Friday, November 19, 2004

Superheroes, Saving the World from Democracy

Incredible Logo swastika Hammer & Sickle
[Political propaganda] is aimed at the broad masses. It speaks the language of the people because it wants to be understood by the people. Its task is the highest creative art of putting sometimes complicated events and facts in a way simple enough to be understood by the man on the street. [...] Political propaganda, the art of anchoring the things of the state in the broad masses so that the whole nation will feel a part of them, cannot therefore remain merely a means to the goal of winning power. It must become a means of building and keeping power.
Joseph Goebbels, Nuremberg, 1934, from Der Kongress zur Nürnberg 1934 (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., Frz. Eher Nachf., 1934)

The Incredibles claims to be a parody of Superhero genre in American cinema, but what the movie does is nothing but re-validating the anti-democratic ideology behind what it is mocking. The story pictures a world threatened by an 'evil' character who plans to attack a New-York-city-like metropolis from a far island. The only people who can stop the danger are the superheroes, a minority who are born to save others by using their extra-ordinary abilities. Unfortunately the democratic society they live in does not appreciate them and treats them like any other citizen and expects them to behave as any other citizen too. The system doesn't let them to work outside the framework of law and democratic values, and believes ''everyone is special, so no one is,'' and is a place where ''everybody will be super, which means no one will be.''
The movie proves that all these are wrong. That superheroes exist, and they should be treated differently from other citizens. That the 'evil' exists and attacks New York city, and the 'superheroes' are the ones who have the right to do whatever they want to save the world, even if it needs to let them work outside the law...
Does the story sounds familiar? I am not surprised.

Superman was created in 1933 -the same year Hitler came to power in Germany. The first Superman comic book was published in 1938 by DC comics and its immediate success began a new genre in comic books, movies, cartoons, and other pop culture media that was different in its mythological style of storytelling and the messianic character it portrayed for the masses.
The word Superman, or “Der Übermensch” was the title Hitler used to describe himself. Superman’s other title, “Man of Steel,” reminds me of the other dictator of the '30s, Joseph Stalin, because it is what the word 'Stalin' means in Russian.
These hints leads me to some questions: What did Superman and the homonymous dictators have in common that make them all to chose the same names? What were the reasons for the invention of Superman in the thirties? Why both Superheroes and dictators have their own easy-to-remember logos? What makes them so popular among the masses?

Superheroes and dictators create a world for their audience that defines their position as being ‘absolutely right’ on every issue and ‘absolutely good’ in every circumstance. They all fight against self-defined ‘forces of darkness’ and in their battles they all have self-proclaimed quasi-religious ‘blessing’. They are all committed to a self-defined concept of justice that puts them above the law. The law itself is not an issue for them. But what they are concerned about is justice. In this regard they all see themselves as a perfect embodiment of law enforcement and do their job by whatever means necessary. In all these cases it is the power of the superheroes’ fists that at the end of the story brings the world back to its “edenic” order. Superheroes and dictators share the same worldview, although with seemingly different value systems. They create a world that is easily understandable for masses.
In such a world there is no responsibility for the regular citizens in taking care of their problems or 'dangers' threatening them. They have nothing to do but supporting their superheroes. Superheroes who not only fight the evil but also are the only ones who define it.

* Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios
* The Quote from Joseph Goebbels from here. copyright © 2000 by Randall Bytwerk.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Monday, November 01, 2004

History of The Night


It is a long time I haven't blogged. Let me begin again with a poem by Borges:

History of The Night

Throughout the course of the generations
men constructed the night.
At first she was blindness;
thorns raking bare feet,
fear of wolves.
We shall never know who forged the word
for the interval of shadow
dividing the two twilights;
we shall never know in what age it came to mean
the starry hours.
Others created the myth.
They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates
that spin our destiny,
they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock
who crows his own death.
The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses;
to Zeno, infinite words.
She took shape from Latin hexameters
and the terror of Pascal.
Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland
of his stricken soul.
Now we feel her to be inexhaustible
like an ancient wine
and no one can gaze on her without vertigo
and time has charged her with eternity.

And to think that she wouldn't exist
except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.

Photo: UPI/Bettmann.
1984. Borges in his mother's old room at calle Maipú.