Sympathy With The Super-Villains

In superhero movies, the protagonist often “saves the world”. This rarely of course means saving the structural integrity of the planet we live on, but rather “the world” symbolizes the status quo. The “bad guy” is demonized to the extreme and holds no coherent theoretical or scientific basis for their critique of the status quo, much less a solution. In Blacklist, the anti-capitalist antagonist is “General Ludd” (referring to the luddites of early capitalism who destroyed the means of production in an effort to stifle the industrial revolution, rather than seizing and democratizing the means of production). They are not Marxists with a coherent idea of how capitalism works, they are Luddites. In The Dark Knight Rises, we never see on the ground what “the people” do when given real political power. We see demonizations, but never what actually happens. This I believe is intentional. Black Panther’s Killmonger holds a mostly valid critique of world imperialism and institutional racism, but his solution is the substitution of one form of oppression and exploitation with another, something no real anti-imperialist or historic member of the Black Panther Party would ever advocate. In Mission Impossible the “evil anarchists” also do not hold a remotely sensical world-view. The critique of institutional forms of oppression, exploitation, and domination present in actual, logical anarchist thought is replaced with the slogan, seemingly invented for the film “the greater the suffering, the greater the peace”. This too is intentional.
Bat Man and Iron Man are both billionaires (in fact we find this to be the case in many superhero movies, tv shows, and comics from Blacklist to Archer). If we take off the rosy eyed glasses that portray these superheroes in a purely benevolent light, do we not find that our sympathies lie with the villains who are opposed to the systems that require a “homeless man to be given a nice coat from a kind billionaire” to begin with? Naturally, the super-villains as they are presented to us are hardly admirable. But we should not be so quick to dismiss their aims either. As Trotsky once said, “A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!”

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