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Thank you for the back-and-forth, Professor White. I'll be sure to pass along your answers and perspective to my students. Some other time, if it's all right, I would like to ask you a question about your article on why Batman doesn't kill the Joker. :)
I share your suspicions about the UN...but there -have- been UN-based peacekeeping forces in the past, yes? So, is it impossible? And certainly, if aliens attack, no country is stopping the Avengers from repelling the invasion, right? I guess I just feel Steve could have given it a chance; if it ends up not working, he just ends up rogue, anyway, right? If there's to be -any- oversight, it would have to come from the UN, yes? I sort of feel Rhodes had his number here...and not just because I feel Cheadle is the better actor! Steve's judgement is not perfect, but he just states "the best hands are ours." His? Maybe. But if he means the team, well...three of them agreed to sign. Assuming Cap means his own, in the same film, those hands could have handed Bucky over to Tony at the airport (Bucky only escaped because of Zemo, and certainly Cap isn't ok with that, right?), in exchange for the lot of them going to stop (what they thought was) Zemo's plan and Bucky getting psychiatric help. I know that means no fight...:) And it was a great fight! Some of my students found there was -too much- fighting in the film and wanted more dialogue; the fights were "too commercial" to put it in one young woman's words. I found myself agreeing...
I don't buy Vision's argument at all, even when it's applied to Batman and his enemies coming to Gotham. It -does- sound cold, though, even if (because) it makes a sort of utilitarian sense. I also wonder just how much of the population knows that the world was saved. New York, certainly. Sokovia? Seems less likely, but possible, I suppose. Certainly, the footage of Hulk rampaging through the streets fighting Iron Man got a lot of Youtube hits...maybe if people think about it (already not a guarantee, but), they might conclude the Avengers make sense under a utilitarian perspective. That wouldn't preclude them from having oversight, however. I can't recall Ross' exact words either, unfortunately. It raises the question, however: Is Steve automatically more right/ethical than whatever UN committee would make the decision about operation? That's not clear to me. Another question: Do you have any insight as to why Tony never faced any legal consequences for creating Ultron? I was sort of expecting his participation in the Accords would be in exchange for not being brought in front of the Hague for his role in creating Ultron, but it never came up. Aside: I'm a college ethics teacher in Montreal, and I use comic book mythology to teach my course. Just came from a 2nd viewing of CW with some of my students and these were some of the questions that came up. If this is a nuisance, please let me know.
I guess I never got the sense that that was how the Accords actually were...we have Steve's fears, but nobody actually says how they work. As a movie viewer, we have a unique perspective on how they deal with the trust of the people. As a person living in the MCU, however, would one still trust the Avengers? Zemo's story can hardly be unique...wouldn't the Sokovia Accords be a logical outcome? (I love how Black Panther puts it when asked about it: "The Accords, yes. The politics, no." Seems like a classic Virtue Ethics answer to me. As did his conversation with Zemo.
I apologize for being unclear. I mean more "classic" stories, like the ones from the comic books, where something like Sokovia could happen and there could be no casualties.
So does Cap think no oversight is necessary then? In a comic book world, maybe, but does that make any ethical sense in a more realistic world?
Hello Professor, I was just wondering if your enjoyment of this film perhaps dropped a bit now that we have seen that the Avengers did not, in fact, save everyone. For me, it bothers me less so (since thought it made for a great villain in Zemo) but since I know you prefer a more "classic" take on the team and their adventures, I thought I'd ask. Eric
I honestly don't understand Cap's perspective on the Accords. In the comic story, it's the Superhuman Registration Act. It forced ALL superhumans to 1. Register with the U.S. government; 2) Reveal their identities to said government; and 3) Effectively become US soldiers, or at least law enforcement. Cap doesn't sign in the comics either because, as he puts it "If we sign this thing, then Washington starts telling us who the bad guys are." With Trump a serious threat to become President, that's a great point. ;) None of those concerns are present in the film, however. It's not the US government, but the United Nations asking the Avengers (makes no mention of other superhumans, or did I miss it?) to become a UN Peacekeeping Force. It's not the whim of one nation, but rather supervision under the world. As Rhodes says "This isn't the US government, or the World Security Council, or Hydra...this is the United Nations." I honestly don't understand why that's an issue in Cap's eyes. Furthermore, all Cap's worries about the deal are "What If's". That's fine, but a "what if" is not a certainty. Shouldn't someone have told Steve "Hey, IF what you're worried about ever happens, we'll just still do the right thing and go rogue THEN; why jump the gun and do it now?" Doesn't the world have a right to some sort of supervision over these incredibly powerful beings, somehow? Instead, they should just hope Steve never makes a mistake (even though we've seen him make plenty?) Rhodes is right; Steve is just being arrogant. (Tony is too, but for different reasons) I get there are lots of reasons for Steve to mistrust the US government after the events of Winter Soldier, but this is just bizarre to me. At least when Bruce went after Clark, we knew it's because Luthor had apparently been manipulating him for years, but what's Steve's issue? What am I missing here? What is the case for Steve?
