Why we need a Pulitzer for screenwriting

One of the cheesier MacGuffins of Superman Returns is the title of Lois Lane’s Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” In the context of this 154-minute Velveeta-fest, that’s saying a lot. But it does get you thinking. Maybe the world needs a Pulitzer for screenwriting. If one existed, could it perk up the superhero genre? Nothing like America’s most prestigious prize to prime the competitive juices. Besides, the folks on the Pulitzer board, who laud “heroic, multifaceted coverage,” “valorous and comprehensive coverage” and “courageous and aggressive coverage,” clearly were weaned on superhero comics. We asked the man himself, Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. “We now have 21 Pulitzer categories, and the board is reluctant to add more,” he says. Doesn’t the board care about the Man of Steel’s character arc? Warner Bros. spent more than 10 years fiddling with this film, changing screenplays as often as Clark Kent slips into tights. No doubt enough of its $209 million budget went to new drafts to feed an African country the size of a jut from Krypton. In all fairness, it can’t be easy to toss off a screenplay that mixes male and female fantasies. The Superman audience skews masculine, but about 40 percent of its seats are occupied by derrieres of the fairer sex—presumably for the love story wrapped inside the action adventure. Still, lacking the relationship gravitas of a chick flick, yet slathered a tad thickly in goo for dudes, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris’s screenplay is its own calamity in need of some saving. Maybe one day the Pulitzer folks will come to the rescue in situations like this. In the meantime, as Gissler notes, “the screenwriters have their Oscar awards.” Precisely. 

—Posted by Laura Blum