Thursday, October 23, 2014

What superheroes are not : not inventors, discoverers, doctors,firemen , teachers , thinkers

Mother Teresa --- with an assault rifle

It is well known that all the superpower violence of the superheroes is designed only to save us from bad guys -- what could possibly be wrong with that moral stance ?

Saving an "us" who is not totally good but not really very bad either, from bad guys who are totally bad .

Well for starters, one might reply  that in the real world the good and bad guys rarely morally divide up as neatly as all that , under all circumstances.

Again, we might ask how do the superheroes marvellously manage save us with all that superpower violence without that same violence being lethal to human lives ?

They do seem rather like a fairy tale version of the real world US Air Force.

They superheroes are like super-efficient military pilots who somehow always destroy German - Japanese - North Korean - North Vietnamese - Iraq et al war factories ... without ever killing any nearby civilians or factory employees.

And even as fairy tale heroes, the superheroes are also heroes of the narrowest sort.

These superheroes are never heroic firemen or doctors, never inventing or discovering something that helps make human life better.

Nor heroes who inspire us by word and thought - never a public teacher (in the formal sense) or a public intellectual.

Never a saint - never selfless love for humanity even at the cost of their own deaths (no agape love).

Because the superhero is always very moral without ever being very mortal - which rather takes the sting out of their acts of bravery on our behalf.

Moral Flaws in the Superhero Model

The superheroes' original creators keenly wanted to do the right thing - fight all the bad people of the 1930s - but they failed morally.

They were physically and culturally small people in a world that exalted the big.

Big physically fit people, big battleships, big tanks, big bombers, big nations, big corporations , big hydro dams and on and on.

Tragically the superhero creators accepted their era's mantra that 'bigger was better' ---  even if in a a highly selective way.

To these comic book creators, 'bigger was better' was reduced or restricted to 'bigger is potentially morally better in practise' .

Because they felt that big goodness is the only practical way to defeat big badness.

And their super bigness was a solo super powerful America defeating the Axis all on its own.

But imagine a 2014 NATO response to a 1939 German threat to invade Poland.

Now we'd see two dozen nations, virtually all much smaller than Germany (but collectively much bigger) all vowing to go to war together, unless Germany backed off.

This is a viable alternative to the DC universe's solo superpower approach--- and the way that WWII was actually won.

WWII America - even allied to England and Great Russia - could never have defeated the Axis if the rest of the world had remained a hostile Neutral to their cause : from Canada to Liberia to the Free Danes, the small nations all helped.

And remember that the badness the superheroes combat is always highly visible, unsubtle, overt.

Morally easy stuff.

They concentrate on defeating bad guys robbing a poor grandmother with a gun on a public street corner.

Never do they work against the subtle and complex systemic circumstances that made her poor in the first place.

Or that led so many others to consider being a violent robber knocking off harmless old ladies as a better job than years of occasional part time work at minimum wages.

I think there are other ways to be a hero than obtaining the super powers that make inflicting violence risk free.

Dr Dawson's tiny team of misfits and unfits is set in the same 1940 Gotham as the original superheroes but it offers an alternative example of what a non-DC Universe, with un-super heroes - might look like ...

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