Thursday, July 20, 2006

Superman Vs. the KKK

With the overt nationalistic jingoist zeal that comes with the new superman movie, I thought I'd revisit the less politicized roots of Superman. Well, I thought wrong. Superman was always been a political figure. I was not aware how much so. The surprise is that the original supes was a lib.So hated a LIBERAL was the man of steel in the 1940s radio dramas that right-wing commentator and reactionary evangelist (and Republican) Gerald L.K. Smith, denounced Superman as "a disgrace to America." To be fair, When Smith began suggesting that the Holocaust never he shunned by most politicians, even prune-juice-guzzling racists like Strom Thurmond.In looking at the history of the Superman character, you can see that his pursuit of the American way was even more overt, in the last years of the 1940s. The Radio's Adventures of Superman broadcast nightly at 9:30pm, from 960 KABL-AM. It was an extraordinarily popular show on the Mutual Broadcasting Network, claiming 4.5 million listeners in 1947.

But the left-lean didn't come from KABL-AM, it came from Folklorist and author Stetson Kennedy. He contacted the producers of the Superman series and proposed a story where the superhero battles the Klan. The producers, agreed to the idea. Kennedy then upped the ante, infiltrating the Klan and providing Klan information, including secret code words, to the writers of the Superman radio program. This resulted in a series of four episodes in which Superman took on the KKK. Kennedy's intention was to strip away the Klan's mystique and trivialize the Klan's rituals and code words.

The Klan tried to retaliate by pressuring Pep Cereal--sponsors of the Adventures of Supermanoff of grocery shelves in Atlanta. Despite Green's actions, the sponsors continued to green-light the anti-Klan shows. That's right, Kelloggs was willing to stand up to inbred hicks wearing bedsheets, even the ones carrying pointy sticks. The anti-KKK story arc earned spectacular ratings which might have prompted their loyalism.