On the Hero Ethic
Justice League and its successor Justice League Unlimited – if you consider it a new show rather than a revamped version of the original which I don’t – are brilliant pieces of television today’s youth are sorely missing; television that displays ethics, existential quandaries and is intelligently written while not being self-righteous or after-school specials like Full House for example. The Weekenders and Recess are other examples of humorous smart shows that I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity of watching growing up – there’s actually an episode of Recess that’s critical of Capitalism which I adore. If I ever have children, they won’t watch cable but rather the shows that I illegally download for them to watch – which is far more moral than paying for cable and allowing your children to watch mindless trash that’s on now.
However, there is one episode of the show that accurately depicts the downside and injustice of the “hero mentality” when it stretches beyond its proper boundaries or begins to enforce the right action rather than create the correct economic and intellectual forces to ‘suade against bad judgment and more importantly create the type of individuals who not only will not feel the need to do that which should be argued against, but average vestiges of virtue who will make the archetype hero character superfluous; namely the episode The Cat and the Canary.
In said episode the main characters are Wild Cat (a ex-pro boxing superhero who has a “proletarian hero” ethic about him of being uneducated and without powers but ultimately a source of good despite his lack of anything except his willingness to sacrifice and determine himself to the greater good and a strong left hook), Black Canary, (a sexy apprentice of Wild Cat whose only superpower is a hyper sonic – that’s a scientific term right? – screech) and Green Arrow (a billionaire who once, or still is depending on the version of him I suspect, was the mayor of some city and is usually portrayed as having left-leaning politics whether they be Progressive or preferably Marxist. Oh, also he shoots arrows for his “gimmick” but I would hope that goes without saying). Throughout the episode Green Arrow and Black Canary develop sexual and romantic tension – another thing handled maturely and intelligently to build up complexity in the characters we don’t see in many TV shows whether meant for children or adults – and Green Arrow has insecurities about whether she actually has feelings for him or merely is using her wiles and charm to seduce him into aiding her. Green Arrow is one of my personal favorites on the show, because he’s heroic without being foreboding. He’s a “superhero” without powers, as are all the other characters in this episode at-least in effect – Atomic Skull does have super abilities but the rules of the boxing match as I understand them is that in the ring all combatants have to be in-effect non-superpowered entities – and this lack of power and dealing with a feeling of inferiority amongst demigods is a major element of this episode. Wild Cat continues to box even though he realizes he isn’t spending as much time as he’d like or should – whatever amount that would be I’ll leave to you – in the Justice League because of this feeling of impotence and said feelings being neutralized and replaced by a feeling of superiority and triumph when he boxes with others who can’t outrun jets or melt steel rods with their eyes.
Black Canary essentially won’t take no for an answer in failing to accept that Wild Cat wishes to continue boxing (which I don’t understand the immorality of such action unless its funds went to finance a crime ring or was somehow a key component in truly unethical acts) and says that she will fight him so he will retire. She says that if she loses she’ll cease to try to stop him from doing what he wants, but I suspect this is just a ploy to have her seem noble and to have both sides to have something to gain from the wager. I discredit the validity of her promise especially considering what she does as she leaves the boxing ring. He says that he will not fight a former student, he only pummels bad guys and that he won’t be manipulated into quitting. However the woman running the underground fights says that said publicity is too much to turn down, and essentially forces him to fight on pain of being “fired” from being a free-lance fighter, though I expect he does have to fight on some level of regularity.
Green Arrow cunningly – which is one of the several reasons why I like him – uses his own insecurity of Black Canary’s feelings to trick her into being coming close enough to him for him to use knock-out gas on her, and then take her place in the ring. At-first Wild Cat refuses to fight him, but with some taunting he becomes a willing participant and seemingly kills him – which of course even most children will be intelligent and knowledgeable of routine action plots to know that he isn’t dead, and this is a ruse to have him feel the tragedy of death and never fight again unless it’s to stop crime.
