Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 26

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

I’d go so far to say that this myopic morality is the cornerstone of the superhero genre. There are subversions and twists on it, but most heroes will stop purse snatchers, mad scientists, and alien invasions, but never bother to stop concentration camps, torture facilities, or systemic exploitation by governments. I didn’t list terrorism, espionage, nuclear weapons, stonings (the bad, Biblical kind), executions of political dissidents, nationalization of private industries, voter  disenfranchisement, government censorship of the internet, government censorship of television, schools that teach hate and ignorance, pretty much any gay man giving directions ever, or poorly-defined zoning and drainage ordinances codes which allow builders to construct houses in areas of poor natural water flow that are either flood prone or will actually be covered in water in ten years. 

Now, yes the descent into silliness is exactly why they don’t get involved in these sorts of issues. Not only because the lines are somewhat unclear and after a while you’d have heroes fighting each other over how much they’re supposed to be intervening in the affairs of men (and also because it’s a big thing for Superman that he [and by dint of the fact that, in-universe at least, he is superheroes, all superheroes] never does so much for mankind that we become dependent on him). There’s also the fact that superhero comics have a narrow enough niche in the market place that they can’t afford to take political stances without threatening to undermine their readership or to justify or qualify the characters actions so thoroughly that the book becomes a (boring) mouthpiece for the author.

The exception that proves the rule is “The Authority.” Not only did The Authority intervene in an unnamed Southeast Asian country that was slaughtering its own citizens to suppress democracy, feeding the fattened dictator to his own starving people, then offering those people sanctuary on their ship (I’m going to skip the aside about how much I disagree with that last part because part of this run of The Authority is how much you aren’t supposed to agree with it in its entirely.). They then run across a Jack Kirby analog that tries to overthrow the governments of the world and replace them all with a superhero oligarchy. The Authority stops them, but after the top tier governments of the world act against them enough times and the United States is manipulated into provoking a near-war with a species from The Bleed[1] itself for...reasons that don’t need explaining at this juncture. 

To sum up something that’s really complicated, but shouldn’t be, The United States were dicks to The Authority. The Authority were dicks right back. Bigger dicks that ended up running The United States. 

Yup, that's Midnighter, aka "Darkclaw turned up to 11," being the voice of reason.

If you ever hear superheroes talk about ‘going too far’ or ‘running things instead of the people,’ or ‘falling down a slippery slope,’ or ‘eventually taking it upon themselves to decide who should live and who should die,’ or if you’ve ever read Animal Farm where the pigs help overthrow the farmer and then become just like him, then you know what happens here. The Authority is the first superhero team in an ongoing series to overthrow the US government because they think they can do better. 

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[1]Which is, like, this whole other thing.

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