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Superman’s 2 Dads: Are You a Jor-El or a Jonathan?

jorelcollageThis year the world is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the creation of Superman, so you’ve probably seen The Man of Steel. And your kids are probably obsessed with The Justice League, so I’m sure you’re familiar with Superman’s back story. No? Long story short, he’s an alien from a dying world who was sent here by hopeful parents to be raised by humans.

(Oh, and he’s really strong.)

I was struck by the contrast between Superman’s Kryptonian parents and his Earthly ones in Zack Snyder’s reboot of the franchise.

Superman’s given name is Kal-El. His dad is Jor-El. He leaves Krypton as a baby and is raised on earth by Martha and Jonathan Kent – where he goes by the name Clark.

Even though Kal-El leaves as a baby, his father manages to send projections of himself to Superman so he can dispense wisdom and instruction to his son as he grows.

Jonathan Kent has the hands-on job of raising a little boy. He does the every day things like teaching him manners and how to ride a bike. Because he knows the world that Clark will grow up in, he worries about how Clark’s special powers will be perceived. Let’s be honest, humans are not always the most accepting of difference. Jonathan knows this and he fears for Clark. He encourages his son to keep his power a secret. Jonathan parents out of fear. His advice is practical.

I do this.

I make decisions based on worry and every day of parenting has brought a new little bundle of parenting logistics to take on and make the best of.

On the other hand, Jor-El sent his son away with great hope for his future and the future of his race. Kal-El is, in fact, his father’s only hope. He parenting style is more idealistic.

I do this, too.

My children are the embodiment of my ideals, and all that I hope for the future is bound up in their potential. I believe that they are special and entirely capable of saving the world, in their way.

Jor-El has a vision of Kal-El’s destiny and he tells his son, “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you, they will stumble. They will fall. . . But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” 

Jonathan believes in Clark’s accountability and in his ability to determine his own fate. He says, “One day, you’re gonna have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. . . Whoever that man is, good character or bad, is gonna change the world.”

Maybe all parents have a little Jor-El and a little Jonathan Kent in them. In the movie Clark Kent seems to be more inspired by his father’s take on his destiny. But that is tempered with his love for his mother, which was modeled for him by his Earthly father. I guess it takes a village, or at least 2 planets.

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