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Author Topic: Average Joe-ism? Or something sinister..?  (Read 6890 times)
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Super Monkey
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2006, 11:13:20 PM »

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11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Superman stories were a very intellectual piece of art....and the most recognized science fiction story to ever come from the U.S. While many of his early foes were scientists, that is because they were respected enough to present real challenges to Superman's abilities.


Also don't forget that Superman was also a great artist! He made all those Wax figures and he also liked to paint strange worlds.
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laurel
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2006, 03:18:23 AM »

Absolute power.  
Maybe absolute power ennobles absolutely.  Imagine super-intellegence coupled with super power.  Kal El could not be a fascist because he would be able to follow it through to the end.  An unimaginable end.  Pretty lonely universe when all dissent has been corrected!

I like to think youthful experience with the Legion and the many worlds and cultures of the 30th century convinced him of the folly of nationalism.   The "American way" gives way to the "United Planets way"   Cheesy  yay!!
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Kateacular
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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2006, 06:46:45 AM »

Wow thanks all!
I'm definately arguing against the fascism accusation, and this thread helped me beef up my point. I really appriciate your input, quite the interesting discussion generated though that's for sure. Cheers!

~Kate
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TELLE
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« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2006, 02:13:02 AM »

Wow.  I just read this thread for the first time, having avoided it all week because of the misleading title.  Superman and his relation to fascism is one of my favorite topics.

Kateacular, you have been given a tough topic --to say either way whether Superman is a fascist concept or not.  I wonder what your own definition of fascism is?

To me, both Superman and fascism are subjects that are not so easy to rule on definitively.  Questions like "Is such and such political movement or person fascist?" are always going to be hard.  I think that Gangbuster Thorul is on the right track in attempting to list major aspects of fascism and try to play match-game.  

There are almost as many definitions of fascism as there are people, in my experience.  Some of the more helpful writings on the subject can be found on the left (Trotsky's anti-fascist writings, like "Fascism: What it is and How to Fight It") and on the right (Mussolini's early writings, like "What is Fascism?").  

The word has been abused since at least the 60s to the point where now even kids in grade school use it to describe any authority figure, but I think with a bit of digging you will be able to come to some sort of idea about what it means to call an individual a fascist.  For me, it is also helpful to separate fascism as a philosophy from an actual system of government.

While I sometimes fall into the trap of labelling all forms of extreme authoritarianism and state-sponsored violence "fascism," it is more useful to think of it as an ideology that combines several aspects of conservative religiosity, anti-left politics, anti-democratic politics, nationalism, anti-modernism, terrorism/vigilantism, and belief in war, hierarchies, inequality, the triumph of the will, and capitalism.

Certainly some aspects of Superman's character and mythos before 1950 fit some of these criteria.  

To take Gangbuster's list:
1. Nationalism: purportedly a citizen of the world, Superman kept the interests of the USA first and foremost
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights : if these include the right to life and liberty, privacy and due process, Superman in many pre-50 stories disregards these rights (eavesdropping, break and enter, dropping people in volcanoes,
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: in most romantic or mythic stories, the villain is the alien "Other" --in Superman comics post-WWII the structure is subtly different --with a never ending fight against evil (usually personified in super-villains) being his "other" or cause
4. Supremacy of the Military:in many ways Superman IS the military --might makes right
5. Rampant Sexism: in many stories, his attitudes are clearly sexist, or at least uninformed by feminism --from his condescending torment/training of Lois to his later (post-1950) treatment of Supergirl
6. Controlled Mass Media:I can't think of any stories in which he advocated anything but freedom of the press --so he may be off the hook, although in later years he once or twice interrupted all planetary broadcasts
7. Obsession with National Security: post WWII he waged a battle against "agents of a foreign power" in many stories
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: a toughie: except for an implied "in god we trust" Americanism, Superman seemed beyond this.
9. Corporate Power is Protected: Superman is a self-appointed protector of private & government property, including banks and buildings
10. Labor Power is Suppressed: there are 2 later stories I'm aware of that treat labor action seriously but Superman doesn't really interfere:

"Clark Kent, Gangster" (1966) --A strike at the Daily Planet gives Clark Kent some time off to try out some new identities
"The Human Octopus" (Jimmy Olsen #41, December 1959) --attempt to unionize the Planet

Far more interesting to me is the way in which the actions of Superman preclude any attempt of organized labor to help itself or solve it's own problems.  We have discussed this in other threads:

Superman and the Nazi

Working Class Heroes

Quote
As Ariel Dorfman writes in The Empire's Old Clothes, "the superhero's triumph is based on the omission of the working class, the elimination of a community or collective which could transform the crisis and give it a meaning or new direction."


Lastly, the best treatment of what a truly fascist Superman would really be like is in Elliot Maggin's novel Miracle Monday.  Pa Kent has a nightmare of Superboy taking over the world that is harrowing.  Written around 1980, so long past 1950.
 Cheesy

Hope this helps with your homework!
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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2006, 02:57:01 AM »

I define fascism as glorification of the state, suppression of freedom, censorship, propaganda, and an emphasis of order. I don't think Superman falls into this category at all. In many ways he's a target because (1) He's a big part of Americana and (2) because he has vast power and people don't trust individuals with great power a lot of the time.

Since we're going through Gangbuster's list, I will as well.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Superman doesn't fit here. He's the ultimate orphan and wasn't exactly an apologist for this or any other country. He did what was right despite what the laws were. His morality, in a sense, was objective to man-made laws.

The Golden Age Superman saw fit to punish anyone that did wrong, whether they were from another country or from this one. Heck, the guy even went after corrupt politicians and businessmen.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

The Golden Age Superman was a vigilante and did kill, but it didn't seem to me like he disdained human rights. He cared greatly for the working class men and women and hated those that abused them.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

Not until the war, when the Axis powers were depicted on covers.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Given his shaky, at best, relationship with the police, I shudder to think about how the Superman and the military could've butted heads. But again, this changed during the war.

5. Rampant Sexism

For Superman's time he wasn't sexist. He did a few questionable things as Superman in regards to women, but nothing I would call sexist. He was attracted to a fiercly independent woman that actually berated him as Clark Kent. But this wasn't a misogynistic revenge fantasy because Lois was essentially a good person.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Again, no. Superman never tried to control the media.

7. Obsession with National Security

Yes. Superman was very concerned about this. But look at it from his perspective: he had to deal with both fascist countries and evil scientists. I'd say he actually had a reason to be concerned. Heck, without Superman the world probably would've been conquered by Luthor or Ultra.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Nope. Superman wasn't some religious zealot.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

Yeah, right. :lol:

The original Superman is one of the most anti-corporate characters I've ever seen. Heck, look at the way capitalists like Wolfingham are portrayed. Superman seemed to greatly distrust the rich most of the time.  

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

No. Superman was pro-proletariat.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

I've never seen an example of this. Besides, Superman himself was a genius. You can't hate intellectuals if you are one yourself (in theory, that is).

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Yes. He's a super-hero.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

No. Superman's main enemy was corruption, whether it was politicians, businessmen, or scientists.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Never seen this in the comics, but Superman wouldn't approve due to his hatred of corruption. If you were keeping count, he only possesses two out of the 14 traits--he's hardly a fascist.

Honestly, while I can see where the idea of a Big Brother type super-hero might come from, I don't feel that it's very accurate (though it would make a good story). Superman doesn't want power or absolute order, he wants people to not be hurt and exploited. He's an enemy of the selfish and power-hungry.
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