Saturday, February 05, 2005

Superheroes a reflection on capitalism, global influence and conflicted misgivings?

There is an interesting article over at Tech Central Station concerning the relationship of American and the other Anglosphere countries to Superheroes.

The article offers up a couple of parralells between superheroes and America that are quite entertaining, and something that strikes you as glaringly obvious once you consider it.

The superhero's solution to the problem of power is America's solution, also: we have created a second self. Domestically, we prefer a laissez-faire government that leaves us alone to pursue our own projects. But internationally, we recognize an obligation to confront threats to world peace -- and we detect that we are the only agent with the power and the will to do so. Thus, when evil looms large, America the tolerant and unimposing becomes America, the mighty and relentless. America, the purveyor of soft post-modern values, becomes America, the exporter of surly pre-modern men with rifles. The government that leaves you alone becomes the government that pulverizes you with its super Marine strength and Tomahawk Missile vision. The administration that couldn't find your country on a map yesterday becomes the administration that renames the cities on your map tomorrow. Off go the glasses, on goes the costume, and America becomes a superhero, fighting with astonishing powers in the name of the very ideals that give it the illusion of weakness and indecision.

In each generation, the struggle is different. Superman -- a child of the late thirties -- reflects the problem of power as seen through the eyes of a first-generation immigrant. He comes to America from a distant land, an adopted citizen who gains extraordinary powers from the near-magical differences between the stagnation of the old world and the boundless possibilities of the new. For him, power is basically infinite; his struggles inhere in the imagination and determination he must bring to bear in using it -- and in the patience he must exercise in not using his power in his civilian identity. By contrast, Spider-Man -- a child of the sixties -- reflects the struggles of the second-generation American: possessed of strange (but not infinite) powers through the mysteries of science, he must reconcile his enormous responsibilities with his desire to lead a normal, fulfilling, unburdened life. When his responsibilities overwhelm him, he sometimes retreats into despair and selfishness, only to return to the fight with a renewed sense of purpose. Finally, Mr. Incredible -- a post-9/11 suburban American -- is indifferent to the origin of his power and comfortable with the use of it, but bedeviled by the enervating influences of modernism: bureaucracies, lawyers, and relativists who can see only order and disorder, rather than good and evil. Need I draw the comparisons to World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror?


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