Superman may be dead
but don't get it into your head
we don't have someone to take his place.
Her name is Hillary, bright of mind, fair of face.
Like Clark Kent she changes suits with case.
As lawyer, mother, wife she aims to please -Janet Krauss, "Our Hillary" from The Hillary Clinton Quarterly
Superman had a comic book; now, Hillary Rodham Clinton has her own fanzine, a New Hampshire-based $3.95 newsletter. Superman flew to the White House to help the President with daunting problems; Hillary is expected to do some miracle work of her own with the nation's health care system. Both have big goals. Both wrestle with identity problems. Both wear tights.
Both are also examples--and potential victims--of Americans' obsession with heroes. We aren't all faster than a speeding bullet, so we set up idol figures to be our proxies. Then, with the relish of Greek tragedians, we watch them topple.
Americans have an obsessive interest in the nominees for various cabinet positions. It seems strange, considering how little attention we pay to their actions once they're in the job. We may hear Warren Christopher's name a lot, but how often does Health and Human Services make it on the network news-casts?
It's true that a nominee's record and background often give good indications of job performance. But the fascination with public figures goes deeper than that. There's something appealing about finding out the intimate details about celebrities--you never know when dirt might appear. It was with a certain zeal that millions of Americans called their senators to complain about Zoe Baird's yuppie hubris. And it was with a certain satisfaction that those same Americans watched Baird decline her nomination.
A tabloid industry flourishes on tales of celebrity transgressions. D.C. Comics killed Superman because D.C. Comics executives knew that if the Man of Steel bit the dust, Americans would buy the comic book.
According to "The Hillary Clinton Quarterly"--which promises to print both positive and negative opinions--Hillary will soon be defining key issues, forging a new role for women and making bold fashion statements. Stapled in the magazine's first issue is a mock-edition that documents Hillary Rodham-Clinton's presidential victory over Republican candidate Rush Limbaugh. It's written tongue-in-cheek, but it betrays a faint glimmer of hope.
After all, Americans need someone to revere. And with all eyes on Washington, Hillary's a natural choice. Bill, of course, is not in the running. Campaign sludge notwithstanding, we rarely idolize our presidents while they're in office. We only declare them heroes retrospectively. Abraham Lincoln spent an embattled presidential tenure. Woodrow Wilson was the toast of Europe at the end of World War I, but he was hated at home. Privy to pollsters, political payoffs and re-election bids, Presidents as a rule are too burdened to take bold stands. Unless he's able to slash the deficit and increase programs in a single bound, Bill Clinton won't achieve superpower status.
In the minds of Quarterly editors, Hillary is a far more heroic figure--high-profile, untarnished, apparently strong. She made the transformation from frowzy brown hair and Coke-bottle glasses to faux blonde locks and contact lenses. She also has brains, wit and a great resume.
But Hillary Clinton shouldn't be expected to solve the nation's problems--and she shouldn't be the busts of anyone's future goals.