A first-rate video on Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930). One of the more famous pictures at the Art Institute in Chicago, I have long admired it. Endlessly interpreted, the picture lends itself to a Rorschach type of test where what the viewer says about the painting says more about the interpreter than it does about the painting.
Whenever I look at it, I have always thought of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the fictional foster parents of Superman. The date of the painting would have been when the future Superman would have been around 11 based on his original chronology. The Kents would have been desperate to keep their beloved son, just beginning the mastery of his awesome powers, away from the notice of the World. The figures in the painting seem to me to be keeping a great secret. They look suspiciously at the viewer. The shades on their house are drawn. The averageness of the couple is belied by their desire to keep prying eyes away from that house. At the same time there is nothing that gives any hint of evil about the man and woman. They simply have something great that has been placed into their care and they wish to protect it from outsiders.
The association of the painting with the Superman saga is not original to me. In Superman The Animated Series Mr. Mxyzptlk, the imp from another dimension who periodically torments Superman, turns Ma and Pa Kent into a facsimile of the painting.
One can imagine the encounter that led to the painting.
From the diary of Jonathan Kent: Continue reading
Withywindle at Athens and Jerusalem has a spectacular reminiscence by reporter Ernie Pyle of his encounters with Clark Kent during World War II:
We were on a press plane flying from England down to North Africa just after the troops landed in forty two. The ride was bumpy and we were passing around a bottle of whiskey. I offered it to this big man in the back, and he said, “No thanks, Mr. Pyle, I’m tee-total.” But he said it in a friendly way that didn’t seem stuck up at all. I said, “You know my name, but I don’t know yours. Who are you?” Somebody else said, “You don’t know him, Ernie? That’s Clark Kent, the one who did all those Superman stories.” I whistled, because those had been good pieces, and because I could see how young Kent must have been when he wrote them. I took a longer look at him. Big man, handsome man. He looked like he could have been a football player or a movie star. Half Johnny Weissmuller, half Gregory Peck. “I liked those,” I said. “I always wondered how you got that particular interview.” “It wasn’t easy,” Kent said to me solemnly. “First I had to find out where his favorite bar was. Then I had to buy him a drink. And he wouldn’t talk to me until I put a cape on.” He looked at me so seriously that I knew this was God’s own truth—and then he grinned, that wonderful smile that lit up his face and made everyone fall in love with him, even sergeants soaked in vinegar who weren’t that fond of their own mothers. I whooped until my guts hurt and after that he was the best friend I had in the war. Continue reading