Does anybody like Superman? I do and one of my favorite TV series is Smallville. I still watch it pretty often. Smallville has one of the most loyal fanbases I have ever encountered and I’m also a part of that fanbase. I can’t remember exactly when I first caught an episode of Smallville on TV, but it was probably around 2003 when I was 9 years old.
Smallville is a coming of age story about Clark Kent trying to make it through high school and eventually become Superman. You only need to watch the first few episodes of season 1 before you begin to realize what makes Smallville, well, Smallville.
It appeals to kids and young adults who didn’t have, or remember not having, the best interpersonal skills at a time when it mattered. It also appeals to viewers who were abused as kids. Whether the abuse was physical, sexual or emotional isn’t that important. But it is important to say that child abuse impairs a person’s ability to have normal relationships. What Clark Kent, played by Tom Welling, represents in Smallville is someone that is completely relatable to kids and former kids who couldn’t develop normal relationships, while being everything they wanted to be.
For instance, in one of the episodes, Clark is accused by someone interested in dating both Lana Lang and Chloe Sullivan (both of whom Clark was interested in romantically), as sending off so many mixed signals he could scramble a radar. And that’s actually true in some ways if you watch the show. The dynamic part of who Clark Kent is in Smallville is he can’t seem to get relationships right a lot of the time, but he does get them right some of the time. However, the character is played by one of the best-looking alpha male actors to ever be on TV, who also happens to have superpowers. When you add those dynamics, people who were abused look at that character and say, “Wow, he struggles with everything I struggle with in dealing with people and having relationships, but he has superpowers and look: Lana Lang actually wants to be with him.” Then that gives them hope because the show fills a void that they either can’t fill in life currently or couldn’t at a time when it really mattered.
Smallville was one of the most popular shows when it first came out. It averaged an audience of around 7 million viewers per episode for the first two seasons, which aired from 2001 to 2003. In case you are unfamiliar with television viewership stats, those numbers are extremely good. The real reason why the show was so important is that of what I just outlined. It gave viewers help with some of their own problems, a help that is very rare to find. No, it’s not the same as going to see a therapist if you really were abused, but it was a great show that gave it’s viewers hope. Hope that they weren’t alone, hope that they could find a way to be like Clark Kent and finally go on a date with Lana Lang, and hope that having a good moral character in spite of being kicked around by life actually could make them stronger, not weaker.