It may sound absurd, but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
Read full Lyrics
Smallville, possibly in Iowa
My first love ever was a man who could fly. I was only six or seven years old when I watched the movie Superman
and saw Christopher Reeve zoom across the screen, his red cape flapping behind him, and a lone curl hanging over his forehead. I don’t know what I was more enamored with, all his super-abilities or the idea of someone, a hero, flying around the world saving people.
I needed to be saved in more ways than one, and though Superman wasn’t the one to do it, I have a love and fondness for the Man of Steel that is seeded very deep in my heart. So much so that no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at, when I see his logo or hear a song mentioning him, I stop and pay attention. So, it’s no surprise that I instantly fell in love with Five for Fighting’s song “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” when it first hit the radio waves from the American Town
album on September 26, 2000.
The soft melody of the song sometimes makes me cry, not only because I can relate to the pain and need it expresses, but mostly because of the message of being wanted, loved, and a sense of belonging – not feeling so alien to the world. This song humanizes Superman. It shows us that no matter how great of a hero we may be, we all have weaknesses and wants. I can’t stand to fly. I’m not that naïve. I’m just out to find the better part of me. I’m more than a bird, more than a plane, more than some pretty face beside a train. It’s not easy to be me.
It’s easy to understand why Superman would feel alien in our world, because according to his creators, Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster, who wrote the tale while working at the school paper called The Torch
at Glenville High, as a short story called “Reign of Superman” in 1933, our hero is an alien from the planet Krypton. Subsequently, in the WB (later CW) television series "Smallville," the name of the high school newspaper was also called The Torch.
Smallville is the fictional town where Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity, was raised on a farm by his adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, during the Great Depression. That wasn’t their original names; they started out as Sam and Molly Kent. Clark Kent was named after Clark Gable and Kent Taylor and modeled after the heroes Samson and Hercules. His Kryptonian name Kal-El means “Voice of God” in Hebrew. While it’s easy to find the inspiration for all the names and characters in this super tale, discovering the location and inspiration for Smallville isn’t quite as easy, and determining which state can make the official claim isn’t, either.
How the town of Smallville is depicted is simple and agreed upon by all the different versions in the retelling. It is always portrayed like an idyllic place right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The first mention of the town was in the radio show The Adventures of Superman
in the storyline called “The Secret Rocket” in 1947. It mentions that Clark grew up on Eben Kent’s farm in Iowa. However, two years later in Superboy
(Volume1), it was broadcast as the town Centerville. Smallville was first placed in Kansas in the 1978 film Superman.
However, in the 2013 film Man of Steel,
Smallville, though mentioned as being in Kansas, was actually filmed in Plano, Illinois. On June 21, 2013, Hutchinson, Kansas, officially changed its name to Smallville for a day.
So, which is the true location of Smallville? It could be Iowa, Illinois, or Kansas. I don’t find it a coincidence that all three of these states are named after Native American tribes, nor that they all are hugely farming states and part of the region known as the American Heartland. I wish that I could cry, fall upon my knees. Find a way to lie about a home I’ll never see. It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive, even heroes have a right to bleed. I may be disturbed, but won’t you concede, even heroes have the right to dream. It’s not easy to be me.
There were a lot of attributes about Superman that were very popular, but the ones that this song - and fans like myself - seem to value most was his ability to “never tell a lie." It wasn’t that he could fly, leap tall buildings in a single bound, or run faster than a locomotive, but his honesty, his heart and his passion that made him a true hero. I relate to how he felt as an orphan, having that strong desire to find an identity, to belong somewhere to someone. No matter how magnificent Superman’s abilities, his greatest attributes were his love and use of his powers to save an often ungrateful and selfish world. Up, up and away, away from me. Well, it’s alright. You can all sleep sound tonight. I’m not crazy, or anything. I can’t stand to fly. I’m not that naïve. Men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees. I’m only a man in a silly red sheet, digging for Kryptonite on this one way street. I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, looking for special things inside of me.
I must give credit to singer-songwriter John Ondrasik, aka Five for Fighting, for being able to capture the humanity of Superman in a simple song. Mr. Ondrasik, born on January 7, 1965, used his classical training in creating a soft melody that makes you feel like you're flying right along with Superman and connecting with his fear and loneliness. The song hit an emotional chord so strongly it was used as the anthem for the 9/11 attacks at The Concert for New York City in 2001, a time when America needed a hero, or at least the hope for one. It’s surprising that a band named for a fighting penalty in the game of Ice Hockey was used to sooth people after one of the world’s largest displays of violence. I’m only a man in a silly red sheet. I’m only a man looking for a dream. I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, and it’s not easy …to be me.
Superman is still my first love and every time I hear this song I’m reminded a little about what is the better part of humanity. It gives me the courage to follow my dreams. It reminds me of the silly things that I often make so much bigger, and the bigger things that are really just silly. I, too, am looking for special things inside of me. It’s not easy …to be me.
~ T.L. Gray
T.L. Gray is a best-selling published author, literary agent, editor, blogger, and contributing writer to various print and online magazines. When this active outdoor enthusiast isn’t hiking down some wild, adventurous, backwoods trail, or cooking gourmet food, she is listening to an eclectic assortment of music or playing her acoustic guitar. For more information visit her Facebook Page at AuthorTLGray
Superman (It's Not Easy) Songfacts
Browse all Songplaces