The implication of the ad is that you can look like Superman by using the same razor that Superman uses. But does Superman use a razor? Wouldn’t the super strong hairs on his chinny chin chin destroy any blade that attempted the job? Perhaps Gillette shaving gel has minute amounts of Kryptonite blended into its formula, momentarily weakening Superman’s face and allowing a human razor to do its thing. Or maybe the implication is that Gillette razors are strong enough to shave the Man of Steel without needing to resort to Kryptonite. Anyway, when I saw the ad, I was confused.
The whole thing made me start thinking about the abilities that we give our characters when writing. Specifically, I was thinking about the limitations on those abilities. When I want to create a compelling character, one of the first things I do is think of some flaws. In order for the character to remain likeable, the flaws can’t outweigh the strengths, but they must be present if people are going to relate to my character. After all, people are flawed.
But what about Superman? What are his flaws? Some might be tempted to say that Kryptonite (and magic) are Superman’s only weaknesses. While that may be true physically, I believe that his very strengths are his flaws. He has no oversight, no force than can govern his actions. Humans are wholly dependent on his choice to be good, in spite of the fact that he could do whatever he wanted at any time. And so, the struggle with Superman must happen within himself and against his baser nature (if such a thing exists within him). The ultimate struggle in Superman’s life is not external, it is internal. Maybe that is what makes him a relate-able character.
Anyway, since I mentioned it, here’s how Superman really shaves: