The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Lana Lang's boyfriend and Clark Kent's rival on Smallville
Whitney Fordman was an Episcopalian character who was a high school football student on the Smallville TV series, which focused Clark Kent's high school and college years before becoming Superman.
Whitney Fordman was Lana Lang's boyfriend during the first season of the TV series Smallville. This role made Lana Lang the romantic rival of Clark Kent for Lana's affections. Clark Kent had long harbored a crush or strong romantic feelings toward Lana, but many things made him reluctant to act on those feelings by asking Lana out on a date or trying to get closer to her emotionally. During the first season of Smallville, Lana's relationship with Whitney was one of the major barriers that kept Clark from getting closer to Lana.
In the pilot episode of Smallville, Whitney was introduced as the quarterback of the Smallville High School football team. It was in this role that Whitney led the football team in carrying out a cruel "tradition" in which the team ties up a freshman to a large wooden stake and leaves him in a corn field as a "scarecrow." Whitney later felt remorse for doing this to Clark, and although Whitney always resented Clark's affection toward Lana, Whitney and Clark eventually became friends.
At a time when Lana wanted to distance herself from Whitney and get closer to Clark, Whitney's father became ill with cancer. Lana, who was a very noble and self-sacrificing person, decided to stay with Whitney during his time of crisis. When Whitney's father died, this seemed to drive Lana and Whitney even closer. Whitney took Lana to a romantic picnic and told her he had something to show her. Lana thought he was going to show her an engagement ring and propose to her, but what he actually showed her was his enlistment papers. Whitney had joined the Marines. In the last episode of Smallville Season 1, Whitney boards a bus to leave Smallville to go to basic training.
Before leaving for the Marines, Whitney asked Clark to look out for Lana while he was gone. He pressured Clark to promise that he would do so.
Although Whitney was featured prominently throughout Season 1 of Smallville, he was only seen in a few episodes during Season 2, including an episode in which he died in combat in Indonesia. The character was not seen after that. During the first season of Smallville, Whitney was the second-most important character (after Clark's friend Chloe Sullivan) who was not based on characters who had appeared previously in Superman comics. To date, Whitney has never been portrayed in comics.
Whitney Fordman was never portrayed as particularly religious. In fact, in many episodes his behavior seemed genuinely uncharitable, unkind, and un-Christian. In Season 1 Episode 13 ("Kinetic", which originally aired 26 February 2002), Whitney even joins a small band of criminals who use Kryptonite-based tattoos to help them in committing burglary and other crimes. Whitney isn't totally in synch with these criminals, and he protests when they try to kill Lex Luthor. But Whitney's willingness to engage in such behavior, as well as his participation in the "scarecrow" tradition in the pilot episode, are signs of weakness in his character. Whitney was easily persuaded by peer pressure into doing things that were criminal or immoral.
The only reason we know that Whitney was an Episcopalian is that an Episcopalian clergyman was shown officiating at the funeral of his father.
Based on what we know from the series, it is impossible to ascertain how involved Whitney and his family were with their church. If anything, Whitney seems like he was merely a nominal Episcopalian. His religious affiliation was simply something he inherited from his parents. But the Smallville TV series steered clear from overt portrayals of religious observance, even for characters that we know, from other media, were religiously devout (such as Clark Kent's mother, who attends church services every week).
Eventually Whitney was portrayed as increasingly noble and admirable. Whitney's military service was an act of self-sacrifice as well as an attempt to follow what he perceived as his father's dying wish for him. After his father died, Whitney found his father's war medals. Whitney had not known much about his father's military service. Whitney took the discovery of his father's medals as a sign that his father wanted him to serve in the military as well, and so Whitney enlisted.
