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Topic: Completely pointless Thought Of The Day thread  (Read 250063 times)

LancashireMcGee

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I had a conversation about left-wing superheroes last night, and I'm still not sure there are any besides Captain Planet, and if that's a matter of one not being present/visible or if that's just the nature of the genre.

Much of why Captain Planet is left-wing is because his opponents are industrialists and generally anti-environmentalist. If we extend that to others--that a superhero's philosophy is largely defined by their opponents--then we come to Superman, whose iconic opponent is a corporate heavyweight, and you combine that with the fact Superman is necessarily a pro-immigration story to come up with a pretty good case. ...But you still really can't dismiss the fact that Superman is, right down to his name, an Aryan ubermesch, so you can't really stand by him as one. And of course, his buddy Batman is fascist as hell.

The other obvious choice is the X-Men, given they are a civil rights allegory and are typically primarily fighting for acceptance. That's a solid pick, especially when you recall that Professor X was classically based on Martin Luther King. ...But then you take into account that their classic opponent is Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants, who are classically based on Malcolm X's side of the civil rights conflict, and it falls apart again. The X-Men are the proverbial Good Ones, the members of a minority that anti-progressives point at and say 'see they're not ALL bad' while simultaneously calling for suppression based on the actions of the proverbial Bad Ones. The Brotherhood are the ones actually getting angry and fighting for change and getting vilified for it (because there's no nice way to do that), while the X-Men are either just sitting and waiting for society to accept them or just accepting that they won't and being good to the rest of humanity anyway. Individual X-Men stories can be left-wing, for sure, but I think the group as a whole can't narratively break from that 'Good Minorities' mold enough to be a good example of left-wing superheroes.

Then I went back to my own attempts, the characters I RPed as on City of Heroes. Being based on me on some level, and me being pretty left-wing, I could possibly use them as a basis... but then I realized that the ones closest to me and that I mostly associated with were villains. The one I take my username from was tired of society valuing money and muscle over intelligent reasoning, and ultimately decided they could only fix those problems by breaking it and rebuilding; a smash-the-state Marxist from a different direction. Another was marked as a villain because they took swings at white-collar crime, and just rolled with the fact this made them an outlaw.

I still have no idea as to if an answer to 'what's a left-wing superhero' is cleanly possible.
Cleretic, October 22, 2016, 07:21:09 pm

Captain America is basically a capital-D new deal Democrat, if you think that counts. He's the son of a poor Irish immigrant family, born during the great depression, and created and written by a couple of jewish writers/artists as an appeal to the US to stand up to Hitler. There was actually going to be a bit in the 2012 Avengers where he talks about health care and social assistance in the modern world, but it ended up getting cut.
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I had a conversation about left-wing superheroes last night, and I'm still not sure there are any besides Captain Planet, and if that's a matter of one not being present/visible or if that's just the nature of the genre.

Much of why Captain Planet is left-wing is because his opponents are industrialists and generally anti-environmentalist. If we extend that to others--that a superhero's philosophy is largely defined by their opponents--then we come to Superman, whose iconic opponent is a corporate heavyweight, and you combine that with the fact Superman is necessarily a pro-immigration story to come up with a pretty good case. ...But you still really can't dismiss the fact that Superman is, right down to his name, an Aryan ubermesch, so you can't really stand by him as one. And of course, his buddy Batman is fascist as hell.

The other obvious choice is the X-Men, given they are a civil rights allegory and are typically primarily fighting for acceptance. That's a solid pick, especially when you recall that Professor X was classically based on Martin Luther King. ...But then you take into account that their classic opponent is Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants, who are classically based on Malcolm X's side of the civil rights conflict, and it falls apart again. The X-Men are the proverbial Good Ones, the members of a minority that anti-progressives point at and say 'see they're not ALL bad' while simultaneously calling for suppression based on the actions of the proverbial Bad Ones. The Brotherhood are the ones actually getting angry and fighting for change and getting vilified for it (because there's no nice way to do that), while the X-Men are either just sitting and waiting for society to accept them or just accepting that they won't and being good to the rest of humanity anyway. Individual X-Men stories can be left-wing, for sure, but I think the group as a whole can't narratively break from that 'Good Minorities' mold enough to be a good example of left-wing superheroes.

Then I went back to my own attempts, the characters I RPed as on City of Heroes. Being based on me on some level, and me being pretty left-wing, I could possibly use them as a basis... but then I realized that the ones closest to me and that I mostly associated with were villains. The one I take my username from was tired of society valuing money and muscle over intelligent reasoning, and ultimately decided they could only fix those problems by breaking it and rebuilding; a smash-the-state Marxist from a different direction. Another was marked as a villain because they took swings at white-collar crime, and just rolled with the fact this made them an outlaw.

