The Lateral Superhero
It seems we are inundated with Superhero movies these days, maybe it is a reflection of the times we live in, with people facing the consequences of the global financial crisis, the European sovereign debt crisis.
In addition, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the possible decline of the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower.
Remember that Superman arose out of the miasma of the Great Depression. When people felt insecure about their lives. They cleaved to characters that have the power to rise above the soul grinding pressures and tedium of their miserable existence.
Superman was a being who fought against the wrongs of the world, an almost godlike figure or higher being that would pull the struggling masses out of their personal sufferings.
It’s fiction but it supplies the same need whist we are in that moment of "suspension of disbelief," as religion does for theists. One could argue that Superman is the Hercules of the 20th century and therefore, no less worthy of worship than any Judeo-Christian deity. If one were inclined to believe in mythological beings.
The Superhero mythos, in fact has taken on more of the characteristics of Greek mythology as time has gone on. Today, we have a vast pantheon of flawed Superheroes; they have become the receptacles of every human frailty, in effect, this very neurosis is often the driving mechanism that propels these characters into the roles of superhero.
In an age when film producers and studio executives scour the world looking for screenplays with a correct percentage of helicopters and explosions the superhero genre is a fertile ground from which to harvest.
Fans of comics offer a ready market for any offering, even disappointing ones for at least one movie of a franchise.
However, such offerings quickly become used up and need reinventing; the Batman franchise was divested of its campness with the release of “Batman Begins and The Dark Knight,” directed by Christopher Nolan. This sort of retooling breathed new life into a Superhero that had almost been dealt a deathblow by Joel Schumacher in his unbearable 1997 offering “Batman and Robin.”
Therefore, where does this leave Batman in the realms of popular understanding, no longer a pantomime stooge of the 1960’s, but a genuine gothic, psychotic vigilante with a very deep pockets?
Marvel comics Ironman is merely a more technologically encased version of Batman, whereas Batman carries a Edgar Allen Poe-ish sort of mythology.
Ironman is all about the gadgets; it could be argued that Ironman is a gadget in himself, or a man who has made himself into a gadget in order to surpass his human condition.
One could go into depth analysing every comic book hero who has found his way into film, but I invariably find myself drawn back to Superman. Is this because of his Nietzschian associations, Nietzsche who coined the name Superman or ubermensch!
Ubermensch is better translated from the German as “Over man or Higher man,” and in the context of Nietzsche’s writing it has a connotation of transcendence, but not transcendence via supernatural means rather a realisation of ones own empowerment.
Mensch has more of a connotation to the human species, rather than to a male, specifically. The philosopher declares that the Superman does not as Christians would seek, try to escape from this world by imagining another world, the archetypal heaven.
Which also requires the invention of an eternal soul, which would be separate from the body and survive death.
The Übermensch is tied to the death of God, whilst God is the ultimate expression of otherworldly values that only really exists so that beings without any other factual framework can give meaning to life.
God being dead means that God, as a discredited concept can no longer provide values to evolved human beings.
Therefore, in effect, the philosophical construct of Superman was the complete antithesis of our fictional Superhero. The comic book and film Superman has outside of a Nietzschian context become a transient vehicle for beliefs and values whilst we sit in that darkened room worshipping at the temple of Gotham and Metropolis.
You need to be logged in to comment