Tuesday, September 7, 2010

...Well, Then, The Critics Are Wrong

Saw this article today on philly.com (I just wanted to check the weather, damnit): "Superheroes Are Selfish, Violent Pop-Cult Models, Critics Say." Ok, what are the critics saying? (Like I don't already know, from the puke-inducing opening line...)

Your little boy is damaged.

He's been traumatized by violence, oversexualized, and indoctrinated to believe that to be a real man he must be aggressive, narcissistic, manipulative, and misogynistic.

The perpetrators, the people behind such evil victimization, are - superheroes.

So says Boston psychologist Sharon Lamb, a University of Massachusetts scholar who claims that superheroes - once role models who inspired confidence - today are laying to waste America's boys by teaching them a perverted image of masculinity.

Uh, oh...I see where this is going...

Lamb asserts that today's heroes are motivated by selfish desires, including the desire for vengeance, and not justice and the common good.

Lamb is joined in her sheepish bleatings by John Arcudi, author of the comic A God Somewhere:

Philadelphia comic-book writer John Arcudi agrees that movie superheroes are too aggressive, cocky, and narcissistic....Arcudi says this is part of an overall tone of triumphalism that he believes predominates in American culture. If defeat isn't an option, he asks, then how are we to teach kids how to deal with failure?

He also worries that the traditional superhero just seems too naive to today's media-savvy kids. "Today's audiences have a lot of difficulty swallowing the idea that the hero is totally committed to an ideal" and not to personal desires, he says. Being cool and kicking derriere, he notes, always trump social justice in the movies.

Well, Mr. Arcudi, I hope you've learned how to deal with defeat, because your comments are an "epic fail."

The "common good"? Well, spank my ass and call me Stalin. There's nothing new in these criticisms, and nothing that hasn't been addressed over and over throughout this blog already (especially in my posts regarding romanticism versus naturalism, which would make short work of the "triumphalism" complaint.) And yes, there are a few valid criticisms, such as the misogynistic traits in some characters, and I've had plenty to say about movies like Kick-Ass. The problem is in the continuing package-deal of equating those things with "selfishness," as identified by Ayn Rand:
The meaning ascribed in popular usage
to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating
intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single
factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.

In popular usage, the word
“selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous
brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for
no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims
of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and
dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own

This concept does not include a
moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests
is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It
is the task of ethics to answer such questions.
So, with the Trojan Horse of violent misogyny comes the call to self-sacrifice, but I see right though it. They'll be more Trojan Horse dung to clean up for some time, so here's a really big shovel to clean up after those who continue to force the false dichotomy between rational selfishness and "the greater good":

The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.

What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?

But I am done with this creed of corruption.

I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

This god, this one word:

— Ayn Rand, Anthem

Now, there's a "god somewhere" for you.


madmax said...

I believe that Ayn Rand once said that altruism kills both heroism and literature. It offers nothing to aspire to. I have noticed that since the mid 90s there has been an increase in the virulence and potency of both altruism and egalitarianism. It seems to me that with the rise of post-modern philosophy over the course of the last two centuries, altruism has made its incursion into the society in increments. In the 40s and 50s heroes were still allowed to be somewhat egoistic. In the 80s, action movies were still allowed to have some prideful, masculine, egoistic men (Stallone, Schwartzeneger, etc).

But now, things are worse and today's popular culture is at war with egoism. Today's heroes (and today's men for that matter) are portrayed as one of two types: 1) wimpy beta males who are dripping with altruism 2) abusive alpha males who are often narcissistic, cruel but with a little bit of the heart of gold (read altruism). Iron man was a version of the second, although a not-that-terrible version of it. Peter Parker of the recent Spider Man movies was a version of the first.

What is missing is a Howard Roark; an honorable man with integrity who is portrayed as a man of elevated stature. Today's nihilism just will not allow such a thing. Not to mention that Feminism has destroyed TV and the Movies (its been worse on TV which is a total wasteland if you are looking for strong egoistic males - I mean is Smallville even watchable for an Objectivist?)

We live in a cultural dark age. On top of the political elites that are taking us towards socialist destruction, we have to endure the Hollywood elites that are systematically destroying everything noble about the human animal. Tough times.