During a discussion last night (in which a lot of otherwise valid points were made), one of my friends told me that I needed to accept the legitimacy of the gritty, “realism over idealism” vision of Superman presented in the recent Zac Snyder films (and Snyder’s stated vision).
A lot of what that friend said was very legitimate and pointed commentary about the unreasonable nature of the BvS backlash (and the treatment of the people who dared to like that film). But that one line…I didn’t much notice it at the time, but it bugged me, and it’s still bugging me.
Taken alone, there’s no reason not to accept the vision of a more gritty, less idealistic superman in a “real” world. On its own, it’s just what the director felt best fit with his vision.
The problem is, it’s not on its own. Snyder’s vision of Superman is part of the same culture that’s lionizing GRRM’s anti-idealist tract (which masquerade as a fantasy series) and the same culture that glorifies the notion that idealistic people are foolishly naive and won’t achieve anything because “realistic consequences” will catch up to them. It’s the same culture that turned what should have been the most idealistic alignment in Dungeons and Dragons into a walking, talking parody. It’s the culture that looks at role models and idealistic figures and wonder “but how can we take them down from their pedestals”.
It’s the same culture that got another friend, recently, to tell me in pretty much so many words that “Idealism belongs in children novels.”
And I have a hard time imagining a more toxic line of thinking.
No, idealism is not something that’s naive and childish. No, pragmatism is not superior to idealism. They’re two wheels of a bike ; two legs of a human. You need both: idealists to worry about where it is we’re actually going ; and pragmatists to worry about where to turn at the next corner and when to stop for gas. Lose the pragmatists, and the idealists get lost or run out of gas ; but lose the idealists, and the pragmatists just drive around in circle down the path of least resistance.
Snyder’s superman is frankly not even that bad as far as that goes. Except that it’s Superman. Who is, by the standards of modern mythological pop culture, the patron god of Idealists – the single most iconic, shining beacon of idealism in all of western culture. So when you say that “If you put him in the real world, he can’t be that idealistic”…you are essentially claiming the single biggest idealist out there was part of your no-idealism world.
In an ideal world, there would be room for it. There would be room for grit, and room for idealism. But we’re in a time and place where gritty cynicism is all over entertainment left and right. Where “idealist” is seen as an insult. Where people who write, or ask for, idealistic stuff are told that it belongs in children entertainment.
In that world, accepting the legitimacy of gritty Superman is accepting the legitimacy of the entire war on idealism that’s going on all around us.
And that is not something I can do.
P.S. : I know I’m unlikely to get comment here, but just in case I do: I will absolutely NOT tolerate comments bashing BvS fans or insinuating they are wrong for liking the film, etc. That one of the directing choices involved in the film is illegitimate to me doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate for people who like the film to like it.
And yet again, 11 months later, I remember this blog exists! One day I’m going to reach the end of this tale…preferably while I still remember what it was like, after two and a half years.
We last left the story on the Friday evening, after my first day in Brunswick after finding out that I was in a town of writers.
I apologize in advance: this is going to be the boring entry. It doesn’t really cover journey or discovery, just tie up assorted loose bits and ends of the story from my time in Brunswick.
Continuing right on, for a change, we shall now examine the town of Brunswick, Maine. Unless you’ve lived from the area or visit Maine regularly, you may well have never heard of it. It’s a small town, twenty thousand, no bigger than my hometown of Beloeil back in Canada. Such a small town, in fact, that Matt, when I was making my travel plans, that I might not find much of interest in Brunswick.
He was, to put it lightly, way off the mark.
GASP! I have returned, and with the next part of my long-delayed Boston saga.
Last I posted, over a year ago, I had reached the far end of the Freedom Trail and climbed to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. (As an aside, I expect at least another four entries to cover the whole rest of the journey – at least two for the three days spent in Brunswick, and another two for the return trip).
EDIT: Obviously, this was written – and posted, just narrowly – before today’s news from Boston reached me. My thoughts go to anyone affected by the events.
(I realize I should go back and complete the Boston saga. I will, eventually)
Among my many hobbies, I’m one of the top staff member of a major online fansite (“major” as in one of the most popular video gaming fansites in the world per Alexa rankings, imperfect as they are). Like the vast majority of fansites, it has its own forums, and, like the vast majority of forums, that forum allows for discussion of off-topic subjects, such as social and political issues, including, of course, gay rights and gay discrimination.
