You probably know the story of Ugly Duckling , but just to be sure: Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) first published it on November 11, 1843. The tale was part of the the first volume of “New Fairy Tales”, and it has been been adapted for various media, including opera, musical, and animated film.
In the plot, a baby duck suffers a lot of verbal and physical abuse because of his appearence. After a classic “hero’s journey”, during which he goes through a harsh winter hiding in a cave on the partially frozen lake, the ugly duckling, now grown, finally discovers that it was, in fact, a majestic swan.
The way I see it, Ugly Duckling and Superman have a lot in common. I talked about super heros here already, but today I would like to talk specifically about Superman, more specifically about the Kryptonite x Superman relationship. And his relationship to Ugly Duckling.
You see, in both cases the first source of destabilization came from the family. The parents of Superman and the solo mother in Ugly Duckling both tried, in some way, to protect them, but their efforts were not enough to free our characters from the terrible suffering caused by their origins, whether in the form of bullying or as a symbolic artifact. WActually, we could sumarize both plots in two words: family, caution.
Maybe the reason for the huge success of these characters is related to the fact that we feel represented, when we realize that families/environments of origin in general, and not only ours, can be the source of much of our joys and good memories, but they might also become the first element of oppression one must face.
I am particularly impressed by the number of people who claim to have their most fervent supporters among their family members. People who believed in and supported their ideas and encouraged their careers from the ground up. Very beautiful stories indeed, but they do not even remotely resemble mine. Some of us need to get things done without the extra support of family members.
Despite what the gossip magazines say, a significant part of us needs to go on even without standing ovations, without huge financial sums involved in our contracts. The truth is that a huge number of performers have a routine much closer to a factory worker than a fairy tale princess.
Perhaps people get confused by the way the life of many artists is represented on screen and in literature: they are either starving bodies carrying tormented souls, or millionaires followed by paparazzi day and night. The dichotomy confuses our family and closest friends, who think that if you are not rich or famous like that guy they showed on TV, so maybe this thing you do is just a hobby, and you should probably get yourself a real job.
Most of the time, this distorted view is not even expressed in words. Non-verbal signals include disapproving looks or small gestures (rolling eyes come to mind) that can be quite painful for those at whom they are directed.
If you are part of the happy 100%-family support bunch, you probably have no idea what I am talking about. For the rest of us is either Ugly Duckling or Superman.
I do not know how you handle your kryptonite, but I really wish you would not give up on your swan flight.
Be seeing you!