In the new film "Superman Returns," the Man of Steel no longer stands for "truth, justice and the American way." Now he's dedicated, according to the movie's promotional materials, to "truth, justice and all that is good." Though, in the movie, the phrase gets edited down by Daily Planet Editor Perry White to "truth, justice and all that stuff." Typical editorial arrogance, if you ask me!
Although conservative talk radio has surely gone overboard in bashing the film, the movie does represent something of a retreat from Superman's traditional patriotism. "The world has changed. The world is a different place," the movie's co-writer, Dan Harris, told the Hollywood Reporter. "The truth is, he's an alien. He was sent from another planet ... and he is here for everybody. He's an international superhero." And in the movie, Superman's traditional backdrop of the American flag is replaced by the whole world.
Of course, it's good business to make Superman much less American because moviegoers are so much less American, too. A pushy, all-powerful, self-proclaimed superhero who stands for the "American way" might turn off, say, Pakistani audiences.
Still, we live in a cosmopolitan time. The word "cosmopolitan" - coined by the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who explained that he wasn't a citizen of any nation or city but a citizen of the world - means more than the ability to name various foreign cheeses. It is an outlook that sees national boundaries and geographic loyalties as quaint and even backward.
Although conservatives (rightly) celebrate economic one-worldism when it comes to trade and the like, liberals have fetishized cultural and political cosmopolitanism. The impulse to create a "parliament of man, the federation of the world," in Alfred Tennyson's words, informs every debate about the United Nations, global warming or human rights. For many liberals, globalization means empowering the transnational elites who get together at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or the Clinton Global Initiative to eat fusion cuisine while discussing the political fusion of the planet. Sen. John F. Kerry is a poster boy for this crowd. He actually thought telling U.S. voters that "foreign leaders" really wanted him to beat President Bush would help his cause.