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The vigilantism of superheroes

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libertygrl
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Posted 03/09/11 - 3:50 PM:
Subject: The vigilantism of superheroes
It's commonly accepted that vigilantism is a bad idea for general society. Why do superheroes get away with it, then? Not only do they get away with it, but we seem culturally in love with the idea of superheroes, of the comic book (and film) mythologies. Is it just because they have special powers? Or is it because they don't fear taking the law into their own hands? Any thoughts?

Another question - do you have a favorite superhero? Which one(s)? Can be from comic book, film, or television; I would personally include Neo from "The Matrix" as one of my faves. Also Wonder Woman (oh yes. I am a child of the seventies.) Used to love the Hulk t.v. show too (so yes. child of the eighties too.) Oh and the bionic man/woman.

Recently we have the film incarnations of Batman (The Dark Knight) and Green Hornet, for example, in which ordinary men (and children, in "Kick Ass") take on the role of superhero without having actual super powers. They do in most cases, though, have access to state-of-the-art technology. In any case, they are all vigilantes at heart.
Monk2400
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Posted 03/09/11 - 5:40 PM:

Its totally because of their powers. I won't quote the tired old line from Spider-man, but it's true. Its like the Ring of Gyges. It gives you a special power. Now what do you do with that power? Do you have a moral obligation to do good with it? Well, it seems that IF you ARE good, you will fulfill your heart's desire to do your duty and do good. If you are BAD then you become a criminal! For each super "hero" there is a super "criminal" who is often just as powerful but fundamentally bent on criminal acts.

If you could be invisible, why wouldn't you walk into a bank and help yourself to the money? Why wouldn't you sit in your neighbour's bathroom and watch her take a shower? Indeed, what could prevent you from doing anything you want?

Similarly, if we see someone who has a great power squander it or hide it away when they could use it for the betterment of human kind, what do we think of that person? At the very least we find it to be a terrible waste, like the kid genius whose only aspiration in life is to host a game show.

I've got lots of super heros I love, like Spider-man, cause it would be fun to craw the walls. I might pick Goku and Vegeta from DragonBallZ as the modern asian superhero.

But what of villans? I always liked Electro, a Spider-man villan. There's something about shooting lightning out of your finger tips that is way cool.



Or Iron's Man's Living Laser. He was cool too, when he was a being of pure light.



8)
libertygrl
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Posted 03/09/11 - 6:27 PM:

it's interesting, though, that we would rather see such superhumans taking the law into their own hands, rather than cooperating with the law, don't you think? why is that? this is what i wonder.

my favorite villain, off the top of my head, is heath ledger's joker from the dark knight.
Thinker13
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Posted 03/10/11 - 12:22 AM:

We had some discussion on Joker’s intriguing and mysteriously powerful personality. Jokers have always terrorized people, especially kids. ‘Coulrophobia’ is fear of clowns. There has been a lot of amplification and exaggeration of this very fear in movies and on television. Nolan has reinforced that fear with a twist of genius in it. Willem had also started a similar topic, at that time I had some favorites but I have no more. I do not have any favorite superheroes or super villains, but, just for entertainment value, I would prefer being in company of Dr. Manhattan or Spider-Man or Sherlock Holmes or Iron Man. Superheroes taking law in their hands is justified because LAW is nothing but power; thier power makes them capable of manipulating law. In that way revolutions are, superheroes de-personified, because revolutions change law. The affinity for super-heroes is hyper-extension of ‘Will to Power’. What we cannot do in this reality, we subconsciously do in dreams. The superheroes are the extension of this subconscious urge of breaking boundaries and having immense power. Power that allows us to fly, to transmute, to run at super speed, to become invisible at will and so on… The more the knowledge and degree of freedom you have, higher will be your ‘will to power’. The super-heroes like Manhattan have capacity to create alternate reality…they have God-like power. The Buddhists also propound theories in which every Buddha creates his own alternate reality. This is ‘will to more and more power’ in its highest form. Fredric Nietzsche said once “If there is a God, why should I not be that? “
Monk2400
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Posted 03/10/11 - 3:04 AM:

libertygrl wrote:
it's interesting, though, that we would rather see such superhumans taking the law into their own hands, rather than cooperating with the law, don't you think? why is that? this is what i wonder.


