Why the arrest of a ‘Smallville’ star has me completely shook

by Will Fritz , News Editor

I can’t remember how old I was when I watched “Smallville” for the first time. The show, which premiered in 2001, depicts the life of a teenage Superman. My father, ever the superhero dork, watched it throughout my childhood.

I was basically raised watching late ’90s and early 2000s teen dramas, as my dad, who was 19 when I was born, wasn’t too far removed from his teenage years at the time. 

And it was watching “Smallville” that gave me my first introduction to the field of journalism.

Allison Mack, one of the regulars on the show, was arrested last week by the FBI on suspicion of sex trafficking. She’s accused of recruiting women to join a cult that branded its members with the initials of its leader and forced them to have sex with him. It’s too soon to say whether she’s guilty, but it’s a pretty horrifying accusation. I don’t even know what I would say say to the victims of this sex cult. There are just no words.

On a personal level, it’s especially horrifying to me because I wouldn’t be here in this dingy, windowless dungeon of a newspaper office if I hadn’t grown up watching Mack’s character.

She played Chloe Sullivan, the editor in chief of the Smallville High School newspaper. Inquisitive and fearless, she never backed down from a good story. Clark Kent was cool because he had superpowers. But Chloe was cool in her own right.

Watching “Smallville” now, it’s obvious that the writers weren’t totally clear on how the journalism world operates — how Clark managed to land a job at The Daily Planet with no news experience other than writing for The Torch at Smallville High is beyond me. But problems notwithstanding, seeing Mack’s character on TV was the first time I ever knew what a reporter was. 

Years later, when I was applying to go to San Diego State, the application asked what I wanted to major in. At the time, I had no idea. I was a JROTC cadet in high school, but I wasn’t sure if I could see myself trying to go into an actual career in the military. I knew I wanted to do something important, but I didn’t know what. Scrolling through the list of majors, I got to “journalism.” I remembered how cool I once thought that job sounded. I thought of the great effect journalists have had on society, from bringing down the Nixon administration to exposing NSA surveillance. And, digging deep into my childhood, I thought of the effect that Chloe, with no superpowers, had on her world.

I checked the box to major in journalism. And here I am.

Without Chloe Sullivan, it’s possible that there would be no Will Fritz.

None of those public record requests and investigative stories would have happened. I never would have considered reporting as a potential career if I had not spent elementary and middle school watching “Smallville.”

It also had a different effect on me. I moved around a lot as a kid, spending time in San Diego, San Angelo, Tex., Vacaville, Calif. and Sacramento before moving back to Southern California in high school. Watching TV shows with my dad and my brothers was one of the few things that didn’t change all that much. Every now and then, when I’m feeling super nostalgic, I’ll turn on one of those dorky teen shows my dad used to watch, like “Smallville.”

But now I can’t watch it without thinking of the despicable crimes Mack is accused of committing.

It’s like I can’t go home again.

Will Fritz is a junior studying journalism.