Saturday, November 28, 2015
Nicholas Fulford (#8 TR): Superman a God Amongst Men (Installment three)
Violence has always been a central part of comic book superheroes, and Superman is no exception. It is ironic knowing Superman’s stance on not using force to achieve means to an end but betrays that philosophy on a daily basis.
“But he uses force to fight those who would do harm!”
Yes, and I would agree that he is justified in doing so. Now we have established that there is “good” violence and “bad” violence. Superman does not condone killing innocents for fun, but would end the life of another to save hundreds (although his moral code would make it an absolute last resort). For example in the recent Superman movie he ended the life of General Zod to save a family
So Superman uses “good” violence to end “bad” violence. Who decides what’s good and what’s bad? Just like how we describe something “good” or “bad” is dependent on our moral codes as a society. Superman was raised on American/Western farmer values. Justice, Honor, Liberty, these are all things he stands for. The problem is when “good” violence isn’t enough. When maintaining peace no longer works and you start drifting towards that “bad” spectrum. What is the point of locking up all these villains if they just escape and wreck more havoc? We have been down this road, they always end up escaping! Those atrocities created by those escapees are now on Superman’s hands. Many of the villains in this universe have made Stalin look like a schoolyard bully? I’m sure most have earned a justified death sentence. That’s when his morals come in, and many hold the same thing. Killing is wrong.
Superman and those who hold the same ideal can make their armchair philosophy all they want, but when that family in The Man of Steel almost went from being a solid to a liquid Kal-el did what had to be done. As I ponder more and more about Superman I reach the same conclusion that the authors of Superman and Philosophy do. Superman is an enforcer of good. If you know God is watching you and your actions could lend you in hell or heaven are you doing good because it’s the right thing or is it because you don’t want to suffer for all eternity? In this case Superman doesn’t come knocking at your door. In Nietzsche’s eyes Superman was only partially the Übermensch. Superman uses his strength to prove his morals (morals that Nietzsche would call the “slave” morals) right and shut out anything else otherwise. He is the enforcer of the morals we humans call “good,” and is ready to cast out any that are deemed “bad.” In many ways Superman is not just a god amongst men, but God’s watchful eye.
Previous installments can be found:
Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series : Superman and Philosophy : What Would the Man of Steel Do by Irwin, William, White, Mark D.