Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 20

Every Tuesday I post excerpts from best selling at not selling super blog, Playing Favorites.

…okay, I've never known the most about Spider-Man. I just read his wikipedia and there is very little heroic on that page. I mean, the guy retires every chance he gets. I know that his responsibility is his curse; that being Spider-Man is a burden he carries and an obligation he feels he owes to the world. I get that often times it seems like nothing he does is rewarded and yet he keeps soldiering on, not because he enjoys it (though he does sometimes), but because it's the right thing to do. That's pretty heroic, really. That he does something he receives no intrinsic reward for because it's the right thing to do (until there's someone else around to do it. Which there always has been, but maybe he thinks the world needs Spider-Man? I dunno.). Honestly, his actions during Civil War are impressive. He sides with obvious douche-duo Tony Stark and Hank Pym to register and reveal his secret identity, even though it's incredibly dangerous because he thinks it's the right thing to do. Then he changes sides. Though it might look like a pretty weak move on his part, changing sides in the middle of Civil War, when you and your loved ones are sitting in the belly of the illegal arrest and civil rights violating beast to maybe join a side that you've already thrown some punches against?

But I wouldn't know that if I hadn't gotten to read Civil War. Maybe Spidey is just as noble and self-sacrificing in his actual comics, but that doesn't come through in the summations. I'll give Spidey benefit of the doubt for now though; when I actually read him I'm impressed because he'll do the right thing even if it doesn't work out for him and increasingly, he'll stand up to anyone who's in the wrong, regardless of his odds of winning. It's kind of a Rorschach quality, and the only reason Rorschach isn't on this list is because he's a bit of a self-righteous crazy pants (possibly fascist? Must investigate further.).

But it's the principles that are important. Spider-Man hates being a hero, and it rarely brings him anything but trouble, but he does it anyway because it's the right thing to do. Until, that is, someone relieves him of that burden. Spider-Man doesn't necessarily have a very strong internal moral compass, but he does commit to doing the right thing, even when he isn't sure of it. He has faith in others, and while that can make him a bit wishy-washy at times, it also means that he makes mistakes and he's proven time and time again that he's willing to pay the price to set them right. All of this also has the side effect of making him a pretty humble guy; it's pretty rare for Spider-Man to just blow someone off. He'll usually hear out anyone (unless they're doing a really boring monologue.).

I think part of his whishy-washyness is that he quite probably has the most myopic morality of any hero. No one ever (as far as I know) seriously tempted Spider-Man with the whole “let X die, and you'll save Z, which is way more than X” scenario. I'm sure it's been trotted out in front of him, but Spider-Man seems like a character who wouldn't—couldn't--take that offer. Thinking of it though, it seems like Batman would pass on the same offer because he would never accept that there wasn't another way. Spider-Man it seems wouldn't take it because it's just not right. Maybe part of Spider-Man's general relatability is that he is just a nice guy, but sometimes his morals lock up around the corner cases. His sense of right and wrong is intuitive; not a hard and fast code like what Batman has. While this does put him on the same moral category as the rest of us (generally nice people with a few moral pet peeves and blind spots), it doesn't really give him a lot of integrity. What he does have, however, is a greater commitment to what he does think is right (at any particular moment), even if whatever he thinks is right is completely swayed by the latest, red-white-and-bluest rhetoric he's heard:
Alright, imagine this, but Cap is convincing Spidey to suicide bomb Avengers Tower.

When I think about it, Spidey's heel-face turn in Civil War is almost Marvel editorial telling readers what kind of douchenozzles swing voters are. “Dear readers, like you guys and this story line, voters will usually already know who they're voting for once their party has a candidate. The exceptions are swing voters, who will pretty much change their mind for high-sounding words that tell them they're infallible and blatant appeals to nationalism. Even though you pro-registration guys knew you were backing a straw-man side from the get-go, at least you picked one based on protesting this poorly canted, unbalanced theme of this event instead of getting halfway through the event before realizing that Captain America is the always-right editorial Mary Sue when this crap comes up. Or just doing whatever Spider-Man does.”
It's like Spider-Man is a hero who somehow works better when he does stuff that just isn't smart[1]. Not retarded or anything, but the One More Day business that gave so many readers (and overly opinionated non-readers) fanuerisms about his marriage fits this perfectly; no one wants anyone close to them to die, and certainly, wrecking your marriage because this shit always works out in the end just to keep a family member around is the sort of decision that I think people make. Hell, until the divorce rate drops and/or we legalize euthanasia, I'm just going to go ahead and imagine this shit happens all the goddamned time.

Back me up on this guys. Say you saw a report on Dateline. Back up stories involving deals with The Devil are optional.

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[1] This is different from Daredevil because Spider-Man usually chooses to do something that is smart.

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