A friend of mine--we'll just call him "John From The Play"--(because, honestly, that's just what I call him anyway) once told me something so profound, I actually had the audacity to remember it.
He said, "I don't want to be party to any plan that involves the words 'This is for the good of mankind.'"
And I laughed.
John From The Play, you are a paragon among men!
The intention of the comment is obvious--that anything done for the good of many often requires a terrible sacrifice on the part of the few--but phrased as such (intentionally or no) the statement carries with it additional truths: namely, that this sacrifice is not so easily embraced by all and that human beings are, by nature, selfish, snively things with a built-in desire to save their own skins, humanity be damned!
And, actually, I like that.
We live in a country that heralds bravado. Cinematic blockbusters are rife with ordinary human beings (*ahem) doing extraordinary things to secure justice for those trampled by the rhinoceros of injustice. Everywhere we go, we need a hero, and heroes are apparently in ready supply. Always with us. Always willing to go the extra mile. And, in the case of Hollywood, always willing to save us while looking extraordinarily HAWT. (Saw "Drive" yesterday. Was so distracted by Ryan Gosling's Adonis as to overlook the fact that he just stomped some guy's face in. Pretty sure the rest of the audience felt likewise.)
So the appeal is obvious.
But what are we really buying into?
And what does it say about Americans as a people that we seem to believe we need saving?
Superman rose to prominence during the height of America's involvement in World War II and made a resurgence in the 1980s. Batman seemed our hero of the 90s. Spiderman may have held the crown in the early 2000s. But what does this all mean? Sure, Hollywood is known for bastardizing alternative media for its own gain (when's the last time you heard of an original Hollywood idea? Don't they have monkeys writing the scripts now? Pretty sure that's the only explanation for "Transformers 2.") Why do we, as Americans, need so much saving? What is it exactly that appeals to us? What is it we feel we need to be saved from, exactly?
Or do we just like to see men in tights?
And if we are so keen on being saved...whom are we relying on to do all of this saving? Cause if it's up to John From The Play--we know it's not gonna be him. Or me. Let's face it, dude. If the world's fixin' to go up in smoke and flame, my happy ass ain't goin' up in some spaceship to stop the oncoming meteor. I'm throwing a "Burn Baby Burn" party. And there will be silly hats. And costumes.
And where is the Batman? He's at home, washing his tights.