K. A. Pital wrote:TheFeniX wrote:What is the definition of Power Fantasy? I really dislike this term, it so much a buzzphrase in my mind.K. A. Pital wrote:I dislike the superhero genre, not comics in general. Superhero, even if "fascist" is taking it too far, is at roots an authoritarian male power fantasy.
This is a fantasy where a male character (someone the man can identify with) gets super-powers, saves the girl from a supervillain, maybe saves the world as a bonus. Idolizing of the man of action, like I said before.
What I'm not convinced is that this is inherent to the genre. Its not as if all superheroes are male, or are based around saving damsels in distress.
That is a classic archetype, true, but its also one that existed long before superheroes, and is repeated in many other genres.
It is nothing more than a story like those army propaganda reels which offer young males "adventure" and "mission", and power (in the form of military technologies) to destroy the enemies of your nation.
The classic superhero is an individual who acts outside the law, and really only makes sense in a situation where the proper authorities are either corrupt, ineffective, or both. While you can certainly write a superhero story which serves as state propaganda, if anything, the classic superhero archetypes have an implicit anti-government/libertarian message, or at least they can be easily interpreted in such a manner. Batman only exists because Gotham is utterly corrupt.
Of course, I would also argue that the line between a libertarian ideal and a fascist, or at least authoritarian, ideal is often very, very thin, ironically enough. Its not a big leap from "heroic individual who takes the law into his own hands because the government can't/won't do it" to "strong man who imposes his will on a chaotic/corrupt society by force".
But I would likewise argue that crossing that line is one of the key differences, perhaps the key difference, between a classic superhero and a classic super villain.
Another aspect is that in this story, there is no narrative of world reform, world transformation, social transformation, cooperation of a human multitude. Instead, humans are passive onlookers who just watch as the hero (embodiment of the man of action) saves the world, saves them and the girl.
The common (but not universal) lack of transformation is at least partly an unfortunate byproduct of the franchise system, where the stories can never have a definitive end because they want to keep milking the cash cow. Its part of why I favour regular reboots- so that real change can be allowed in a given version of a story.
Its worth noting, however, that some of the iconic heroes are, in part, about inspiring ordinary people to stand up. Nolan's Batman, for example, explicitly becomes Batman, in part at least, to inspire others, and his goal is ultimately a city that no longer needs him. And because the Nolan films are a distinct trilogy, their own continuity, he is actually allowed to achieve that.
It is very much like Christianity and other religions, correctly dubbed "opiate of the masses" as they soothe suffering by offering a better afterlife, a life beyond life, to prevent humans from constantly rebelling against the conditions of their real life, to pacify them, but also numb their suffering.
Now you're just repeating Marxist slogans.
Is is possible that you have some ideological blinders in place in this debate?
Your analogy is flawed in any case, because superheros do not generally promise a hope beyond life, but idolize heroes who try to make the world a better place here and now. And they generally only "numb...suffering" in the sense that any form of entertainment does.
I also think that you should be more cautious about ascribing malevolent/propagandist motives to those you disagree with.
Except the power fantasy is a more dangerous kind of opium. It breeds exceptionalism (the hero, with whom the reader identifies self, is exceptional), it breeds the cult of action (do first, think later - a common feature of many superhero stories is the ongoing fight against villain after villain, that seem to endlessly appear in society, but nowhere is the hero ever close to reforming society to reduce villainy, or even think about it, there is no end - eternal struggle and war). This eternal war and eternal action without end are the elements which make the genre so infused with authoritarian ideas.
Batman endlessly fights crime in Gotham, which never transforms from the antiutopia it is, but remains a crime-ridden hellhole. Superman fights the bad entity of the day, but another villain appears just after the the fight. There is no respite and no consideration of the bigger picture - audience is there to consume action, after all.
Though some of this can also be put down to the current popularity of grimdark and cynicism in popular culture- at its worst, your story isn't considered "realistic" or "mature" or any good if its not bleak, full of gratuitous misery and brutality and depravity, with the only "heroes" being brutal anti-heroes who differ from the villains in little but their choice of targets. Its something I utterly despise. Again, however, it is not unique to the superhero genre, nor is it universal to the genre.
I do think excessive cynicism plays into the hands of authoritarians- people think things like "all the politicians are the same" and that leads to normalizing men like Trump, or thinking "at least they're change to the status quo", and so on. But this is getting a tad off the original topic, I think.
So there are two aspects to the authoritarian power-fantasy. First is a desire for action, which the pop culture reader, himself being a weak, disempowered member of the non-ruling class, no elite, is not capable of - but the escapism of the superhero lets him imagine self saving the world, and optionally save a feisty female along the road with hugs & kisses (the rest is up to the male fantasy - curtain, baddies are defeated, woman falls into hero arms...). Second is a desire of disempowered masses for a Great Man, for a man of action, Man of Steel (incidentally, there was a person calling himself that, Stalin) - it is the cult of personality and cult of great man. Although the theory of "great men" in history has been largely discredited, with us knowing much more about the complex eco and social systems of ancient civilizations, the power fantasy offers an authoritarian escapist dream : you don't need to do anything to reform society, because a hero can save you. And everyone. Or, in fact, the hero is endlessly battling evil and cannot win. If Superman can't change the world, how can you, weakling? Go back to sleep.
Or perhaps the fantasy is that we, or at least somebody, might be able to actually make a difference in the world, to make it a better place.
Or perhaps it will lead to the realization that the world will never be perfect, that there will never be one big fix, but that it is worth it to try to help people anyway, because at least you are helping those people and keeping the world from becoming worse?
These two aspects are easy to see.
Sure. But you are seeing only pieces of the picture and treating it as the whole, in order to conform to your own ideologically-based preconceptions.
You are right that we are dumb apes, but self-aware indulgence in these little apish fantasy pleasures is different from a non-self aware one.
And I don't think the majority of lower-class consumers are self-aware of the escapist authoritarian nature of these fantasies.
The authors are often aware, hence the many deconstructions and reconstructions of the genre, its expansion in the recent two decades. But the consumers are not.
I think, to be blunt, that you could stand a little more self-awareness yourself. In my opinion, you are cherry-picking examples to fit an ideologically-driven conclusion which is partially accurate/accurate in some cases, and generalizing it to apply to the entire genre.