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Rolling Stone’s Piece on ‘Jewish’ Superman Anything But Super

Rolling Stone’s Jay Michaelson has penned an interesting piece on Superman’s “Jewishness” in the wake of David Corenswet being “the first Jewish* actor to play Superman.”

Well, it is interesting from the point of view of Superman’s history. It is downright awful when Michaelson injects his politics into it.

But there’s more. To our ears, fighting for “truth, justice, and the American Way” may sound like old-fashioned patriotism. But in the 1940s, it was controversial.

As Rachel Maddow’s devastating podcast Ultra has shown, the American Right in the 1930s and early 1940s was actually quite enamored of Hitler and the National Socialists, and several Republican senators were literally on his payroll. They saw themselves as fighting the same fight against “cosmopolitans” and non-Christians, which is the same rhetoric used by right-wing extremists today. 

Really, we haven’t changed that much. Those who see America as essentially white, Christian, and ruled by alpha males rail against anyone and anything that might disturb that hierarchy – most often against “elites” in politics, finance, or the media who are either explicitly Jewish (like George Soros) or coded as such.

Even one of Ron DeSantis’s leading social media trolls, Pedro Gonzalez, was just exposed to have shared overtly antisemitic tweets with exactly that message. In one, a blond-haired dude in a Pepe T-shirt twists the gigantic nose of a glasses-wearing editor-in-chief named Mr. Heebawitz. “Lmao,” Gonzalez commented.

In fact, looking back on those early days, Superman was very woke. He was known as the “Champion of the Oppressed.” At a time when Republicans opposed President Roosevelt’s liberal programs and opposed entering World War II, Superman supported — in comic books and on a wildly successful radio program — the New Deal, open immigration, and entering the war against Hitler. Some episodes of the radio show lampooned the KKK.

Let’s stop here for a second and be clear about something. If Superman was truly ‘woke’, he almost certainly would not have supported entering the way against Hitler. He would have been anti-war, and accused US leaders of trying to enter it just for profit. He may have even seen Hitler as a freedom fighter taking on the “elites”!

But the piece gets worse.

But as Superman went through various metamorphoses, and corporate overseers, his Jewish particularism ebbed and flowed, depending on who was writing, acting, or directing. Sure, he kept his Ashkenazi pale skin and dark hair, but a lot of the formerly “obvious” references from earlier decades became less obvious, especially as the American Jewish experience evolved as well. Many of us, after all, have been in this country for three generations and may not see ourselves as immigrants anymore. Tragically, many no longer see ourselves as in solidarity with the oppressed.

In criticizing his fellow Jews for not siding with the oppressed, I initially assumed Michaelson was criticizing many Jews for not siding with the palestinian Arabs. Alas, a look at his social media reveals he is pro-Israel, albeit on the left. Nevertheless, the idea that many of us no longer side with the oppressed is a harmful generalization, and plays into the ‘woke’ movement’s exclusion of Jews since we are recipients of “white privilege.”

And while Michaelson rightly attacks those (on the right) who engage in antisemitism, he himself engages in some very wrong stereotyping of Jews:

Clark Kent, too, is a kind of 20th-21st century Jewish archetype: brainy and kind, but also nerdy, awkward, and, in some renditions, a bit of a loser. Only, beneath that bookish exterior, Kent is the ubermensch, the Nietzschean superman with powers far beyond those of mortal humans. It’s the dream of every Jewish nerd: that beneath the surface, there is someone powerful, strong, and cool.

While I understand there have been way too many renditions of Jews in pop culture that fit this image, it is no “archetype.” Anyone who has been to Israel or met an Israeli, for example, would see the exact opposite of nerdy weaklings.

This piece is yet another example of Rolling Stone reminding us why – like Roger Waters – they should really stick to music.

*from what I have read, at least his father was Jewish, but no word on his mother

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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