Friday, July 23, 2010


I love a good superhero analogy. Here are my current two favourites. The first is from Kill Bill, and Bill's superhero speech about Clark Kent/Superman which I love.

As you know, I'm quite keen on comic books. Especially theones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favourite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology...The mythology is not only great, it's unique.

Now, the staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up int he morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak...he's unsure of himself...he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.

Here is my other new favourite, this an an excerpt from Michael Muhammad Knight's book Journey to the End of Islam:

A week after coming home, I saw then new Batman movie, whipping out a notepad and scribbling thoughts in the dark:

post-9/11 PTSD

I felt it in the first shot, the camera zooming in on a building from the POV of Mohamed Ata in a cockpit.

The plot: Gotham City, the fictitious New York, has been overrun by a villain who betrays all the motives and methods of conventional crooks. The Joker is killing cops, assassinating officials, blowing up hospitals, frezing the city with videotaped threats, and declares himself the new ruler of Gotham, but he's not in it for the money or power, they say that he just “wants to see the world burn.” The good guys explicitly refer to the Joker as a terrorist, in case you failed to catch that he's Osama bin Laden.

On the public surface, the Joker's opposition is Harvey Dent, the idealistic new district attorney who wields the power of law and structure. Compulsive coin-tosser Dent believes in a dualistic universe of Good and Evil, with good guys and bad guys clearly defined by the way that they fight. The Joker burns off half his face and murders the love of his life, turning Dent into the monstrous Two-Face who now sets out to kill everyone he blames for his loss-both the criminals and heroes-to make things “fair.”

Batman continues the good fight underground, in ways that the public could never understand. The Joker is only defeated when Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucian Fox-played by Morgan Freeman, whose voice of moral authority has, various time sin his career, allowed him to play God and the president of the United States, as well as Malcolm X two decades before Denzel-agrees to temporarily suspend his ethics and spy on Gotham's citizens through their cell phones. Batman gives him the promise that it's just this one time, after which the computers will be destroyed. Lucian Fox is rewarded for his faith in the outlaw, while Batman shoots Dent and realises that Gotham cannot know what became of their beloved district attorney. Batman takes the blame for Dent's violence and becomes the sacrificial scapegoat hero who is never thanked, only despised and hunted by the city that he saved.

Knowing that the Joker is bin Laden, my question would be whether George W. Bush saw himself as Harvey Dent-the earnest public servant transformed by the monsters that he fights-You thought we could be decent men in an indecent world?-or Batman, our vigilante who does the wrong things for the right reasons and carries that burden because no one else can.

The film's moment of truth emerges when the Joker's “social experiment” in which two barges filled with evacuees are both rigged with bombs and the passengers of each are given a remote-control detonator to blow up the other. Whichever set of passengers decides to push the button first will be spared, but if neither have done so by the stroke of midnight, both will be destroyed. One barge is occupied from inmates from the local prison, the other is filled with apparently upstanding citizens. The Joker plays off their class prejudices, with the good citizens arguing that they shouldn't sacrifice themselves for criminals

According to the Joker, people are only as honourable as their situations allow them to be; if you threaten their security, all ethics and values go out the window. Batman counters that the people of Gotham are good, and he's right; the people on both barges reject the Joker's ultimatum, refusing to destroy the other. But Bush and bin Laden had a similar conversation with America, and we failed the test: the reelection of Bush during his war in Iraq was owned to Americans saying, Yes, to save ourselves we will blow up the innocent. Bin Laden wins.

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