Thursday, 22 September 2016

Is J Jonah Right? Are Superheroes Menaces To Society (Spoilers)

J. Jonah Jamieson likes to give Spider-man a hard time, always focusing on the negative aspects of hero-work.  It's played for laughs most of the time, but what if he has a point?

At the end of Batman Begins, the newly promoted Lieutenant Gordon questions Batman about the wisdom of donning the cape.  He points out that when cops wear body armor, the bad guys get armor-piercing bullets.  Gordon asks what will happen when the good guys start to wear costumes and holds out an evidence bag with a playing card, saying that the man who uses these has a flair for the dramatic.

A guy who likes playing cards must be mentally stable, right?
The entire premise of Captain America: Civil War is about how far is it permissible for a hero to go in his or her pursuit of saving the world.  The Avengers are confronted by the families of people who died as collateral damage from their battles.  The Secretary of Defense shows them a montage of battle footage as justification for why the Avengers can no longer operate autonomously.

Because we're nerds and it's just how we roll, my husband and I decided to take a look at those battles and decide if they really were the Avengers' fault.

Battle of New York (Marvel's The Avengers):

Even alien invaders can't find parking in downtown New York.
The Battle of New York was initiated by Loki and the Chitauri, who wanted to invade and either kill or enslave all of Earth.  Why pick on Earth?  Because Loki has some serious family issues and wants to hurt Thor by attacking his favorite Midgaard hangout.  One could argue that the blame for the battle ultimately lies with Odin and Freya's crappy parenting since they overlooked some pretty blatant sibling rivalry and ethical lessons.  However, the real question is what would have happened if the Avengers hadn't been there and the answer to that is global apocalypse.  So I vote that they earn some slack for the mass destruction on that one, since it would have been a lot worse otherwise.

Avengers Good: 1 ; Avengers Bad: 0

Triskelion/Helicarrier Crash (Captain America: Winter Soldier):

In retrospect, maybe we should have stuck with actual boats.
Captain America crashed three Helicarriers over Washington, one of which destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, the Triskelion.  In his defense, he had just discovered that the evil organization HYDRA had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and had a plan to use the Helicarriers to systematically execute all opposition with blasts from the sky.  The only way to stop them was to remove the guidance chips which would send the three ships crashing to the ground.  If Cap hadn't stopped them, there would have been millions executed, but his method left hundreds injured or killed, including innocent civilians.  Once again, the situation would have been a lot worse if Captain America hadn't stepped in, but it's hard to argue away casualties.  This one has to be called a draw.

Avengers Good: 2 ; Avengers Bad: 1

Sekovia (The Avengers: Age of Ultron):

"That's no moon..."  "Not the time, Tony."
Sekovia is entirely Ultron's fault, which means it's entirely Tony Stark/Iron Man's fault.  Stark created an artificial intelligence to make the ultimate peacekeeper (because clearly this is a world in which the Terminator series doesn't exist).  Ultron turned out to be a little more genocidal than ideal and arranged to send the city of Sekovia high into the atmosphere so that it could become an Extinction Level Event meteor (because Armaggedon and Deep Impact apparently do exist in this universe).  No Tony Stark, no Ultron, so although the Avengers worked very hard to evacuate as many civilians as they could and took casualties themselves, it's hard to overlook the fact that none of it would have happened if Stark had listened to the "man is not mean to meddle medley."

Avengers Good: 2 ; Avengers Bad: 2

Nigerian Hospital (Captain America: Civil War):

There goes my performance review for this quarter...
The hospital explosion is the inciting incident for Civil War.  The team chases a HYDRA operative with a biological weapon, and as the Scarlet Witch tries to contain the explosion, sending it into the sky, she loses control and it impacts into the corner of a hospital, killing a dozen people and injuring more.  This prompts the United Nations to call for a committee to control what the Avengers can and can't do and to provide oversight for when it goes wrong.

So here are the questions: Did the Avengers need to be the ones chasing the HYDRA agents?  Should the Scarlet Witch be held accountable for killing people when she was trying to save them?  Is she responsible for the deaths or is it the responsibility of the HYDRA agent who triggered a suicide vest in a crowd?  After careful discussion, our little mini-poll decided that this one was another draw.  Results count, but so do intentions.

Final count: Avengers Good: 3 ; Avengers Bad: 3

But I think, at the end of the day, these are the wrong questions to be asking.  When Spider-man joins Team Iron Man, he explains why he became a superhero.  "When you can do the things that I do and you don't and then the bad things happen, then that's on you."  (In other words, with great power comes great responsibility.)  Bad things happen and those who can help, should help, regardless of whether they wear a cape, a uniform or jeans and a t-shirt.  It's not always going to go the way we would want and sometimes we aren't going to be able to stop the horrible things from happening.  That's real life as well as the comic book universe.  But effort and intention count.  

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