In the past, like most fan sites in the world, we used to treat discussion of homosexuality as a political debate. We allowed conservatives and liberals to state their views on the matter, so long as they did so without personal attacks. We felt that this was fair; that both side got to argue their view, and give their reasonings.
It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right.
At the end of the day, homosexuality is people. It’s what they are (or an inalienable part of it). Homosexuality, to teenagers and young adults, means beginning to realize you’re “different”, with all that it entails. Homosexuality, to them, far too often means living afraid of anyone else finding out who they are; afraid that if anyone find out, they will get shunned, mocked, beaten. In some cases, afraid for their lives even. Homosexuality is about fearing you will lose your family, or have already lost it, over finding out who you are. Homosexuality often mean not daring to go to school anymore, because of how you will betreated there. Too often, it means suicide.
Homosexuality, on fansites, means coming online to enjoy your favorite entertainment, only find that even here, on a website dedicated to the shows they watch, the games they play, they can’t escape the hatred, the mockery, and, especially the condemntation. That even here they can’t escape being told they don’t deserve equal rights. That even here, the word that define them is used as an insult, to the point that many fansites actually censor the term: that “gay” come out as “***”.
Is it politics to say that those fans deserve to enjoy the site as much as any other fan? Is it politics to say that people won’t enjoy the site as much if a fundamental part of who they are get called immoral or a disease? No. There’s nothing political about either of these. It’s simple empathy, and common sense.
But what about going out of your way, on a fansite, to hound teenagers who are struggling with who they are to tell them they are going to hell; that they shouldn’t be able to marry; that they suffer from a disease? That’s not about being who you are, it’s not about trying to live your life – it’s about trying to tell others who they have a right to be, and how they should live their lives. That is politics. Letting it happen is politics.
At the end of the day, choosing between these two sides isn’t playing politics. Obama will win, or Romney will win. Harper will get another majority, or he won’t. Gay marriage will be legalized, or it won’t. There’s precious little we, as a fansite, could do to influence these issues, so no point in us taking a side one way or another.
What we can do, is put a little bit more good in their world. Not much. Maybe, perhaps probably, not enough.
But still more than there was yesterday. That alone is worth it.
(This is largely an edited version of the editorial I wrote to explain the change on the fansite in question. I felt like it deserved reposting)
My last entry left thing on the morning of september 29, on arrival in Boston. As a general observation, Boston is both somewhere I had never seen before, and somewhere that, as far as cities go, has always been fairly high up on my to-visit list (well ahead, for example, of New York). I remember, as a thirteen years old when my family went to Cape Cod, asking my parents to stop by Boston quite a few times, but that never happened.
The result of which being that my visit to Boston, though short, was packed, and that I don’t know if I can fit it all in one entry (also, unlike my visit to New Haven two years ago, I wasn’t limping on a still-sprained ankle the whole visit).
Anyway. A cloudy day in Boston…
As noted, I have more travel stories (with photos, although this first part will be light on photos, for reasons implicit in the title).
As with Fayeteville back in 2008, the reason for the journey was a friend’s wedding, on the coast of Maine. Not a friend I had never met before (he came up to Montreal to visit me in early 2011, with his fiancée), but a long-time online friend all the same, Matt. (one of many Matts around me these days). Plane (price) and train (doesn’t go there) were not options, so it was time to try yet another way of long-distance travel, the bus.
Since the only bus from Boston to Brunswick run in the evening, and since on the whole I prefer leaving at eight PM than leaving at four AM, I decided to spend a day in Boston along the way. (on the return trip, I spent only a few short hours, because I thought a daytime journey through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont would be good thinking. Which I was right about.
For obvious reasons, the first several hours of the trip are going to be light on pictures. Aside from the stopover at White River Junction, and a few pictures taken in the gray, rainy light of dawn, I just couldn’t take much. On the flip side, I could probably fill several entries with Boston alone, and the return journey (in broad daylight from Maine til the valley of the Winooski (see : half a dozen other entries)) also has a great deal going for it.