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Friedrich Nietzsche Theory of Genealogy of Morals and the Film Superman

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1399 words Published: 3rd Aug 2021

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Part of: Super Heroes

Superman is defined as a person who has abilities that are beyond those of the normal human. According to Nietzsche, a superman is a person who has learned the ways of foregoing pleasures in order to achieve happiness and dominion by exercising their unusual power. In addition, a superman is a person that is extraordinary or one that has supernatural powers or capabilities. Superman is a fictional character that was first released in a comic book by DC comics in the USA. Since the inception of the character, movies have later on incorporated the character into their scenes. In 1941, the character debuted in cinemas through animation. Later in 1948 and 1950, the character was able to star in two movie serials. The first Superman feature film was released in 1951, with George Reeves as the starring.

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The movie Superman is a movie that was released on the 10th of December, 1978 and was directed by Richard Donner. The starring in the movie was Christopher Reeve, where the movie was based on DC Comics whose name was similar to his. The movie was produced as a joint production by the United States, Switzerland, The UK, and Panama. According to Nietzsche, the term Superhuman is an extreme phrase – this is because the actions of the characters are closely bordering divine characteristics and conclude that any man that has the ability to perform these actions to be a superman. Nietzsche views these traits as some of those that other humans can attain. Nietzsche first used the term Superman was in “Joyful Science” while speaking of Ubermenschen altogether with heroes and Gods. Before using the term superhuman, Nietzsche used terms like superhuman justice or goddess, super-German and also spoke of man as the super animal in the entire planet which he referred as a distant super-world.

The movie, unlike other superhero movies, does not reveal the character of the starring as a superman at the beginning of the movie, following the theory of genealogy of morals. The movie only shows the starring in the red, yellow and blue Superman costume after almost an hour into the movie. The movie did not open like most superhero movies examples being James Bond by using a sensational pre-title order.

In a high school football scene, the future Man of Steel is bullied, and a beautiful girl is taken away from him. One question that is raised is who the person is. The answer to the question is that the person is definitely not a human. Other questions that are raised in this scene are the origins of this person and even if he can even have sex with the girl that was snatched from him. In addition, another question is whether he can even reproduce on this planet. This scene is related to the theory of genealogy of morals. One of the incidents where orals are questionable is the scene where the future Man of Steel is bullies and even snatched a girl away from him. The second scene where morals can be criticized is the scene where a question is continuously raised if he would ever manage to reproduce on this planet or even have sex with the girl that was just snatched from him. This shows moral decadence since the people are immoral enough to disrespect the sexuality of the future Man of Steel.

The theory of geneology of morals is also exhibited in the Superman movie is the point where Clark Kent walks to the city to just show off his might by flying and also by stopping a helicopter. In addition, he also indicates that he can prevent a 707 from falling. He had a good moral foundation that allowed him to keep his powers wrapped instead of flaunting the powers for other people to see his might. He was disciplined enough to maintain his powers only to let the powers out when people’s lives and properties are at stake. This is the point he unveils his power indicating the need for preservation of life following good morals. The following is a quote meant to indicate how the father of the superman advised him to help where he can:

“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”

In addition to the preservation of morals, it is evident that Superman is able to keep his abilities away from other people indicating an outstanding moral stance (Barth). The following is a quote by Jonathan Kent when he realized that the superman knew of his abilities:

“No, no. Now, you listen to me. When you first came to us, we thought people would come and take you away because, when they found out, you know, the things you could do… and that worried us a lot. But then a man gets older, and he starts thinking differently, and things get very clear. And one thing I do know, son, and that is you are here for a *reason*. I don’t know whose reason, or whatever the reason is… Maybe it’s because… uh… I don’t know. But I do know one thing. It’s *not* to score touchdowns. Huh?”

Dialect of Enlightenment in Analyzing Pleasantville

Pleasantville is a comedy with directing and written by Gary Ross. The story is based on two children from the same family who end up trapped in a show of the 1950s TV show. The show is set in a town in the Midwest where most of the residents seem to live perfect lives. While the two siblings attempt to fit in, they realize some pressing social issues that exist in the society like Racism and Freedom of speech.

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The following is a quote by Big Bob while he stated how he had realized that he knew all that happened in the town. He stated how all along things have been perfect until they realized that some of these things are not as pleasant as they had initially thought. He further added how they had to separate the pleasant things from the unpleasant.

“People, people…. I think we all know what’s going on here. Up until now, everything around here has been, well, pleasant. Recently certain things have become unpleasant. It seems to me that the first thing we have to do is to separate out the things that are pleasant from the things that are unpleasant.”

Another scene where the dialect of enlightenment appears in the film Pleasantville is when Bill Johnson states how people in the town ought to realize how lucky they are to have such colors. He adds how they are not even aware of how lucky they are. This scene shows the dialect of enlightenment of how some people live in better conditions and do not even appreciate their surrounding while others come to realize of a new world that they did not know existed. As Bill and his brother marvel at the different life forms exist in the new, the dialect of enlightenment is exhibited as they get to realize new things that they did not know existed. The following quote is an illustration of the dialect of enlightenment among the two brothers:

“Where am I going to see colors like that? Must be awfully lucky to see colors like that. I bet they don’t even know how lucky they are.”

Lastly, the dialect of enlightenment is exhibited when David Wagner states how one cannot always like what they do. The two brothers in this situation learn how they have to sometimes compromise their comfort for their job (Grainge, 2018). He adds how even when you do not like something, you have to do it anyway as the following quote states,

“Look, you can’t always like what you do. Sometimes you just do it because it’s your job. And even if you don’t like it, you just got to do it anyway.”


  • Barth, K. Humanity without the Fellow-Man: Nietzsche’s Superman and Christian
  • Morality. Trans. GW Bromiley. In Studies in Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian Tradition, ed.               James C. O’Flaherty, Timothy F. Sellner, and Robert M. Helms, 353-74.
  • Grainge, P. (2018). Colouring the past: Pleasantville and the textuality of media memory. In Memory and popular film. Manchester University Press.


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Content relating to: "Super Heroes"

While the Dictionary.com definition of "superhero" is "a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime", the longstanding Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition as "a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also: an exceptionally skilful or successful person.

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