Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Are Superheroes Innately Conservative?

At the Comic Book Politics course blog I discussed a few days ago, there is an interesting letter posted that claims comic book heroes are innately conservative icons:
I think it important to remember that the superhero is at his essence a libertarian or conservative icon, simply because he uses his 'gifts' and his will to set things right as an individual. Even an anti-system rebel-- say 'Batman' in DK2-- is an individual imposing his or her vision upon the world. The values are individual rather than collective. Moreover, it is the individual, the hero, who is uplifted over the group. One person sets things right, usually with violence. This fits right into the extreme individualist models so common in modern American conservatism or libertarian thought.

Much liberal politics is really based upon working with patience and understanding to 'dissolve' problems, or to attack them at their roots, long before they exist.  The teacher who gets an inner city kid interested in engineering prevents a villian, but such stories are difficult to tell in comics and not superhero stuff. Talk is the stuff of liberal politics, or as Winston Churchill once put it, "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war".
I think this is largely correct, but we must be very careful here. There seems to be an implication that individuality is a conservative ideal in opposition to liberal ideal of promoting the group. But this simply is not correct. Is that activist fighting the system in the attempt to promote gay rights or save an endangered species a conservative? Is the military a liberal institution because it promotes the group over the individual? (Liberal radio host Randy Rhodes claims this, btw.) Are those promoting multiculturalism and the "salad bowl" view of integration conservative, with the liberal "melting pot" advocates fighting back? Is patriotism a uniquely liberal concept? I don't think so.

Now, I'm not claiming the opposite, either, I just don't think the left/right divide works well in this case. I do think, however, that liberals tend to promote cooperation while conservatives promote competition. Conservatives don't think it is wise to look beyond the natural order of eat or be eaten while liberals think we can rise above all that and find a better humanity. Looking at the cooperation/competition divide it becomes less obvious whether comics tend towards liberalism or conservatism. "With great power comes great responsibility", is that a liberal concept or conservative one? I'd like to claim it is liberal but I doubt conservatives agree.

Still haven't received my books from Amazon, so I can't participate in the other discussions, yet. Oh well.... (And I was holding DKR at the bookstore the other night, but already ordered it; such is life.)