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Jonathan Kent

Recently, I began watching Smallville. I’d seen the first five seasons’ years ago, but I never finished up the show. After running across the DVDs for cheap at Goodwill, I decided to see how the show held up, which it does much better than I expected. I’m no doubt bias due to being in high school as the time the show premiere and having a fondness for the look, pacing, and sound of shows from that era, but despite all that, it’s a fun monster of week story of Clark Kent.

I mentioned a story of Clark Kent, because Smallvilleisn’t about Superman. There’s no flying nor red and blue costumes. No, Smallville focuses on a young man in Kansas, his family, and the community that shapes him. In the question of who is the real person, Superman or Clark Kent, in Smallville, it’s definitely Clark Kent.

What Smallville work so well is the cast of characters. Everyone from Lana to Pete, Lionel and Lex, Martha and Jonathan seem to be perfectly portrayed. They all step into these iconic characters and make them their own, and in one particular case, my personal favorite: Jonathan Kent.

Jonathan Kent is Clark’s adoptive father, a blue-collar guy just trying to keep the lights on. In Smallville, he is the blueprint for the man that Clark wants to grow into. He’s honest, hardworking, and always thinks the best about humanity, even when it doesn’t deserve it. Like all men, he’s flawed. He’s a bit quick to anger and no doubt harbors some slight resentment for his noble life that isn’t mirrored by society, but Jonathan is the ideal role model for Clark, and well… for anyone really.

I recall liking Jonathan when I watched the show back in the early 2000’s, but I also grew up a fan of the Dukes of Hazzard so seeing John Schneider in that role no doubt played a part. But now, twenty years since I last watched the show his character speaks to me in ways I wasn’t expecting.

John Schneider was forty-one when Smallville began, so right around my age. Still, I see him, and I feel like he’s twenty years older than me. Maybe that’s because we always view a TV show through the main character’s lens, but maybe it’s because I want him to be twenty years older than me. He’s the father I always wanted. A father with expectations, and honor. A father who has empathy and doesn’t shame. Over the years, I’ve used fictional males as sort of role models and guiding lights to fill in a gap in my own personal life, but no one has truly fit 100% until this re-watch.

The character of Jonathan Kent is always honorable, noble, and hardworking, but I think by having a father who looks more like he’s in his 40’s than say his 60’s, it feels more like a father figure vs. a grandfather figure as so many Superman stories in the past have been. It feels modern and true, and the fact that he wrestles with things like finances, insecurities, jealousy, and even short temperness brings an element of humanity to the performance that takes it off the screen into the real world. Sure, maybe Clark Kent can’t exist in this world, but Jonathan Kent surely could.

Lex Luthor: Sometimes, Clark, we’re all held hostage by the will of our fathers. The only difference is your dad’s a good man. All my father does is push people away. Your dad opened up his home to me, no questions asked.

Clark Kent: As long as I live, I don’t think I’m ever gonna understand your family.

Lex Luthor: Neither will I. Just remember, my father may try and rule the world, but yours will inherit the Earth.

Published inSelf-Reflection

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