The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Will Stewing

    For many years now, superheroes have been dealing with a lot: criminal masterminds and inner turmoil and such. But most exciting of all are the highly salient political issues.

    SCREECH! What? That, is right; between web-slinging and butt-kicking, I think superheroes and their movies have addressed many important issues by making important parallels.

    Superhero movies are the perfect platform for gaining a new perspective on some of the most controversial and contentious issues – ones that are being discussed and debated at office watercoolers and in Washington D.C.

    Through these movies we can often relate to the issue being explored and still empathize with beliefs contrary to our own because it is still just a movie. The superheroes themselves are usually human and as an audience we connect with them on that level. However, their powers (call them quirks) and personas isolate them from normal humans, be it the ones on the screen or the ones watching from theater seats.

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    Superhero movies don’t have a monopoly on the truth and they’re not a substitute for critical assessments of the real issues, but politics is way more fun when people throw grappling hooks instead of accusations.

    Right now you’re probably picturing Dick Cheney swinging around the Capitol in Spandex, and if you weren’t, then you are now. In either case, I’m sorry and without further ado we’ll get on with the article.

    I’ve listed the movies being discussed at the beginning of each paragraph to avoid spoiling them, so you’ve been warned.

    The Dark Knight

    Terrorism, counter-insurgencies and civil liberties: In “The Dark Knight,” Gotham City is terrorized by the violent, calculating mania of the Joker, a man who kills to prove the power of chaos and fear- – it is his belief.

    The terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11 did so because of their radical and intolerant beliefs. Batman is a guardian and symbol of hope, justice and order, and the Joker wants him to abandon the things he stands for, but doesn’t want to “risk the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with [Batman].” Recognizing the hero’s penchant for doing right, the Joker exploits it as a weakness by targeting civilians and forcing Batman to “die a hero, or live long enough to see [himself] become the villain,” through deadly threats.

    America possesses a military and economy that are unmatched in strength, but our enemy defies convention when it comes to laws, economics and war. They don’t care about international law or economic embargos and have found ways to confound our conventional military strength.

    Like our terrorist enemies, the Joker recognizes that by targeting innocent people and waging an unconventional war, the hero is left with “all that strength and nothing to do with it.” Batman and his allies all struggle with this paradigm shift and often vehemently disagree with each others’ conclusions on how to address it: Lucius Fox opposes Batman’s surveillance system, Alfred questions Bruce Wayne’s understanding of the enemy and the decision to surrender and Batman condemns Harvey Dent’s use of torture.

    In the war on terror, we as a nation have disagreed considerably on how to fight this new, unconventional enemy. Regardless of your stance, there is no denying that the Patriot Act, the Iraq War and the activities at Guantanamo Bay are controversial and questionable.

    The challenge facing America is similar to the one Salvatore Maroni explained to Batman, “You got rules. The Joker, he’s got no rules.” For America, those rules include civil liberties, U.N. Regulations and the Geneva Convention. Ultimately, I believe “The Dark Knight” is a powerful reminder that in the end, terrorism is all about the power of fear and how we react.


    Gun control: In the X-Men movies, individuals with super-human powers are widespread – numbering in the thousands or millions – but each has his or her own unique mutation, some more powerful than others.

    The X-Men face two major challenges throughout all three movies: 1) Preventing Magneto from harming humans and other
    mutants, which directly relates to 2) convincing humans they have nothing to fear from most mutants.

    Many humans want to monitor, register, restrict or eliminate the mutants’ supernatural abilities, arguing that their mutant power is undesirable and dangerous. The mutants assert that their mutations “are the next step in human evolution,” and that the choices of individuals, not the mutant powers, are the real danger.

    Mutant powers draw many parallels to firearms in that they’re widespread, vary in power and purpose, most are used for good but some for bad, and that they’re controlled by humans.

    On one side are those who argue some guns are too dangerous for everyday citizens and that different measures should be taken to control their use and availability. On the other side are those who see the possession of firearms as a natural right and a powerful tool for good or evil.

    There is one major difference in that almost anyone can purchase a firearm, but mutants are born with their power. Another important parallel is that most of the mutants appear as normal humans and reveal their power only when using it, just like somebody carrying a handgun.

    In my eyes we fear guns for three reasons: They’re powerful; they can be used for evil and some can be carried covertly. This is exactly why humans fear mutants. The big question in these movies is whether good or evil is more powerful, and X-Men is a very compelling way to explore the question.

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