The shows denouement consists of Black Canary destroying the entire facility with her high-pitched wail – or yalp, gotta use Walt Whitman whenever you can – essentially preventing all who voluntarily participated in said actions from doing so. This is tantamount to destroying all bars because it’s a place where losers go to kill brain cells and interact with other inebriated intellectual invalids, it crosses the line of Liberalism into Puritanism, Conservatism or Authoritarianism all which the superhero dabbles with at-times. This is essentially the main point of my essay, if you couldn’t tell. Also am I the only one who was confused whether at the end they were referencing the value of therapy with Wild Cat going to see Jon Jonz, or if it was some reference to him having his mind altered in one way or another? Well, I suppose you could say any form of therapy that doesn’t alter the mind is totally ineffectual, but I believe people understand what I mean in-regards to invasive and drastic techniques that the Martian Manhunter has under his disposal.
Heroism at-best is equivocal to Liberalism. A mentality that in-part is essential for the common good. Though it has negative aspects in psychology and logic. The first and perhaps most-obvious is it ceases to merely put a band-aid on the problem rather than actually fixing it. Superman may occasionally save a child and his mother from a flaming death, but if there were no “heroes” in the cinematic or aggrandized form, but merely people fighting for the regulation of the car industry to make their cars the safest possible even when it eats into their profits (the horror!) or even better yet complete workers’ control of factories and a introduction of Socialist Economics where the safest and best version of something would naturally be made because no other good or interest would be considered beside the common good and prosperity of all-those affected.
Also Heroism has the flashy style over substance quality of being theatrical and using that flare to create a cult who backs certain figures or narratives rather than struggling effectively for what must be done. Those who sign petitions and think they’re saving the Earth by recycling, or helping the populous in a significant way by working in a soup kitchen are expressions of this. And although comic book heroes are essentially always what they present themselves to be, “Liberal” politicians like Clinton (who wanted to extend the death penalty for drug-related crimes, so is in effect a Conservative) and Obama show how people can be narrated as a type of egalitarian and progressive voice calling for material improvement – but being petty Populists seldom focus on the overall betterment of the average person through Enlightenment values, either because they themselves typically lack a intellectual essence, or because they’re pandering to proletarian anti-intellectuals who want a better paycheck but not really what entails in a better life – but very seldom actually preventing Capitalists from redistributing money from the poor to the rich, and more-and-more-so helping in said transfer of money and power. This type of heroism however applies to more than merely fictitious entities in six-color stories.
The police officer at-best is the “Liberal” – even though on-large he statistically is highly Conservative and quasi-Fascistic. I can’t comment on their politics, but female police officers in my experience tend to be far more rude and authoritative perhaps because they feel they need to “butch up” to be taken seriously and to conform to the mentality of a largely male and conservative demographic – who places a band-aid righteously on society’s injustice. That does not mean we do not need police officers, just as we should totally reject Liberalism. There are merits to Liberalism as there is to the police, but to accept the logic or essence of either as absolute is to make an egregious error in Logic. Just and wise parents and teachers in the community however, are tantamount to the forces of Socialism, silently increasing the welfare of children and the people at-large into intelligent, virtuous, decent people who don’t require police officers save when they are threatened by the destitute by-products and representatives of Capitalist society or by the police themselves, save of course the psychologically disturbed gent who could very-well be made mentally ill by poverty, abuse, or pills that rot the brain, all products of Capitalist Society.
