Superhero shows have always stood out to me, a hero complex is something many of us can relate to in one way or another, and this is epitomised in the Kryptonian that is Clark Kent in Smallville. Whilst his fight against evil and against his nemesis Lex Luthor are important aspects of the show, there is much more to Smallville than simply this.
Focusing on the earlier seasons, we can view the story of Clark Kent from many perspectives. That is what I believe makes Smallville so special. Clark, being an alien from Krypton sees himself as an outsider when around everyone else, and this is further emphasised by his evolving abilities, which made growing up for him so much harder than your average teen. His ‘alien’ self and thus inability to ‘fit in’ with everyone else is just one of his many struggles, and of course, this can empathize with many social groups including; ethnic minorities, migrants and individuals who don’t conform to societal norms. Clark is a relatable character, he wants to make the world a better place but the fact that he isn’t an ideal or conventional ‘human’ makes this journey a fight in itself.
Clark’s struggle with his identity is perhaps one of the main focuses of the show, this is justified due to it being such an important aspect of his growth and maturity as a Kryptonian, and more so as a man. Of course, the show shares many parallels with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which Buffy Summers struggles to accept her identity as The Slayer. This is something developed adequately in both shows and is clearly a significant part of their path to becoming a true ‘hero’. The role of being an ‘alien’ or the ‘chosen one’ is portrayed as a defining feature of both Clark and Buffy. Yet, it is not who they are. This has many clear allusions to sexual identity and the hardship of being the ‘odd one out’, and thus, their struggles to accept themselves and open up to others around them are relatable and something many people can empathise with. Despite their superhuman or ‘abnormal’ abilities, we are shown their true selves through their relationships with friends and significant others. Clark opening up to others is perhaps a more gradual process than it was with Buffy, though this just adds to the impact of the pivotal episode ‘Reckoning’ in Season 5.
This has many clear allusions to sexual identity and the hardship of being the ‘odd one out’, and thus, their struggles to accept themselves and open up to others around them are relatable and something many people can empathise with.
Whilst saving the world from catastrophe is Clark’s unofficial daily job, finding himself and someone he can be himself around is made harder due to constantly fixing the mess made by ‘meteor freaks’ (people infected by meteor rocks who obtained special abilities). Due to his double life, as both a young man and an alien, he struggles to confide in others. He is constantly forced to lie to his first love Lana Lang, in order to protect her from the dangers of his destiny, and effectively himself from the chance she may not accept him. In the episode ‘Scare’, it is revealed that Clark’s biggest fear is Lana realising the meteor shower which killed her parents was caused by his arrival, and this repeatedly keeps him at a distance from her.
Eventually, in ‘Reckoning’, Clark decides that revealing himself to Lana is what will make him happy, and this ultimately gives us perhaps the most bittersweet moment in television history; Lana accepts him as the Kryptonian he is and they declare their love for one another, but this only later leads to Lana’s demise in a fatal accident. Distraught, Clark demands that Jor-El (his birth father) reverts the events; consequently, Clark’s adoptive father Jonathan Kent dies on the same day instead. Evidently, he can’t be the Clark Kent everyone wants him to be and also the hero he was destined to be, as is the case with Buffy who routinely wishes she had a ‘normal’ life.
The world, or society even, doesn’t allow Clark and Lana to be together much like Buffy and Angel from Buffy or Scott and Allison in Teen Wolf. However, despite all his struggles, which coincidentally make him a stronger and well-rounded individual, we are eventually shown the Clark who has an identity and a fully realised destiny, surrounded by like-minded individuals who also want to ‘save’ the world, namely Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow).
And thus, these are some of the reasons why I believe Smallville is the best shows of all time.