Monday, October 23, 2006

The Mediatic Perversion of Heroism part 1

It's always been fashionable to rail against populism. So I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I say that popular culture is complete crap, not even my statist opponents. Everyone thinks they're smarter than everyone else, and I'm no exception. But the main difference between me and my opponents lies in the fact that they decry the morality of the people who write and produce it (because of the socialist hatred of the profit motive, commercialism, and consumerism), and I decry the morality of what is presented to us. And one of my main beefs is the perversion of heroism that we are served day after day.

Why should our statist friends be concerned about the content of the pap they decry? Every day the media bombards us with altruistic and collectivist propaganda. Television shows, movies and books praise the nation, praise the family, praise the sacrifice, and praise those who work to preserve "culture" and "heritage". Individualists and freedom lovers generally appear either as hopeless, cold shells of humanity, or as crackpots trying to defend the worst crimes (just look at pretty much any given episode of Law & Order). And what of heroism!

It's become an infuriating custom to call "anti-hero" any character that is not either a violent unthinking brute or a completely "altruistic" goody two-shoes. The conception of heroism that we have been spoon-fed by the culture-peddlers completely perverts morality. It has been drained of all intelligence or subtlety, which is why "anti-heroes" are much more interesting and morally upright than so-called "heroes".

There are two main types of "heroes"- the unthinking brutes and the altruistic pansies. Your typical action "hero", mowing down crowd after crowd with no inkling of intelligence whatsoever, will be firmly inscribed in the former category. In most other movies, your anti-intellectual ineffectual "hero" will be firmly planted in the latter category. This, I think, mirrors our political dichotomy of "left" and "right", or at least the stereotypes of it. You have your right-wing, warmongering, socially repressive fanatic, and you have your left-wing, pacifist, effete anti-intellectual, the two opposite (and supposed exclusive) ways of seeing the world. Both are completely removed from reality.

And then of course you have your "superheroes", which have both properties at the same time, and thus represent the epitome of inanity, Superman being the paradigmatic example. Superman has had many incarnations and many writers in his long career, but his basic archetype is that of the altruistic brute mixed with anti-intellectualism- little more than a child in tights with almost infinite strength. Writers of "superhero comics" cloak their moral depravity in noble words like "justice" and "freedom", but we all know that what they advocate is the nobility of sacrifice without the weakness necessary for it to be an actual sacrifice ("Jesus", anyone?).

Now, there are "superheroes" that actually need to work for their powers, like Batman. But Batman is called an "anti-hero" and a "vigilante". Why? Because he's actually motivated by his past in his desire to fight arch-criminals, instead of by fiat? How is an action done on the basis of arbitrary moral duty "heroic" and the same action done on the basis of self-interest "vigilantism"?

Personally, my two favourite "anti-heroes"- that is to say, real heroes- are Gregory House (of the show "House, MD") and Malcolm Reynolds (captain of the Serenity). Neither of them has an altruistic bone in his body, and neither could be really called an "action hero". They are individuals with principles, and they will do anything to follow those principles, breaking as many rules as necessary in order to do so. Even though fans of both will do their best to back-pedal and concede that they are "flawed" characters with "questionable morality", I find this attitude a pitiful concession to the perverted heroism that we are supposed to accept, and scorn it at every opportunity.

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