Saturday, February 9, 2013

Demystifying Clark Kent's Secret Identity

After completing his Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan has proven that a superhero can in fact be brought into the real world. His recent popularity has made it evident that he is a brilliant director who has unparalleled fondness for “realism” in the movies he makes. Now, he is rebooting the Superman franchise along with Zack Snyder. Superman in a realistic context? Pretty cool idea. But unlike Batman who is just an ordinary man with an extraordinary set of skills and objectives, Superman is an alien who has a very slim chance of becoming real at all. However, the Nolan-Snyder Tandem has given a statement: The Superman they're reinventing will be “relevant” to this world and in this generation, and that they would depict how the world would actually react if such a man exists. 

          If realism is Nolan's filmmaking trademark, how will he depict The Man of Steel on screen without detaching from the realism he is most known for? The film’s greatest challenge could be this: How will he depict the secrecy of Superman's identity? One of the most mystifying elements of the DC universe is the fact that Clark Kent remains unrecognized by the general public as being Superman, and Superman being Clark Kent. Below are some of the popular theories as to how Superman's secret identity could have remained undiscovered:

  • Superman and Clark Kent are perceived as being too different in mannerisms and personality to be the same individual.
  • Clark Kent studies the Meisner Technique to move seamlessly between his Clark and Superman persona: dropping his head, lowering his shoulders, and talking in a lighter tone as Clark Kent, while standing straight and talking in a deeper tone as Superman.
  • The public simply does not know that Superman has a secret identity, considering he does not wear a mask, which implies to most that he has nothing to hide.
  • As an added precaution, Superman would vibrate his face slightly, so that photographs would only show his features as a blur, thus preventing the danger of photographs of both identities being reliably compared.
  • Clark Kent's glasses (made of Kryptonian materials) constantly amplified a low-level super-hypnosis power, thereby creating the illusion of others viewing Clark Kent as a weak and frailer being.

          The first three statements seem logically acceptable. They could work. But let's ponder upon the lower two, which were said to be quickly abandoned as they were introduced, specially the last one. In comics, it's easy to believe and accept that Clark Kent's glasses gives him the cover he needs in order to keep his identity a secret-- that's comics after all. But will that work on screen? Albeit, on a screen that is to be scrutinized by a modern audience? For the time being, it is strongly hinted that we wouldn't see a 'Clark Kent with glasses' in the upcoming movie. Here are a few theories of my own that in my opinion, could be the elements on how they might bring Superman into the world we're living in– at least in the aspect of safekeeping the secret identity. 

          Even without wearing glasses, or changing mannerisms, Clark Kent could evade detection and discovery because of some real-world reasons. One such reason is the existence of look-alikes. Man of Steel, like any other movie is portrayed by Hollywood actors. Even in the premises of this relatively small showbiz world, there exists a bunch of people with striking resemblances. Take for instance, Elias Koteas and Christopher Meloni. 


Elias Koteas vs Christopher Meloni

        There are people who mistakenly think the former to be the latter, and vice-versa. Now picture yourself in this situation, what if you are expecting to see Elias Koteas in a mall tour and be presented with Christopher Meloni instead, would you notice the difference? Chances are you hardly would, especially if you haven't seen either men in person before. The ones who would surely notice are those who have seen the two a lot– on a regular basis. How often does an average fan like you and me get to see either of them regularly? We are least likely to have the chance of seeing them on always that we would take the slight change of appearance as an excuse of them being different than the last time we saw one of them: more/less weight, a darker tan, more stubble, etc. If you've been led to believe that you would see Elias Koteas on a mall tour on a given day, then it's highly plausible that you wouldn't discern that it was in fact, Chris Meloni. (Who appears as a high-ranking military official in Man of Steel)

Here's an array of celebrities that you might get confused with:

 Peter Jackson / Jason Segel

Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)/Will Ferrel

Joseph Gordon-Levitt / Heath Ledger
Bradley Cooper / Ralph Fiennes

And of course, the Man of Steel himself and his Look-alike, Matt Bomer.


          If you can see considerable sets of 'look-alikes' in the small confines of Hollywood, could you not see countless “Superman Dopplegangers” around the world, if he were to exist in reality? The man of steel does his heroics in a global scale, so the chances of him being suspected as a resident of this country, or that country is very high and very wide. A bystander who saw Superman in Britain might think of him as British; an eyewitness in Canadian soil might expect him to be from Canada; an Asian who got rescued from the brink of death might have thoughts of him having Asian or Hispanic blood; the list could go on and on. Clark's officemates, friends and neighbors would say: “I have a friend who looks like Superman! I think he's the Man of Steel!” Unfortunately, countless others around the world could also brag about people they know who look a lot like the legendary hero, thereby diminishing suspicions about their friend being Superman.

