn’t fade away, they simply adapted. In place of the Nazi-inspired view of Jews and other non-Aryans as the Enemy with communism as one of their most potent weapons, communism itself became the Enemy (the fact that Jews and blacks were so often the victims of anti-communist purges was purely coincidental). People would certainly oppose Nazism or fascism, but who could object to “100% Americanism”? This “Americanism” made a great virtue of unquestioning obedience to authority and sought to restore purity and power by destroying the liberal, decadent enemy among us, but such similarities to earlier, discredited ideologies were, once again, purely coincidental (and anyone who suggested otherwise was, if not a communist, certainly a ‘fellow traveller’).

    This is the Golden Age that movement conservatives want to return us to. Look at their howls of outrage when their fellow citizens try to undo some of the revisions imposed by their ideological forebearers (“under God” from the pledge, “the American way” from Superman’s mission statement). Fascism has been long since repudiated, but fascistic attitudes are alive and well and growing bolder every day.

  4. i am older than you maha and this is what iremember about hoppy. i was 5 and my brother was 4. my mother made us new woolen coats with matching leggings and matching hats. remember when leggings were made from wool, lined but itchey. they fit tight with zippers from ankle to knee. anyway these new outfits were for a visit with hoppy. he was coming to hudson department store in downtown detroit. well, he was beautiful, tall, white hair, sparkling blue eyes, dressed in black. he had a white horse with him. he picked me up, he looked like a grandpa, remember i was five. i cried when my mother tried to leave and i would not let go of his hand. he was gorgeous!!

    i have to say though in those days a big lie was told to all of us through tv and probably books but i just remember tv. the lie, indians were the bad people, murders, always the villian. when i got a little older my 20’s and 30’s and realize what we did to the indians, my disillusionment with government started. also how easily the american public can be fooled. my grandfather always said tv would be the downfall of our government. he never watched, he read. we have to look for the good in a candidate, his track record, his friends. if this had truly looked into bush’s background, they would have more difficulty voting for him.

  5. Hey mamameow, I haven’t seen you for a while!

    Wow, you got to meet Hopalong Cassidy! That actor really was a good lookin’ fella.

    I never saw the movies, but I remember watching the TV series. I remember we had a ceramic Hopalong Cassidy bowl and mug set, which I believe my brother still has.

    The young folks don’t know what they missed. 🙂

  6. I had a Hopalong Cassidy Bank. But my fondest memory was my Davey Crocket jacket and my Davey Crocket cereal bowl.

    How did that go?… “a dollars worth of beans, a new pair of jeans, and a women to cook and sew”. Yep, what more could a man want?

    Didn’t Sky King and Penny also act as agents for the American way?

  7. old geezers!!!!????? we are seasoned, like fine wine. like a prior boyfriend said, with my experience and his energy, we will always wear smiles. he was 11 years younger and we wore smiles for ALONG time!!!!!

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