Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Heroes of Old

I've recently started watching a TV Show based on a very X-Men-ish storyline. Basically, "Evolution" has begun to shape men into Heroes with super-human abilities (including flight, "cell regeneration" [which is a misnomer because she can actually come back from the dead], and telepathy). The show is quite enjoyable, but would be much better without the horrible "recaps" every few episodes (the voice talent is almost as bad as the blurb writer).

The idea of evolutionary betterment so we can survive as a "species" feels compelling. It makes sense, and draws from the horribly un-idyllic world in which we live. It calls for a Savior, a Superman, Heroes. It feels right. But something has been bothering me. I finally figured out what it was: Heroes are not new.

This show draws on the idea that we are now (whenever the show is supposed to take place) in need of Heroes, and evolution in its blind "wisdom" is here to save us. In the face of coming Nuclear disaster, "Evolution" has stepped in... which is exactly the opposite of Natural Selection, which states that the "fit" survive... meaning that it is only post-apocalypse that we see whom the "fit" were (namely, the cockroaches the show begins with). Evolution, by definition can't be preemptive. But that's an entirely different issue.

The thing that bothers me the most is that these kinds of stories claim that heroes are on the rise now, for the first time, to save humanity. This is simply not the case. History, lore, and legend all point to "heroes of old, men of renown". Even thinking back to movies like "300", we have stories from long ago of Heroes who rose.

Certainly, the creators of the show aren't trying to argue for a complete lack of heroes before now, but their painfully evolutionary bent reeks of lameness. It's lacking, biased, and myopic. Stories are powerful ways of shaping the beliefs and actions of people, and a story that says that in light of evolution's "violent process... morality looses its meaning. The question of 'good' and 'evil' reduced to one simple choice: Survive or perish" is not a story I can support. I can enjoy the ride, but I can't shake the brooding emptiness of such a world. Not only is such a world empty, but it is also naturally self-contradictory. We can only enjoy a story when we believe that the choices, struggles and problems our Heroes face will allow for good to win. Even tragedy only works within a functional "moral" world. Outside of good and evil, tragedy becomes comedy and drama becomes boring. I first noticed this consciously at the end of "Swordfish". The movie begins with the "bad guy" talking about how the "bad guy" should win for once in a Hollywood movie. The film then tries to make this guy into a "bad guy" by giving him guns, girls, and gold. Stuff blows up, boobies get shown, and, low-and-behold the "bad guy" gets away. The problem is that he's not really a bad guy. Sure, he does bad stuff, but the movie only works because people believe that he did the right thing. Was it "moral"? Was it "good"? No, but it was right... for the film and the filmmakers.

We now tread into "situational ethics" and "relativistic morality" which are decried, with good reason, by the religious. However, there is a certain amount of truth to all this: While there is definite right and wrong, motivation, far more than action, determines your moral status. So, sure, it is wrong to murder, but is it really wrong to tear people apart when you enter your "Hulk/Hyde" state? That's hard to say. Why? Because is it wrong to protect yourself? That's hard to say as well.

But back to the point of this post: We have long had heroes and evolution has had nothing to do with it. Evolution is certainly a tool in the "hand of God", so it could very well be that there was some genetic reason that Samson kicked so much butt, but probably not.

So, sure, enjoy the show "Heroes" but remember, 2 Samuel has some wicked-awesome stories as well. Perhaps I should team up with Frank Miller and Zack Snyder and work on "30" or something.

~Luke Holzmann

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