Friday, November 7, 2008

Of Villians and Innocent Bystanders

So where does an 'innocent' bystander end and a 'villian' begin? Far too many comic books and their adaptations suggest there is little difference between the 'hero' and the 'villian' apart from circumstance, thus making circumstance, i.e. fate, the ultimate power determining all outcomes. But what about the innocent bystander, the dupe, the 'patsy' who is either caught in the crossfire or decieved by the villian into becoming an accomplice. Almost a 'legal' question requiring a legal definition, I'm left wondering how much culpability one should assign the 'folks caught in between' the conflicts of heroes in villians. Naturally, this extends from beyond the metaphors in the comics medium into 'real life' good and evil.

Let me pose the question in light of our 'real' world: how much are VOTERS responsible for the people they (as a majority) elect? Is the 'innocent bystander' of a voter responsible for the incredibly limited choices of whom they get to cast their vote an if so how much and how much are they to blame for the outcome of their elected choice? There are some obvious answers just as it is obvious I would be posing this question on Superhero Babylon, a site ripe with intelligent discussion into the nature of heroism, and by contrast, villany. Hence, my desire to open a discussion both metaphorical in heroic/super-heroic context and literal in view of recent events in the United (Police) States.

So seriously, give me some feedback because I'm not always sure where my anger should be directed....

4 comments:

Joe Maurone said...

Interesting query, Mike. I'm inclined, in a gut reaction, to say that a person is innocent if he's simply going about his business and is caught in the cross-fire, innocent being determined by the "non-initiation of force" principle. But I'm having trouble making the leap from that to the consequences of voting and innocence...I see what you're trying to say, but the difference being that with voting, you are not "blind-sided," but given a choice...

Landon Erp said...

Steve Ditko had an interesting answer for this. He wrote a story called Static. There is a character who's close to the hero but enamored with the ideology of the villain. At one point she purposly places herself between the hero and villain and the hero says he won't protect her in that instance.

But I would be weary of that type of thinking. Its similar to what Timothy McVeigh used to justify his attack. He used the example of the death star and how the rebels were just even in killing the clerical workers and janitorial staffs.

Joe Maurone said...

The other thought I had on this question: In questioning the innocence of bystanders, it's one thing to make the point that everyone is responsible for their own well-being...but you have to be careful that you don't introduce the concept of "original sin" to the discussion...the possibility of innocence includes the possibility of innocent bystanders, which is why we have heroes to begin with...

Mike Vardoulis said...

Thanks for this discussion, Joe and Landon, you can see how there is kind of an 'innocence spectrum' where at some point even on an 'individual' basis, 'innocence' is lost in at least an implied non-forced compliance with evil. I know you guys can appreciate the metaphorical aspects in the comics medium, and the 'innocent bystander' is a cliche used in different ways depending on the tone and era of the title (compare early Spider Man issues from 1962-67 to Punisher 86-89) but the cliche is repeated for a reason. Both in the comics medium and as its 'real life' metaphor I'm looking to identify if when and where the innocent bystander stops becoming innocent.

Real world examples: U.S. Voters openly voting for socialist semi-totalitarianism, German voters in the late 1920's and 1930's voting for 'national' socialism and its charasmatic genocidal leader, 1920's and 1930' Soviet Union under an iron fist rule with no input from the citizenry. Who is the most 'innocent' among these 'average citizens' assuming there is a spectrum of innocence? As far as 'choice' I would say (and this is the Libertarian in me) there really isn't much 'choice' for U(P)S voters, but there is still an endoresemetn of evil which is unsettling to me, can't help it, with regards to the Obama election. As far as German voters, I'd say there were more genuine choices available in a parilimentary system like they (early on) had, but the full agenda of Adolph Hitler was never fully revealed until it was too late and the citizenry had been 'seduced' (word use intentional here - note the direct metaphor of Star Wars Episode 3). And in the case of Stalin, I would say the Soviet citizen was probably the most 'innocent' of the three, with an ultra-genocidial diabolical maniac in absolute totalitarian control your only option was escape (as our beloved Ayn Rand did) or resistance with near-suicidal implications.

This evaluation makes me pretty mad at the American voter, though not McVeigh mad - his "death star" excuse for killing kids is repulsive to the point that while I understood his anger I applauded his execution, the sick fuck. Besides, there weren't any kids on the death star! And they had droids for the menail stuff, pretty much everyone on board, in Lucas' vision, was a sellout to the dark side and therefore had 'lost' any innocence - not so for the government employees in Oklahaoma City.