          Another real-world situation that we can connect to is the tidbit in entertainment history that Charlie Chaplin once joined a “CharlieChaplin Look-alike Contest.” Surprisingly, the real guy got 3rd place. (others say it's 2nd) Some even claim that he didn't even make it to the finals. Some might say this is just a stuff of legend, but if it did happen, the fact that he didn’t get recognized is logically possible. The judges of that contest could have engraved a younger and leaner Charlie on their minds upon taking part of the contest. Instead, they got one who looks like the real Charlie, but is fatter and is not that appealing in person. Eventually, they placed the guy on 2nd or 3rd … oblivious to the fact that it was the real guy all along.

          Charlie Chaplin

This can make us think that if there could be some kind of “Superman Look-alike Festival” in the movie, Clark Kent, the real Superman could blend perfectly into the hordes of Supermen, without getting even a second look. Therefore, even if he would openly say “I am Superman”, the people in his social circle could simply regard him as “just a guy who looks like Superman.” How can a shy farmboy, turned geeky journalist be Superman? Clark would then have lesser difficulty in hiding his secret as there would be countless body-doubles around the world.
          Now this question could be raised: Could the Superman look-alikes be that numerous? I would answer: Yes. It is widely known that some people will do anything just to closely resemble their most idolized persons– change their hair, put on similar clothing and some would even let themselves undergo a series of surgeries just to complete the illusion.

Here's an example of such a man.


Guy Gets Surgery ToLook Like Superman

          The surgeries didn’t exactly make him look like Superman, but he’s a living proof that some people are willing to make themselves subject to extreme measures just to imitate someone. Since the real world hosts a man like this, it is highly possible that in the upcoming movie, people would imitate a heroic man who became a global symbol of hope, truth and justice. People would copy his acts, his principles, and yes... his face. If that's the kind of world where Superman operates, it could be possible that he would take advantage of it's “hero-worship mentality.” He could use the idea of having duplicates to protect his identity, so he can protect the people he loves as well.

          Throughout history, there are strong indications that the method of using body doubles and stand-ins for security purposes were prevalent:

·       Mikheil Gelovani, a Georgian actor and Joseph Stalin look-alike, played the Soviet leader in propaganda films of the 1930s and 1940s. In 2008, 88-year-old Felix Dadaev, a former dancer and juggler, disclosed that he had been one of four look-alikes whom Stalin had employed as decoys to mislead enemies and potential assassins (there in fact were attempts on Stalin's life — two at Yalta alone)

·       British author Hugh Thomas claimed (1979) that war criminal Rudolf Hess, who supposedly committed suicide in Spandau Prison, was a look-alike. Thomas suggests that Hess’ plane was shot down during his flight over the North Sea in 1941 and that he was replaced by a double. Inspired by Thomas' writings, Dutch author At Voorhorst published his own conclusions concerning Hess’ identity at Spandau in 2011.

·       In 1944, shortly before D-Day, M.E. Clifton James, who bore a close resemblance to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, was sent to Gibraltar and North Africa, in order to deceive the Germans about the location of the upcoming invasion. This story was the subject of a book and film, I Was Monty's Double.

·       Saddam Hussein allegedly employed several look-alikes for political purposes during his Iraq reign. According to a CBS 60 Minutes segment in late January 2008, Saddam Hussein denied to an American interrogator that he had employed doubles.

·       Elvis Presley is said to have sent out look-alikes before he left his house to distract fans so he could walk in peace.

          If people on a planet such as Earth with primitive knowledge and primitive technology could conceive of such methods to protect their identities, then it's fair to assume that a visitor from a much more advanced world, equipped with amazing physical capabilities could come up with something similar, yet more elaborate and effective. One such improvisation could be that he would deliberately appear in various places around the world as an ordinary man– creating more sightings of other Superman Copycats, drifting the suspicion away from the unassuming Clark Kent.
          In spite of the countless hours that I spent formulating these theories, there is still one major question that I have no clear answer for: How will Lois Lane’s inability to recognize Clark as Superman, or Superman as Clark be depicted? Will she find out immediately the moment she gets to hold hands, embrace, or kiss (depending on who she meets first) Clark or Superman? As I indicated above, doubles and look-alikes only fool strangers. If a person is very close and intimate to you, even a little skin exposure could easily blow that person's cover. Lois and Clark are depicted in comics, TV and film as akin to seeds within the same nutshell. Making her fail to realize early on who Superman really is would be very, very hard to blend into the 'annals of realism.

Having pleaded my case, I guess I should just leave it to the genius of Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan to unravel it perfectly. Reader, maybe you can make your own prediction and give it ahead of time.

          What do you think?

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