But of course we must – the royal ‘we’ I do have the noble blood of Snootius Yeah-I-know-this-joke-isn’t-very-funny-but-I’m-going-to-make-it-anyway-fuck-you-icus after all – address the worst that the mentality of Heroism and those with the ability to enforce various forms of control over others. In the two-part story ‘A Better World’ an alternative Universe (which Batman foolishly calls a different dimension) is shown; one-which has a deceased Flash and a Superman who murders Lex Luthor after he became President and started a war – or at-least had a large role to play in it, they don’t explicitly state he started it if memory serves. Shortly after this they become an international force effectively having absolute executive authority over the planet and creating a dystopian world where there is no crime but there is no freedom either. Essentially the Fascist narrative save its more grim realities and prejudices. Those who aren’t versed in political philosophy will believe that the Justice Lords are “Socialist” or believe in a “Nanny-state” Government that protects the individual like a parent does a child. However, they fail to understand that the form of Government they speak of is the puritanical right-wing Government that Tea-Party pseudo Libertarians and Conservatives desire in criminalizing homosexuality for religious reasons and drug use for the safety of the populous. It’s appropriate I suppose that right-wingers would have such a poor understanding of Socialism, since Hitler himself when describing himself as a Socialist described it as a “whites-only” movement. Which is akin to calling yourself a Determinist, and believing that the definition of such is that white people should determine everything, and then decades later having Bible-thumping Christians claim that Evil Person X was a Determinist and Determinism is therefore reprehensible.
Conservatism and Fascism are in this sense “hyper Liberalism” because it goes a step farther than only protecting currently existing property rights and occasionally placing a band-aid on a immoral system; only stopping injustice in-effect in its most blatantly obvious and minor forms; ignoring almost entirely systematic evils and that most evils are systemic of them. Instead, it not only creates a “status-quo” environment where those who are in power can thrive by oppressing those without political and economic power, but actual regulations and systems of power like Corporate Media that only reports the doings and opinions of two Centre-Right political parties which is allegorical of the Justice Lords have immortal members that could enforce their ideology of anti-democracy and Reactionary politics indefinitely. It also is a type of “hyper Liberalism” in that Liberalism through allowing Capitalism creates ignorance and poverty overall unintentionally, but Conservatism and Fascism consciously relies on the dupes and rubes produced by the material conditions of their regime, and wish to further it by being against education of critical thinking, secular education, or birth control.
I realize that Fascism is distinctly different than Liberalism, and in many ways is illiberal, but I use the phrase “hyper Liberalism” in the sense that Conservatism and Fascism exasperate the effects that a purely Classical Liberal society would have as well-as focusing on Liberal controls like the police and courts but in a particularly aggressive and Reactionary rather than – at-least having the façade of being – more-or-less politically neutral and not swaying to religious opinion. The Justice Lords are much like the Tea Party – though not as laughably stupid in claiming to be against Government among other obvious reasons – and like the latter have no interest in workers’ rights or implementing Single-payer Healthcare on the populous, so clearly they are Fascists that wish to increase the power of the State – even by destroying the currently existing one, which the Nazis did when they took power – and create a intricate system of regulatory controls of personal freedoms, not “evil commies” who would rather focus on giving every citizen a job, the right to both primary and “secondary” (what’s secondary about it I haven’t a clue) education so as to give the citizen real material and intellectual freedom and rights in a material Universe. The Justice Lords are an exemplification of the inability of “heroism” in the conventional sense to possess a Socialist narrative effectively. Even if a comic book hero was a Socialist, Communist or Anarchist, his tactics would not be the realistic and legitimate expressions of a Revolutionary or materialist who wishes to educate and work with the people, but rather one of a Reactionary coup. Socialists can be heroes, but those that don’t play the role or use the tactics of “heroes.”
In a way this logic – at-least in-part – is expressed in Watchmen when Ozymandias criticizes the vigilantes for their schoolboy heroics and ineffective nature, but then of course there’s the laughable conclusion of uniting the world under a lie and under fear having a paradise be under way. We of course must, not only because it is ethical but more importantly because it’s the only way to attain our goals, use the truth in a way that no other political group does – either of course using lies, white-washed truths, or failing to report on significant events and give important “reality altering” (both literally of course, by definition a fact is reality altering, or rather defining, and in the sense of changing one’s perception of reality) facts – and must actually give a narrative and philosophy of change rather than people just magically getting along out of fear of annihilation, which implies the world would be Utopian if every just try hard enough. Which is a type of naiveté that both The Beetles in their “All you need is love” mentality, Liberalism and heroism suffers from that ultimately is their downfall. Well, that and the whole Yoko thing.