It's too bad there was nothing in the movie for you, it seems. I can't recall Superman killing anyone in this film, but I'll be seeing it again soon, so maybe I'll catch it then? It definitely wasn't a light-hearted (and sometimes silly) Marvel film, but I thought it was well-thought out for what it was: What would it really be like if people with powers like this really lived in our real world. It brought up a lot of questions and discussions in both my home and my classes.
I actually wish Civil War ended in a courtroom, Murdock vs. Walters. It would have been way better than the sudden ending we got. I agree about an inversion having little visible effect on Doom...I don't see how his self-image would change...he may think Richards is right about things, but to admit it out loud? I don't know... Is what Scott doing really an inversion? I thought he was already on this path...
P.S. You know Tony's question above? I wish Matt (my fav character) had responded with a sound argument, rather than violence. In fact, for story arcs like these, I wish writers consulted ethicists first, to "get it right."
Hi Mark, Are you familiar with the alignment system in D&D? I sort of see the X-Men being inverted along those lines. Having said that, by taking over Manhattan, the beating of the Falcon, the death threats...they seem pretty villainous to me. Great point about Tony losing his limitations as opposed to taking on a new persona. I'm not thrilled with what they have done with Doom, though I was pleased to see him fight back against Wanda. I would love for the conclusion for this to be that the Skull's 'psychic backwash' was only temporary, and that they had the possibility to control themselves after a day or so, but kept going...showing that these manifestations of their characters were always there, lurking below the surface.
Hi Mark, Cap seems to be making a utilitarian calculation at the end of Civil War...he seems to have realized the actions of his group were lowering utility overall. I never saw Cap as a hardcore deontologist, but the ending of Civil War was pretty jarring (mind you, I wasn't a fan of Millar's characterization of Cap throughout...he perhaps forgot he was not writing the ultimate version?) in terms of Cap's moral perspective. Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Fr. Maximillian Kolbe...these are examples of people holding to principle right to the end, and seem to be in line with what Kant thought...and I guess I always saw Cap in that light as well.
Patrick, One of the more 'metaphorical' battles withing Man of Steel that I loved so much was "Free Will vs. Destiny." Jor-El goes on a lot about having a child that is free to choose, etc. On Krypton, no one seems to get that choice; people are bred for specific duties. Zod was bred for defending Krypton and completely lost it when Kal destroyed the last of it...I don't think Zod was -capable- of having empathy for humans. This metaphorical battle was my favourite part of the film.
Mark, You are absolutely right about that scene vis-a-vis kids; while I found the violence a bit over-the-top, it was in fact that last scene that secured the fact that I could not take my son Max, who is 10, to see the film. My voice caught in my throat as I explained it to my wife...I don't want him to see a Superman who had to kill. Not yet, anyway. It may be a bit silly, sort of like trying to prolong the time a kid believes in Santa, but I just can't do that to him. When he's older, and we can have some interesting ethical discussions, yes...but not now. The film wasn't aimed at kids, I know that, but I guess there's a hope that it would have spoken to the kid in us, still looking to be inspired...and in a different way than Bruce might inspire. I still really like it and am dying to see the sequel and perhaps even a JLA film, but mostly I hope the Kal in the future movies has it "together" like the one from the (pre-Nu52) comics. -Eric P.S. Would you mind terribly if I advanced a question one of my students had regarding one of your essays?
Toggle Commented Jun 22, 2013 on My thoughts on Man of Steel at The Comics Professor
Hello Professor White, Long-time fan here, love your work in the various Superhero and Philosophy books. I teach an ethics course at a college here in Montreal and do so using comic book mythology. I'd love to have a discussion one day, over email perhaps, regarding some of your comments in the essay 'Why doesn't Batman kill the Joker?' and some of my students' reactions to it. As for 'Man of Steel,' with respect, I believe you may be mistaken when you say Kal's killing of Zod sets up his moral code for subsequent least the way you seem to imply ('Watch out, Luthor.') I do believe his moral code was formed concretely then, but I believe we saw the genesis of the "Never Kill" ethic in Kal, as shown by the remorse. It matches the Byrne story anyway, doesn't it? I can forgive Kal's less-than-perfect decision making because he had been a superhero for all of a few hours in this movie, and had never been in a fight before in his life. I think, those things considered, he did all right, no? A more experienced Superman would demand more from us, I believe. At any rate, just another point of view. :) Best, Eric
Toggle Commented Jun 21, 2013 on My thoughts on Man of Steel at The Comics Professor
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Jun 21, 2013