Here Thar Be Monsters!

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We Can Be Heroes

I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it is invariably a whopper.  This weekend has been marked by a particularly nasty flu.  It started with lung goo, then sneezing fits, then high fever and body aches, then sinus nastiness.  Hopefully, I've reached the other side now, but it was not fun.  What was most interesting to me was the way each phase of the bug was so distinct and seemed to be following a schedule.  There was hardly any overlap, just one part stopped and the next part started.

All of which naturally led me to think about superheroes.  You expected that, right?

Anyway, I've been pondering superheroes while laying in bed moaning in pain and misery.  I've never been a comic book reader and had very little interest in superheroes as a kid, though I've always had a fondness for Batman, because he was human - no super powers, just intellect and a bottomless budget.

The current superhero craze began with Sam Ramey's Spiderman, which came out in 2002, one year after 9/11.  Since then, it has reached a fever pitch with Marvel and DC battling it out at the box office, with Marvel apparently kicking a good bit of ass in that regard.  The fact that the superhero craze started post-9/11 will become important in a moment.

Basically, superheroes are part of a very long tradition of human storytelling that includes the Indian Greek, and Norse myths.  Humans apparently need to believe in god-like creatures that are both protagonists and antagonists.  Humans generally feel so helpless in the face of Universe that we need superhuman beings to explain why bad things happen, and to protect us from the worst of Nature and ourselves.

What I find most disturbing with the current craze is the fact that a great number of the characters are created by the government/military, and that nearly all of them work for the government.  In a subtle way, we are being told that government is so powerful that it is capable of taming even demi-gods.  The message is also that we little people are so helpless that we can only cower in the corner and let the government agents take care of us.

This creates an image of dependency.  Very subtly, we are told that we are incapable of handing our own affairs.  We must submit to the greater wisdom of government and trust that it has everything under control, including all the mutants and demi-gods needed to handle the problems.

The two superheroes I can tolerate, Batman and Ironman, are genius-level humans who are insanely rich.  So far, I am down with it, but then both are portrayed as having become insanely rich via government contracts, developing technology us little people are incapable of handling.  Furthermore, both characters have their government "handlers," such as Commissioner Gordon and Colonel Rhodes.

Why not characters like Dick Tracey, who used a network of street kids to feed him information or set up traps for the bad guys?  Suppose Batman or Ironman empowered these forgotten parts of society by putting them to work and giving them purpose.  Why is government the only "safe" way to utilize superheroes?

The answer is obvious.  We are being programmed to submit to government as being the all-powerful entity that keeps us safe and secure by utilizing its control over superheroes.

I do strange things - which is likely a shock to readers here - like watch superhero movies just to see how the masses behave.  All those extras in the background tell a whole story in themselves.  They are always screaming and panicking and don't have the sense to duck when necessary.  They are all basically helpless sheep that are absolutely dependent on government and superheroes (one and the same really) to save them from just about everything.

So, this is a rather jumbled set of thoughts, which closely follows the state of my brain at the moment.  In any case, if you like superheroes and want to see the origin of many of them, go read the Mahabharata.  My person favorite is Gatotkaca, who is basically the Incredible Hulk, with blue skin and the ability to change size, and who - unlike Superman - gets his power at night rather than during the day.

I apologize for the ramblings.  Hard to think straight at the moment.  Take these thoughts as you will and next time you queue up to see the new Avengers  or X-Men flick, realize that superheroes are very old in our collective culture, but that the current direction is actually training you to turn over your personal power to the all-wise, all-knowing government.  Might change you experience a bit.

Now back to bed.

By the way, the best superhero movie I've ever seen is M. Night Shamalamadingdong's Unbreakable.  It is also the only movie he ever made that is worth sitting through the entire thing.

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