Superheroes: Allegories or Entertainment?
This article was originally published on the Good Men Project on 28 September 2015.
A lot of things will be different for my children as they grow up. Technology and entertainment will continue to evolve and change until it barely resembles my childhood. Fortunately, their television heroes won’t be far removed from my own.
Children’s television went through some pretty rough patches during the 00s. I watched Batman and Superman in the 90s while later my younger brother consumed a steady diet of SpongeBob Squarepants.
Some may see both eras as harmless fun, but I’m pleased to see the return of the superhero. I believe that the cartoons I watched were a daily lesson in morality. Attending Sunday School taught me about the Good Samaritan and turning the other cheek. Watching Batman taught me about justice, doing the right thing, and fighting fair even when the ‘bad guys’ don’t. They were complimentary.
As adults we discuss morality and ethics online, and many of us use the adventures of our superheroes as the medium. This fan theory made an interesting argument that proclaimed the Joker the real saviour of Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises. He took control away from the major crime families, replaced corrupt politicians and police officers with more honest men, and rid Gotham City of the vigilantism that had grown out of control. The Joker’s means were unorthodox, bloody, and terrifying, but could the ends justify the means? Were his actions the crucible where a renewed Gotham was forged? Or was he just a psychopath ready to watch the world burn?
These questions are not far removed from the ethics courses taught in university. Do the ends justify the means? Do two wrongs make a right? Who decides right from wrong? And does a Hollywood movie make a viable sandbox for us to work with? Perhaps this is the next evolution of the internet, as we learn from each other and have philosophical debates using fictional characters to make our points understood.
Or maybe this is just an attempt to rile up a few Batman fans. And maybe I’m just a grown up nerd looking forward to watching cartoons with my kids.
Photo credit: Flickr/JD Hancock