I still have no idea as to if an answer to 'what's a left-wing superhero' is cleanly possible.
Cleretic, October 22, 2016, 07:21:09 pm
Ann Nocenti's run on Daredevil might qualify, although it's been awhile since I last read it

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Green Arrow is supposed to be explicitly a socialist, cause he's based on Robin Hood, see. How true this is is up to the writer, though. Sometimes he just talks a lot of shit, sometimes he's shown to be a liberal mayor who goes out of his way to help the poor. He's not a great example, though, because as a superhero his actions aren't generally very liberal.

The issue here is that vigilantism, and taking the law into your own hands, is more-or-less an inherently conservative act, and the way that superheroes typically portray it is doubly-so. The idea that some people are just inherently bad and will continue to be bad is very conservative, the idea that the best way to deal with problematic people is to continue to throw violence at them forever is fascist. Some of the better Batman stories acknowledge this: how much of a good guy is he really, is he causing some of the problems he's trying to solve by being violent, how different is he from the people he goes after, etc. etc.

I'd say, of the big name superheroes, the most actually liberal one I can think of is the Flash. Again, like with all superhero things, this all depends on who is doing the writing (and also which Flash it is, I guess.) When the Flash is written well, though, he's got an underlying belief in the humanity of his foes, and although he's always ready to solve the problem by punching it or running really fast around it, he almost always tries to help them or talk it out with them first. In various groups, Flash also tends to be the hero who stops the other heroes from going too far. This scene is maybe the most flash scene ever, but it's also, to me, expressing a pretty liberal way of how to deal with supervillains: by properly finding out what the underlying issue is (in this case: he has a mental disorder) and solving it (making him realize he needs help) and even working together with the villain to come to a solution (trusting him to turn himself in).

He's still using his powers to engage in actions typically reserved for state actors, and again, solving problems by punching dudes is an inherently conservative action, so it's not like he's a perfect liberal or anything, Still, Flash ends up doing it about as liberally as possible, probably as a result of him generally being written to fill a lighthearted tone in comparison to other heroes.
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What are you looking for in a superhero to make them left/right wing? The format (also the business model and target audience) doesn't really create huge amounts of space for evangelising in either direction. Especially in the comic book format, which isn't remotely information-dense, there's a pretty limited amount you can do.

People writing whole books, films and TV shows devoted to political issues have trouble. When you're levering that into a story that's got to be 50% fight scene, there's no chance. Honestly, it's probably better that way. I don't think it's possible to put these important, but not exciting, social issues into a big Hollywood spectacle without it just ending up incredibly clumsy at best and insulting/offensive at worst. For what it's worth, I do think the X-Men deserve credit as at least attempting to be a left-leaning group, even if they are a bit clumsily presented. Regardless of their origins, I don't think they should be cast out for presenting the problematic elements of minorities and integration.

There's a long way to go still, but I also think it's important to acknowledge there are improvements, at least in conception if not in story writing. I can't speak for DC, since I've never really gotten into any of their characters, but there is a black Spiderman and Ms Marvel is a young muslim woman. The MCU has War Machine, Falcon and Black Panther so it's no longer a big old party of white dudes. A lot of the worst example of Liefeldian-style anatomy is in the past, and I do think comics are, at least slightly, less ridiculous about boobs and butts and (the lack of) everything in between, as well as the outfits covering it.

tl;dr I do think superhero concepts are, on the whole, attempting improvement, with some success. Beyond the general idea of vigilantism, I don't really see any of the actual characters and storylines as leaning much in either direction, and while it needs to be discussed somewhere, I'm not sure superheroes make particularly good background for political discourse within the writing.
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I'm talking more ideologically, and usually more subtext than anything. I mean, consider Batman; for all the good he may or may not do, his approach to things is heavily vigilante and might-makes-right, often with a bit of police state methodology in there too depending on the story (many of the Batman movies made a thing of this, particularly Nolan's). On top of that recall that many of the Gotham rogues gallery consists of mental patients, and I think we can agree that Bruce Wayne probably votes Republican. Iron Man has much the same stuff going on, only to a slightly lesser degree. I can agree that generally comics are getting more progressive, but the debate that night was specifically more on policy and ideology of individual characters, not about the medium as a whole aside from the assertion that the inherent vigilanteism of the superhero genre starts it off in that particular political realm.

I like Frank West's suggestion of The Flash, though. I'm not as familiar with him as I am with some others, but what I do recall about him is his ability and willingness to use his powers in very constructive, helpful and non-violent ways that suggest he's both willing and able to think like that. The worst I know of him doing is turning Central City into a police state in Kingdom Come by infinitely patrolling at top speed, but even that isn't that bad, especially given what else happened in Kingdom Come. Conceptually he's very politically agnostic (especially compared to certain other members of the League), but as deeds and demeanor go he's pretty solid as a pick.

