April 24, 2007
Ronald Reagan: The Man of Steel
It’s inescapable, it’s always around us; while walking down the street, while on the subway, while listening to music or talking to friends – we’re bombarded with ideas and impressions though media that emphasize and re-regulate what is “normal” and “accepted” today. On a global scale and as a society, we’re used to buying into certain ideologies without our own knowledge. The thought of worshiping a man with abnormal abilities and talents would not be a first. Depending on the society and culture, one worships someone or something deemed Godlike, Jesus to Christianity, Brahman to Hinduism and Allah to the Islamic. So the idea of having a man come to Earth and save the day with superhuman strength is just another ideology we’ve bought into… or another Hollywood movie concept. Enter stage Right, Ronald Wilson Reagan, fortieth president of the United States, fresh off the movie set into a distressed America. The 1970’s proved to be quite a difficult time for the United States, with President Nixon’s impeachment, the Vietnam War, and more minorities seeking and gaining legal equality, Reagan’s new political face and perspective was welcomed with great anticipation.
During Reagan’s first presidential term, he was much a man of his word. He proposed tax cuts, reduction in welfare and increased spending in the Military defenses. Even from the get go, while Governor of California his anti-communist stance was quite evident. The increases in military spending settled many heart especially after the devastating blow that the Vietnam War brought home. In 1981 he passed the Economic Recovery Tax Act which reduced the individual and corporate taxes by $33 billion. This kept the rich rich and the poor even poorer. Not until 1984 did everything return to equilibrium. Being a Christian man he tried to oppose and abolish the newly acquired right to abortion and focus more on promoting family values. Because of these adamant changes in women’s rights, the cuts in welfare and unemployment programs; his critics were often the minorities, women and blacks. However no matter the dollar deficit Reagan brought to America or the controversy aroused, he gained the nickname, “The Teflon President”. No scandal would stick to him.
The Reagan administration brought about a change and impact on the movie industry and pop culture that remained unnoticed for the time being. In 1981 the sequel to the 1978 film Superman hit the box offices with a smash - bringing in $14,100,523 (USA) within the first weekend. Mirroring Reagan’s entrance into the office of red, white and blue; Superman flies to Earth fully clad in red, yellow, and blue, to save the world for a second time. During the 1980’s Reagan was the “Superman” of the States much like Clark Kent was of the worlds– the film supporting his administration and life to a tee.
Before Ronald Reagan even entered the presidential campaign, controversy between France and the United States had already begun to develop. In early 1980 it was obvious that French President, Francois Mitterrand and Reagan did not share the same views. Mitterrand was quoted to saying, “What planet is he living on?” to Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau over issues that were on going in California at the time. At the beginning of Reagan’s first term more problems arose between Mitterrand and Reagan. The National Endowment Democracy Program (NED) funneled approximately $1 million into two programs and organizations opposing of Mitterrand’s Presidency. So, there is little surprise that in Superman II, France is the victim of a terrorist/hostage attack taking place in the Eiffel Tower. However, Superman still comes to save the day and the people of France, keeping with America’s belief that they are a nation based on helping the “less fortunate” and troubled. This just an opportunity for America to voice their opinion to billions of people world wide.
Behind the scenes of the White House, Nancy Reagan proved herself to be one of the sole thinking forces behind the Reagan administration. Before running for the presidential campaign, Nancy convinced the then Democrat to switch to the Rebulican’s political affiliation. Midway through his first term Nancy aided with the replacements of Judge William Clark as National Security Advisor, Alexander Haig as Secretary of the State with, Robert McFarlane and George Shultz. It was stated years later that after Reagan’s attempted assassination, Nancy controlled his schedule based upon the star signs and the current astrology readings at the time. The adamant and noticeable power Nancy Reagan had over her husband created much conflict. When Nancy took it upon herself to redecorate the White House in early 1981, much public criticism arose around the notion that the Reagan's were living a fantasy life of extravagant luxury while America and its people were in serious financial trouble. It was obvious to America that Reagan valued his wife’s opinion. In relation to Superman II, Lois Lane has as much influence over Superman/Clark Kent as Nancy Reagan had over her husband. Lois Lane is an outspoken woman, who knows what she wants and how to get it. Her dynamic decisions and outgoing personality are offset by her love for Superman. She is the typical single, hardworking, self-absorbed professional American woman. She loves Superman – the unachievable, dates a bunch of losers, and ignores the clean-cut, hard working, decent men, like Clark Kent. Twenty years ago, this type of woman would have been pro-abortion following the stereotypical ideal for the era. In the sequel, the already suspicious Lois stumbles upon Clark’s secret and finds out his true identity as Superman. Together with their new love intact, they travel to Superman’s home in the Arctic, the Fortress of Solitude. After a talk with his mother, Superman knows that in order to be with Lois safely he must sacrifice all of his superpowers and live the life of a mortal. However, not by coincidence do we once again see a man falling victim to a woman’s demands and a country suffering because of it.
Lastly, one cannot mention Ronald Reagan without touching upon his definite distaste for communism. In 1950 Reagan joined a group created by General Lucius Clay named the Crusade for Freedom. They were committed to that exact purpose and even made ads using Reagan's familiar face. That same year, he joined another group, Dr. Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, which was in particular driven by the institutionalized skepticism of undermining Soviet Communism. In Superman II, the forces of evil, the Phantom Zoners come to earth in search for a new planet to rule. Their leader, General Zod, has one idea in mind - to dominate Earth, through any means possible. General Zod makes reference to Americans being used to “worshiping things that fly,” upon seeing helicopters, the eagle on the carpet of the Presidents office, and America’s unwavering love for Superman. While at the time of the film, Reagan was in the process of the forcing the air traffic controllers back to the work preceding a strike. Zod’s mindset may be the exact same as most baddies that follow the Hero Cycle; however his character also follows the same thoughts and actions as any communist leader. In one hand you have the stereotypical evil villain that all comics and stories relate to, and in the other hand, you have a character that represents the wrong and unjust and that mirrors a societies flaws at a current time in history.
Any amateur filmmaker can utilize the special techniques, such as lower angels or worm’s eye view, to make the illusion that someone is greater than they really are. But it takes one special someone to break the mould of the normalities of life and set the pace for a newer generation. The story of Superman can relate to anyone, anywhere at any given time. It’s not bound to one era however bound to the ideology that to be great is to influence anyone into doing something noble they wouldn’t do without your aide, and to look good while doing it. That doesn’t seem so bad now, does it? Superman flies the flag back to the White House for a reason.
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