Which days in the course of your lifetime were the most significant? Can you remember the exact dates, the circumstances, the hours of the events that changed your life? What were the moments at which you can look back and honestly say that everything was different forever after that? Like all of you, I’ve had my milestones, but today marks a very meaningful anniversary for me.
Thirty years ago today, Superman saved my life.
Thirty years ago today, I was a senior in high school, and I was a mess. I’d already left an unpleasant home, was living with friends’ families, was bright but violently self-destructive, and if you had asked me what my plans and dreams were for the next few years, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I didn’t think I’d live that long. My life was a wreck, I had few if any friends, no one I trusted to look to for guidance of any sort, and I was staring down the barrel of a future that had no direction and held little hope. It really, truly was all I could do just to get through each day.
Thirty years ago today, I went to the area premiere of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. Three decades later, you can debate the merits of that film all you like, I don’t care. How well it may or may not hold up for you has nothing to do with my story. I remember being excited for the movie; I’d been reading comics since I was four, and I liked Superman, though not as much as Batman and Robin or Captain America or, for that matter, pop music or magic tricks or TV or any of the kinds of things that interest teenage boys. I sat down for the 3:20 show, the film started, the music swelled–
–and the instant that giant S-shield boomed onto the screen bigger and brighter than I ever could have imagined it, I was transfixed. And when Superman took to the skies for the first time, in that moment I found the hero I’d needed. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t real. What mattered was that he cared about everyone in the world, without exception, without judgment.
Five hours later–I’d sat through the movie twice–I was a profoundly different person. It sounds a little silly now, looking back, if you’re not willing to cut your teenage self some slack over how dramatic everything seems at that age, or how important fiction can be…but I’d walked into that theater with a very short future ahead of me, and I’d walked out feeling safe and inspired in Superman’s orbit. Without that, I can promise you I would not be here today.
Thirty years ago today, Superman lifted me up and gave me the gift of flight.