Spider-Man could possibly be a good choice too for a lot of the same metrics, but I know even less about his stuff (and what I do know doesn't help; I don't think the act of giving birth to yourself fits on the political spectrum).
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 02:24:37 am by Cleretic »

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Spider-Man could possibly be a good choice too for a lot of the same metrics, but I know even less about his stuff (and what I do know doesn't help; I don't think the act of giving birth to yourself fits on the political spectrum).
Cleretic, October 24, 2016, 02:19:16 am

I do know quite a bit about Spider-man and I can make the case for him as a liberal superhero. Peter Parker as Spider-Man in particular started out as a decidedly liberal superhero before J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) took on the character. Before JMS came along Spider-man was a character with scientific basis for his powers and a scientific background. Problems would arise that appeared to be magical in nature and he would reveal their humble scientific origins then defeat them using science.  Superstitious New Yorkers at large might hear about a monster in the sewers or a goblin flying around Queens but Spider-man was brave enough to go out and reveal a madman in a mask or a scientific experiment gone wrong. He would then invariably get his butt kicked, go back to his lab and cook up some solution using science.

Spider-man runs counter to the usual binary morality and conservative vigilantism. Most of his rogues gallery start out as regular people. Some may have a grievance or character flaw, but most are not characteristically evil, most of them are just regular, good people before something happens to them, mostly outside their control and they do what they think is necessary to put things right. Spider-man believes it is his responsibility to help these "villains" by removing or dealing with the catalyst behind the criminal behavior then he makes sure they can be rehabilitated. The most important thing being that most of them can be rehabilitated.

The best examples of Spider-man's attitude towards morality and criminal behavior are Sandman and Venom. In Spider-man's encounters with Sandman he learns of his troubled past and works with Sandman to set things right. Thus Spider-man's faith in humanity is rewarded. Venom on the other hand is manipulated by an alien entity and despite his best efforts is unable to let go of his desire for power and/or revenge. Thus Spider-man's faith is betrayed.

JMS however came along and fucked all that shit up by making Spider-man magical and giving him metaphysical villains. Suddenly Spider-man was a metaphysical solution for what was often a scientific problem in his old rogues gallery. So Spider-man didn't just use his faith to guide him towards the correct solution but faith was all he needed to be successful i.e. if he believed in the Spider God hard enough he could escape an impossible situation.

Overall DC definitely leans more to the right while Marvel leans more to the left, politically speaking. There are a few stand outs here and there but this mostly is due to the creators behind the characters and the company having differing views of the world. However individual characters will vacillate politically depending who writes them and due to influence of the editorial staff. So when you break out a particular hero you have to take a story arc, look at who is writing and or drawing it and determine what they are trying to communicate, or are exhibiting unintentionally, using the template of the character. For example Green Arrow was created by the cynical and conservative editorial staff of DC as a stand in for Batman, but he was re-imagined as a bleeding heart liberal in the 1960s by Dennis O'Neil.

TLDR Spider-man has a background in science and believes in criminal rehabilitation so there's a lot for a left leaning reader to latch onto (if you ignore JMS's run as writer). However most characters evolve due to changing creative and editorial staff. So take the perceived political leanings of characters with a grain of salt, because back in the swingin 60's even batman was portrayed like a bleeding heart liberal.
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Can u get pregante...?
Perfectly Normal Novel, October 25, 2016, 12:13:45 am

Salsa Pregante
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i may be turning into a finnaboo, i listen to a finnish band and i enjoy the taste of salmiakki

send help
krytton, October 30, 2016, 08:06:49 am
Pretty sure you have to enjoy saunas and hate being around people more than those things

krytton

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i may be turning into a finnaboo, i listen to a finnish band and i enjoy the taste of salmiakki

send help
krytton, October 30, 2016, 08:06:49 am
Pretty sure you have to enjoy saunas and hate being around people more than those things
A Meat, October 30, 2016, 08:20:57 am

well i qualify with one of those

NutshellGulag

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I will eat salmiakki if it means I get regular sauna access.

Random thought:

Hello daddy! Hello mom!
I'm going to eat this cream cheese danish!
C-C-C-CALORIE BOMB!
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I will eat salmiakki if it means I get regular sauna access.

Random thought:

Hello daddy! Hello mom!
I'm going to eat this cream cheese danish!
C-C-C-CALORIE BOMB!
NutshellGulag, November 01, 2016, 12:04:28 pm
Down the street there's fried dough next door
It's the food I've been waiting for