Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Clark Kent Syndrome: a warning from history

I blame Superman.

Seriously. Thanks to the Man of Steel's rather ludicrous disguise, when not leaping buildings in a single bound (or cleaning toilets with a single growl), the be-caped, pant-over-the-tights-wearing super dude slipped easily back unoticed into the shadows of Metropolis, simply by doning a tweed jacket and a pair of glasses. Was I the only one screaming at the comic page / cinema screen / TV "for pity's sake Lois, Clark Kent IS Superman, look at him LOOK AT HIM, it's Superman with glasses on....he's even got the SAME VOICE !!!", but no, the ace reporter from the Daily Planet and every other citizen of Metropolis looked straight at Clark Kent, and saw only Clark Kent. They did not see the the evil-mastermind-fighting caped crusading hunk beneath.

Why would they?

No evil-mastermind-fighting caped crusading hunk would EVER don glasses and a tweed jacket would they? What a masterful disguise indeed.

Indeed yes, but boy what an effect Clarke Kent Syndrome (or CKS) has had upon the archaeological profession, well at least those antiquarian explorers who occupy the quasi-fantastical world of cinema. For most authors / screenwriters / directors / producers, the imbalance between the monotonously dull chalk-and-talk world of academia and the gut-wrenchingly exciting world of tomb-raiding field archaeology cannot easily be resolved. How can the teacher become the explorer; the academic become the adventurer?

Well, quite easily as it utilising CKS. Yes, simply by taking their glasses off anything can happen! Easy really...don't know why I didn’t think of it before. 

Glasses imply years of studious, eye-damaging research (or, perhaps, some rather less sanitary personal habit). Simply by removing said lenses, the pop culture academic archaeologist transforms instantly into a treasure seeking, bear-baiting, Nazi fighting, alien awakening, thrill-seeking adventurer. See his jaw become square before your very eyes. Gasp at her miraculously lustrous hair. Gawp at his instant designer stubble. Shriek at her insanely dangerous eyes. Shout at....well, you get the picture.

If you don't, here's something that may explain CKS and those who suffer from it. 

Horatio Smith (Pimpernel Smith)

Evelyn Carnahan (The Mummy / The Mummy Returns)

Daniel Jackson (Stargate)

Henry Walton 'Indiana' Jones Jnr.
(Raiders of the Lost Ark - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

Remember to give generously this Christmas....CKS can really mess with your head.


  1. No shot of you pre and post glasses, Dr Russell? Shame!

  2. Exactly, I quite agree. I fear that CKS is highly contagious within the archaeological heal thyself!

  3. Dear Anonymouses (Anonymi ?). Thank you for having the courage to point this out. You are, of course, both correct and have identified the obvious (dare I say glaring) omission in the recent study of CKS, something which has now been resolved...thank you again.