It is interesting to note that as an Episcopalian, Whitney shares the same religious affiliation as the non-churchgoing Lex Luthor and Lex Luthor's far more observant mother. Clark Kent, on the other hand, was from a Methodist family. The Episcopalian religious affiliation of the Fordman is consistent with the fact that their family owned a large store in downtown Smallville. The Fordmans were probably among Smallville's most socioeconomically advantaged citizens, whereas Clark's farmer family was more humble in its social status. (Episcopalians are stereotypically portrayed in popular fiction as the wealthist Christian religious denomination, a portrayal that has significant basis in fact.) Despite this seeming tie, it should be remembered that Lex Luthor's father Lionel put a stop to all or nearly all Christian religious observance within their home after Lex's mother died. Furthermore, Lex Luthor never actually lived in Smallville (at last in the chronology of this TV series) until he was in his twenties, when he moved there in the pilot episode. We can be quite certain that Lex Luthor and Whitney Fordman never attended Bible Camp together.
Smallville Season 1, Episode 19: "Crush" Airdate: 7 May 2002
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
[Timecode: 54 minutes, 26 seconds. Outside at the Smallville Cemetery on a dark, stormy day. In the previous scene we learned that the father of Lana Lang's boyfriend, Whitney Fordman, died. Now we see the funeral of Whitney's father. The scene opens with Whitney's mother placing a bouquet of flowers on the casket. Mournful music plays: a version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." Whitney's mother buries her face in Whitney's chest and cries. Whitney turns to Lana for comfort. Clark Kent looks on. Lana Lang is sad. An Episcoplian clergymen conducts the ceremony.]
[Lana Lang looks meaningfully at Clark. What does this death mean for the relationship between Lana and Clark? Will the death of Whitney's father give Whitney some finality in his life, and let Lana feel like she no longer needs to stay with Whitney because she feels sorry for him over how he has to deal with his sick father? Or will this mean that Lana Lang moves closer to the grieving Whitney? Right now, Lana feels a sense of duty toward Whitney, and she leaves the funeral with him and his mother.]
[Clark is framed is shown standing next to a statue of an angel, perhaps the same angel statue he was shown in front of in the pilot episode of the series, when we first saw him interact with Lana Lang. Chloe sees Lana and Clark exchanging looks. Chloe is jealous of Clark's feelings for Clark, but what can she do?]
[Clark Kent walks away from the funeral alone, in a scene framed such that a large Christian cross grave marker is on one side of him and the statue of the angel is on the other side. The image is full of symbolism. Clark Kent's powers and sense of responsibility really do mean he has something of a "Savior Complex." He saves people, but he is also very alone. This closing scene illustrates that Clark Kent may be angel and a savior for others, but this leaves him emotionally isolated. This is the last shot of the episode.]
Smallville Season 1, Episode 20: "Obscura" Airdate: 14 May 2002
Written by: Mark Verheiden and Michael Green
[Timecode: 29 minutes, 41 seconds. Scene: Interior of the Talon coffee shop, which is managed by Lana Lang. It is night time, just past closing. Lana Lang is cleaning up. Lana's boyfriend Whitney Fordman enters the establishment. He is carrying a small flat box.]
Whitney Fordman: Hey.
Lana Lang: Hey!
Whitney: How're you feeling?
Lana Lang: Better. At least the nightmares seem to have stopped. I'm glad you came by.
Whitney: I got caught up in the store. Went home early. Started going through some of my dad's things.
Lana Lang: Are you sure you're ready for that?
Whitney: It's okay. It actually brought back some nice memories. And I found this.
[Lana and Whitney sit down at a table. Whitney places the box on the table and opens it. In it are three military medals arrayed on black felt.]
Lana Lang: These were your father's?
Whitney: Yeah. I knew he served in Vietnam, but he never talked about it.
Lana Lang: Do you know what they're for?
Whitney: Yeah. They keep a Registry on the Internet. The Silver Star is for exceptional valor. He rescued three men in his unit during a fire fight. He was wounded, but he wouldn't leave his men behind.
Lana Lang: Sounds like your dad. I wonder why he never told you . . .
Whitney: Maybe he just did . . . You know, you win a couple football games and people start calling you a hero. It feels good, but maybe he's just trying to tell me that throwing a ball isn't the only way to do something important with your life.
Webpage created 2 August 2007. Last modified 4 August 2007.
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