Why Does Superman Bother Rescuing People?

A blog about business and economics.
June 16 2013 7:48 PM

Is Rescuing People From Dangerous Accidents Really a Good Use of Superman's Time?

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Lois Lane has some tough questions about Superman's priorities.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

I don't want to offer spoilers for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, but suffice it to say that for a while in the film Superman is kind of bouncing around sporadically rescuing people from random accidents. And it's a Superman scenario we all know and love. Even when humanity's existence isn't being threatened by alien invaders or the latest evil Lex Luthor plot there's always someone, somewhere who needs to be saved by a guy who can lift really heavy objects.

And yet is this a good use of Superman's time?

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What we're talking about, essentially, is the world's greatest solar power cell. The earth's yellow sun gives his eyes the ability to boil water, and his arms and legs can exert enormous amounts of force. In other words, he could be rigging up a plan to generate enormous quantities of pollution-free electricity! In the longer term, I'm pretty confident that solar power technology is going to improve to the point where we don't need Superman to play this role. But for the moment, Superman could take an enormous bite out of a world problem that's much more significant than the occasional plane crash or factory explosion. The world needs cheaper energy and the world needs cleaner energy, and Superman could be delivering it.

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the first person to think along these lines.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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