Well, depending on the powers they have, they may be able to go beyond the law. The law itself might handcuff them or prevent them from using their power, which would amount to the same thing as if they sat at home and did nothing. Ordinary people already do ordinary law jobs. A superhero can do things that they can't.

OTOH, superheros are usually doing things that aren't all that bad--they chase down muggers and stop robberies in progress. And then they deal with global threats planned by super villains that no ordinary law enforcers know about or could deal with.

Spider-man always leaves the bad guys tied up and red-handed with the vault open, and gives the cops lots to do. Mostly paper work, lol.

8)
Monk2400
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Posted 03/10/11 - 3:07 AM:

Thinker13 wrote:

Superheroes taking law in their hands is justified because LAW is nothing but power; thier power makes them capable of manipulating law. In that way revolutions are, superheroes de-personified, because revolutions change law. The affinity for super-heroes is hyper-extension of ‘Will to Power’. What we cannot do in this reality, we subconsciously do in dreams. The superheroes are the extension of this subconscious urge of breaking boundaries and having immense power.


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henry quirk
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Posted 03/10/11 - 12:15 PM:

Two things stand out...

"Superheroes taking law in their hands is justified because LAW is nothing but power"

...and...

"Spider-man always leaves the bad guys tied up and red-handed with the vault open"

-

With the first: *Superman does what he does out of choice, choice born of his own innate preferences, dressed up in the values transmitted to him by Ma and Pa Kent.

I believe the innate is largely set before a body is born and is foundational for the majority of what a person 'is'.

Stick Kal-El in a commie country and watch him do substantially the same things he does in a constitutional republic...the 'dressing' will differ, of course, but the actions will be largely the same.

But: let's say General Zod comes to earth first...Zod is much more mercenary and *ahem* Quirk-like. No matter where you stick Zod (the U.S., Russia, Tanzania, etc.) Zod will fuck you up.

And: if no other Kryptonian comes along to stop him, all human law, 'rights', justice, etc. go out the window, replaced with what Zod wants.

Did I mention that under Zod, you're fucked?

I did?

Good.

So: yeah, it is about power, about might...but might doesn't exist in vacuum, or as a quality that can be teased out...might -- in the human (or Kryptonian) sense -- is integral to and synonymous with the might-holder.

Superman will use his might (him 'self') in ways General Zod thinks are just plain dumb.

This is not a failing (or triumph) for Kal-El: it's simply who and what he is.

-

With the second: Rorschach thinks Spidey is a pussy. Kovacs, under his ever-changing mask, rolls his eyes at the niceties of tying up the bad guys and leaving them for the cops to process.

Rorschach just kills them...he finds the bad guys and kills them: end of story.

Another example of each (Spidey, Kovacs) using might (him 'self') in ways wholly appropriate for who and what each is.

-

As Lib asks in the opener, "Why do superheroes get away with it...?"

The simple (and, I think, the right) answer: because each wants to and can. In this: the motivation of the super'hero' is no different than the motivation of the super'villian'.

Superman does what he does because he chooses to and because he can...Rorschach does what he does because he chooses to and because he can.

'Choice' extending out from the very flesh that comprises each.

And: in this, the motivation of super-heroes and -villains is no different than my, your, his, her, motivation...we -- each of us -- do what we can and choose to do.

All we lack are the spandex costumes, masks, and four-color panels.





*Two things come to mind: 'Miracle Man' (known as 'Marvel Man' in Britain), and 'Hancock'. Both (one, a comic, the other, a movie) are largely successful treatments of what it would be like if a 'Superman' really existed.
Thinker13
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Posted 03/10/11 - 12:32 PM:

henry quirk wrote:
Two things stand out...

"Superheroes taking law in their hands is justified because LAW is nothing but power"

...and...

"Spider-man always leaves the bad guys tied up and red-handed with the vault open"

-

With the first: *Superman does what he does out of choice, choice born of his own innate preferences, dressed up in the values transmitted to him by Ma and Pa Kent.

I believe the innate is largely set before a body is born and is foundational for the majority of what a person 'is'.

Stick Kal-El in a commie country and watch him do substantially the same things he does in a constitutional republic...the 'dressing' will differ, of course, but the actions will be largely the same.

