The type of fictional character known as a “superhero” originated in U.S. comics during the years of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The first was Superman, with Batman, Spiderman and others not far behind.
These superheroes conceal their identity with some kind of outlandish costume or mask and go around “fighting crime.” It cannot be dismissed as a mere coincidence that the theme of masked vigilantism by white men has caught on so much with the U.S. psyche, especially in this era of multiple U.S. wars, capitalism at a dead end and the growth of the oppressive state.
Gotham City: A fascist fantasy land
The recent Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” embraces all the negative aspects of the superhero type. Bruce Wayne, Batman’s secret identity, is himself a billionaire, yet the film portrays him as an oppressed victim of the inconsiderate and ungrateful poor. The villain is an agitator who preaches
class struggle, riling up impoverished people against somehow-misunderstood rich people.
The police are portrayed as useless and restrained by civil liberties. So, in their place, like a caped George Zimmerman, Batman goes out to protect “law and order” when oppressed people are duped into rising up.
It is only in the fictional city of Gotham that the rich are oppressed. In reality, a wealthy one-tenth of 1% runs the U.S. and has control of the banks, factories, oil wells and all the commanding heights of the economy. They control the two major political parties, bestowing unlimited money on their favored candidates. They own the media and craft public opinion to their liking. They launch wars of aggression to keep their profits flowing.
The police in the real world are anything but restrained. They frequently get away with killing innocent people in places like New York City and Anaheim, Calif.
There is no “softness on crime.” The prison system has 2.5 million people behind the walls, the highest number of any country in the world. The majority inside are Black and Brown people, with little chance of finding decent employment. The death penalty is used frequently in the United States, with many innocent people like Troy Davis its victims.
This violent and punitive society has given rise to killers like James Holmes and George Zimmerman, as well as fascists like the Tea Party and the Minutemen. These violent racists seem to think they are heroes for “taking the law into their own hands” when they attack defenseless immigrant workers or come to public meetings about health care reform with loaded firearms.
Take history into our own hands
The false portrait of society painted in “The Dark Knight Rises” is clearly designed to incite these elements, as well as to demonize rising progressive movements for change.
The answer for poor and working people is not some savior. The answer is coming together and fighting against the capitalist class. Together we could seize society from the 1% and begin constructing a socialist world without racism, sexism and homophobia and with jobs, education and healthcare for all.
Actual history contains very few “superheroes.”
The labor movement, the civil rights struggle, the uprisings of Occupy Wall Street and the working-class revolutions of the 20th century have all been the work of millions of self-sacrificing, heroic individuals.
Like them, we must take history into our own hands. Together we can bring down the capitalist 1% and their system and begin constructing a better world. We cannot wait for someone to save us.