There’s a scene in Superman Returns where Superman has been tricked into landing on an island made of kryptonite. He doesn’t quite realize that his powers have been taken away, or maybe he does realize this but he hides it from Lex Luthor. Either way, Lex realizes that Superman has lost his powers and proceeds to throw him on the ground. Once on the ground, Luthor’s henchmen beat Superman to a pulp. As they’re doing this, Superman screams out something that is muffled because he has his face covered by a henchman’s hand.
For a while after watching the movie at the theater, I wondered what Superman said exactly. It wasn’t until I bought the DVD a few months later that I found out what he said. He said, “I’m still Superman.” For the longest time, this statement by The Man of Steel confused the heck out of a lot of people. Entire comment threads were devoted to analyzing this statement. Was he being arrogant? Was he trying to encourage himself back into the fight?
As it turns out, what Superman yells is a leftover from a series of scenes that were cut from the film before it was released to theaters. In those scenes, the story goes, Superman had been struggling with his place in the world. He didn’t want to be “super” anymore. He just wanted to be human, even with all the baggage that comes with that. When he realizes what Lex is up to, Superman decides that he needs to be Superman, and he reiterates this when he is getting the ever-loving crap beat out of him.
Of course, I see it in a slightly different way.
In my mind, I think that Superman would have said this to remind his adversaries who they were dealing with. Yes, they might beat him this time, but he would be back. He’s always back. (And always around.) Even without his super-human powers, he still has all the other things that make him more than human… Or human, with an added extra something. It was his warning to them that he was not to be messed with. It was the “Don’t you know who I am?” kind of moment. This shows a little bit of arrogance, but it’s also something that you would expect an adult to tell a child. “Don’t test me, because I’m stronger than you could ever imagine.”
I saw another instance of this kind of “tough talk” from someone who has been beaten senseless in the movie Apocalypto. In it, Jaguar Paw, the protagonist of the movie, has just jumped over a waterfall to get away from his would-be killers. When he emerges from the water, he sees the group that is out to kill him up above the waterfall. Jaguar Paw then looks around and realizes that he is now back in his home, and he proceeds to warn his hunters that they better not mess with him.
So why am I writing this?
As you read this blog post, my wife and I will be in the process of running (walking, jogging) the Baltimore Half Marathon. (If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll be seeing live updates and pictures from the race. If you’re not, I’ll post pictures here later.) When I went to pick up our race packets, I saw a lot of people of all shapes and sizes there to pick up their packets as well.
As I was getting a couple of tee shirts, I started thinking about my first — and only — full marathon. It was 2005, also in Baltimore, exactly ten years ago.
Since that marathon, I’ve gained a lot of weight. I got a desk job at the state health department and was no longer exercising as much as I should. Yeah, I would still run a couple of other weights, but I never really went back to the physical shape that I was in when I met my wife in 2006. As I looked for “2XL” shirts, I got a little sad that this life has gotten the best of me.
Then I remembered those two scenes in those movies and realized that I am the only obstacle standing in my way. When I’m out there walking, jogging or running, I’m in my element. I’m not out there competing against anyone but myself. And I can still keep moving for hours on end, which I’ll do again this Saturday (probably as you read this).
As I walked back to the car with the race packets, I continued to think that I’m not “washed up” or done as far as my physical abilities go. Yeah, I’m fat. Yeah, I’m not as fast as I was half a lifetime ago. But I’m still me. I’m still the guy who zones out and can go for miles and miles without stopping. I’m the guy who grew up in a very hot and dry climate, so I don’t have to drink water every mile. And I’m the guy who likes to test his limits on many different levels. So I’m going to run this 13.1 mile course, and the next one, and the next one after that… And I might get in a marathon or two in my years to come.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.