But: let's say General Zod comes to earth first...Zod is much more mercenary and *ahem* Quirk-like. No matter where you stick Zod (the U.S., Russia, Tanzania, etc.) Zod will fuck you up.

And: if no other Kryptonian comes along to stop him, all human law, 'rights', justice, etc. go out the window, replaced with what Zod wants.

Did I mention that under Zod, you're fucked?

I did?

Good.

So: yeah, it is about power, about might...but might doesn't exist in vacuum, or as a quality that can be teased out...might -- in the human (or Kryptonian) sense -- is integral to and synonymous with the might-holder.

Superman will use his might (him 'self') in ways General Zod thinks are just plain dumb.

This is not a failing (or triumph) for Kal-El: it's simply who and what he is.

-

With the second: Rorschach thinks Spidey is a pussy. Kovacs, under his ever-changing mask, rolls his eyes at the niceties of tying up the bad guys and leaving them for the cops to process.

Rorschach just kills them...he finds the bad guys and kills them: end of story.

Another example of each (Spidey, Kovacs) using might (him 'self') in ways wholly appropriate for who and what each is.

-

As Lib asks in the opener, "Why do superheroes get away with it...?"

The simple (and, I think, the right) answer: because each wants to and can. In this: the motivation of the super'hero' is no different than the motivation of the super'villian'.

Superman does what he does because he chooses to and because he can...Rorschach does what he does because he chooses to and because he can.

'Choice' extending out from the very flesh that comprises each.

And: in this, the motivation of super-heroes and -villains is no different than my, your, his, her, motivation...we -- each of us -- do what we can and choose to do.

All we lack are the spandex costumes, masks, and four-color panels.





*Two things come to mind: 'Miracle Man' (known as 'Marvel Man' in Britain), and 'Hancock'. Both (one, a comic, the other, a movie) are largely successful treatments of what it would be like if a 'Superman' really existed.



Very lively written Henry! A fresh piece wink
libertygrl
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Posted 03/11/11 - 2:56 PM:

Thinker wrote:
The affinity for super-heroes is hyper-extension of ‘Will to Power’. What we cannot do in this reality, we subconsciously do in dreams. The superheroes are the extension of this subconscious urge of breaking boundaries and having immense power.

yes! quite so.

Thinker wrote:
Fredric Nietzsche said once "If there is a God, why should I not be that?"

thumb up

Monk wrote:
Well, depending on the powers they have, they may be able to go beyond the law. The law itself might handcuff them or prevent them from using their power, which would amount to the same thing as if they sat at home and did nothing.

in terms of "equal rights and equal opportunities", some could even construe superhuman ability as violation of the law. this idea was touched on, very lightly, in "the incredibles". one of the x-men films, too (the second one?).

should superpeople be allowed this seemingly unfair advantage? i think you're right that law enforcement would probably not be terribly keen on cooperating with someone bearing superhuman powers. fear and insecurity would be obstacles to trust. thus, you could understand a natural tendency to work above the law, or against it.

Monk wrote:
Spider-man always leaves the bad guys tied up and red-handed with the vault open, and gives the cops lots to do. Mostly paper work, lol.

ha. nolan's batman, too, seemed to cooperate with law enforcement to the greatest extent possible, turning criminals over to be prosecuted. in the end, though (of dark knight), he was painted by his own society to be a villain.

quirk wrote:
Two things come to mind: 'Miracle Man' (known as 'Marvel Man' in Britain), and 'Hancock'. Both (one, a comic, the other, a movie) are largely successful treatments of what it would be like if a 'Superman' really existed.

i've been wanting to see hancock. will have to check it out. thumb up

quirk wrote:
Rorschach just kills them...he finds the bad guys and kills them: end of story.

i think in addition to all the points that have been made so far, maybe we also have this sort of cathartic need to express vigilantism vicariously through our storytelling. to be able to consider the pitfalls and maybe emotional isolation that goes together with being a vigilante.

Edited by libertygrl on 03/11/11 - 3:34 PM
Monk2400
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Posted 03/11/11 - 5:39 PM:

Well, Police Commissioner Gordon is the one who turns on the Batsignal all the time.

I think going to superheros is like calling in the Black Ops dudes. They do things and go places others can't or won't and they're not subject to the common law, although they do have their own rules, which they live (and die) by.




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