Man of Steel: What New Superman Movie Says About State of Journalism Today

Since footage from Man of Steel first premiered at this year’s Comic Con and trailers for the film appeared before the opening credits of huge summer blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, people can’t stop talking about how realistic the new film is. The trailers show an unkempt Clark Kent, played by British newcomer Henry Cavill, supposedly working on a boat and hitchhiking his way to his next destination. With its muted colors, dark overtones, and familiar-looking settings, the film is setting itself up to show Superman as a man in the real world.

The director, Zach Snyder, has promised that his film will not be a remake of earlier, campier versions of the superhero. Instead Snyder acknowledges that “Superman’s always been this kind of big blue boy-scout up on a throne that nobody can really touch, so we tried to make him relatable ... Superman is a big responsibility, but I felt he needed to be reintroduced to a generation and I thought this was a great opportunity.”

However, if Snyder really wants to make Superman relevant to this generation, one major thing needs to change: Superman's job at the Daily Planet.

As an article in The Onion aptly notes, the least believable thing in the Superman universe is not his ability to run faster than a speeding bullet, fly through the sky, or lift cars over his head — it’s the idea that the Daily Planet would still be thriving.

“ … Longtime fans told reporters they simply could not accept a daily metropolitan newspaper still thriving in the media landscape of 2012 … ‘I just can't get past the idea that The Daily Planet still occupies one of the largest skyscrapers in all of Metropolis and is totally impervious to newsroom layoffs or dwindling home subscriptions,’ said comics blogger Marc Daigle.”

Funny? Yes. Accurate? Definitely. Superman's comic book heyday in the 1960s was also a golden age for journalism. Being a reporter was a respectable profession. Clark Kent’s professional task to find the truth made perfect sense.

Sadly, things just aren’t what they used to be. The papers that inspired Daily Planet are slowly disappearing, and job opportunities for journalists are going with them.

The trademark blue-spandex suit and bright red "S", the eternal battle between good and evil,, and even the struggle to balance one’s personal and professional life are all timeless characteristics of Superman’s story. One of the most recognizable aspects of the DC comic has always been the soaring Daily News tower overlooking the metropolis. The building serves both as Clark Kent's office and as an homage to the power of the media.

However, if Snyder wants to do a more accurate portrait of Clark Kent, he needs to change a couple of things.

For one, Kent would be a freelancer writing for the Daily Planet blog, which he keeps updated with minute-by-minute tweets of his adventures. He would rarely go into the office, but when he did make a trip to the Daily Planet building, it would only go to the fourth floor (the higher-up offices are occupied by business people in the Lex Luther corporation) to check in with his overworked editor, Perry White. He would have no health insurance or benefits, but that wouldn’t be too much of an issue for him since he never gets sick anyways.

Snyder’s depiction of Superman looks like a serious and more harrowing retelling of Superman to match our economically depressed state. But we’ll see how true it is in depicting the life of a journalist today when it hits theatres in 2013.