Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Smallville - The Tragedy

When it comes to tv, there isn’t much that I will actually watch.  Usually I just buy on dvd the shows that I want to watch so that way I can watch them when I want to, without commercials, and rewatch them if they are good enough to warrant multiple viewings.  With that said, there would be one show I would rearrange my schedule to watch, and that show is Smallville (which opens its fifth season tomorrow).

Beyond the high school drama, the relationship based angst, and the superhero moments, Smallville is a tragedy on all fronts, each character fatally flawed.  What makes this even more apparent, from a viewer’s standpoint, is that the end is not in question.  We all know Clark turns into Superman, Lex will be his nemesis, that Lois marries Clark, and so forth.  

Since the outcome is known before hand, anything that doesn’t directly contribute to those ends will fail, and often times the failures come quite spectacularly.  One example is the episode I just finished watching, “Unsafe” (from season four), in which Clark actually feels comfortable in a relationship with someone.  Alicia, a girl who also possesses some superpowers, falls for Clark and he falls for her.  Before the relationship even has a chance to get off the ground, you know it is going to somehow go down in flames, and it does.

Clark, up until the day he finally starts his relationship with Lois, will forever be doomed in every relationship he starts.  Personally, deep down inside, I wanted Clark to be with Alicia because it just seemed so right, despite some of their checkered history, but all I could do was sit back and watch as it all unraveled.  

I used to like Smallville because it was a tv show about the early years of one of my favorite superheroes and one of my favorite supervillains, but now I realize that I would still love it even if there were no superheroes because it’s the tragedy that draws me.  Just like a good shedding of tears helps to ease the soul, it’s quite cathartic to watch the characters in a tragedy.  Why do you think so many people love Shakespeare?

Each individual character is participating in their very own personal tragedy, and I empathize with every heartbreak, every hardship, and every bittersweet conversation, as well as love each and every moment of this totally unrealistic tv show that somehow resonates with me.

Clark bears the weight of the world on his shoulders.  So mired in guilt built up from everything he thought he could have done to have changed situations that didn’t work out for the best.  Being given the gifts he has been granted, how could he not feel like it’s his responsibility to be everyone’s savior, yet he can’t tell anyone that he is such a messianic figure.  Beyond the problems that his powers cause him, he has to be the most unlucky in love person to grace this planet.  Constantly forced to keep secrets and to never be able to truly open up to anyone drives anyone he lets get close to him away in the long run.  He is forever alone—the last remaining remnant of a world long dead.

Lex, a man destined to be one of the great villains of his generation, doesn’t even know it yet.  He still views himself as a good person, trying to do the right things, and he may never really know he is a villain, but we all know he is.  Watching as Lex tries so hard to maintain his fragile friendship with Clark, all the while fighting a losing battle against his nature and trying to separate himself from his father’s image, you know that he can only meet with failure. He is fated to be a man despised and reviled by the world.

Lana seems to never have anything good happen to her.  Her first boyfriend is tragically killed in the military.  Her initial relationship with Clark falls apart when the secrecy between the two becomes too much for her to take.  Her next boyfriend uses her for his own personal and familial gain while she truly falls for him.  In time she finds herself betrayed yet again in matters of the heart.  Clark is always there for her, though, and the more she realizes it, the more it hurts to know that ultimately she can’t be with him.  She will always come second to Lois.

Even the auxiliary characters are immersed in waves of tragedy.  Chloe longs for Clark’s love, but more so just his trust.  She has endured so much for him and he is too reluctant to tell anyone his secrets, most especially her, even though she already knows.  Clark’s parents have been put through hell and back for their son and his secret, yet they stand strong.  Valiant in the face of all danger, they persevere.  Actually, every character embodies that statement.  Throughout the tragedies of their lives, each character perseveres.  Each pushes onward.  These characters give us hope.  And it’s this juxtaposition of a wellspring of hope and waves of tragedy that makes this show one of the few I truly enjoy.

I dare you to try to keep me away from the television tomorrow night.  It won’t happen.

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