DREAMER. A word that means something different to everyone: someone that aspires for something greater, that pushes themselves to reach their goals, or simply one that dreams for something greater. But for some individuals being a DREAMER has been a burden they did not choose. I would consider myself one of those individuals. I came to the United States when I was only a child, still being carried in their mother’s arms, knowing nothing of the struggles this new identity would cause. My parents wanted to give me a better life that they couldn’t have in their own country. They sacrificed everything they had to give me the chance to dream.
On the surface, I grew up like any other child with my own dreams of being the president or a doctor, wanting to travel to space and around the world, but in the inside, I knew my possibilities were cut short. I knew I wasn’t born in the United States and that the way my family and I came into this country wasn’t okay. My father would constantly tell me, “Don’t tell anyone you weren’t born from here, or that you aren’t from America, because they could use that against you. They could try to harm us, sweetheart. You can never be too sure.” This fear had been ingrained in me since I can remember. I knew my father wasn’t trying to scare me. He was trying to protect me from those that would not understand. And to top things off, my cultural identity was in constant question as I grew up. I knew that I was born in another country, but that wasn’t my home. America was my home. I felt American. But when thinking such a thing I would feel such a deep guilt like I was betraying my own roots, my family.
Now, you must be thinking, “How does this have to do anything with Superman?” My answer? Everything.
The first time I saw Man of Steel I couldn’t help but feel a connection with Clark Kent. I was much too young at the time and didn’t have enough understanding to know what it was, but that feeling stayed with me through the years. Come 2016 with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and my whole world was changed. It might sound like an over-exaggeration to some of you, but I can’t deny the impact that movie has had on me. When I saw Superman identity struggle, I saw my own. When I saw Superman seeing how the media perceived him as either a threat or a savior, I saw how people saw me. When I saw Superman want to be seen simply for what he is, I saw my own desire for the same thing.
The one scene that impacted me the most was the one in the White House, the mob behind him with posters saying things such as: SUPERMAN = ILLEGAL ALLIEN, THIS OUR WORLD NOT YOURS, and EARTH BELONGS TO HUMANS. Very similar words have been thrown at my direction. Hearing such things is like being punched in the gut over and over again for something you had no control over as a child and made feeling guilty for simply trying to be. The moment I stepped out of the theater after seeing Batman v Superman for the first time, I immediately went to buy a copy of Man of Steel. I got home, watched the movie without a moment to spare, and once the ending credits started rolling I couldn’t help but brake down in tears.
While Batman v Superman told my story as an immigrant within a country that doesn’t want me, Man of Steel reflected my internal struggle as an immigrant, what it feels to not know who you are and that feeling of loneliness and ‘otherness’ that comes with it. While my father, in similar fashion to Jonathan Kent, was afraid of people knowing who I was, he also believed that I should aspire to be something more. My parents believed that I had the power to make someone out of myself, which they did not have the luxury to do in their home country. But I was still so afraid of how everyone else might see me, and I knew my status limited me to certain things. However, when I saw Clark take leaps of faith in Man of Steel, for the first time in a long time, I had found a sense of hope. Hope that even through all the adversities and struggles I am facing, and will face in the future, I can still learn to fly, I can still learn to trust, I can still learn to be who I am supposed to be without fear. While I am not an alien from another world like Clark, who also has quite otherworldly experiences compared to my own, the heart of the character, the feeling of empathy and understanding that I feel for him is very much there. It’s real.
Having people hate this portrayal of Superman not only breaks my heart, but it’s like a slap to my face. It’s as if they are saying that my struggles, the struggles of other immigrants, of others that feel like they don’t necessarily belong, in actuality do not matter; and their stories should be brushed off as nothing. There is a reason the Superman within the world of the DC Extended Universe has meant so much to people. He represent truly an ideal people should strive for. I saw myself in Clark and Superman, this iconic superhero that is seen as one of our modern myths. I don’t think I will ever be able to explain the feeling of seeing my story finally being told not in the shadows, but in the light, as a story of Hope.