Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Virtues of Megalomania

I've had a bit of a relaxed schedule this week, so I've taken some time to indulge myself and watch a few episodes of my favorite cartoon from my pre-school and early elementary school years: "The Superfriends." Among the surprises I've encountered upon a re-visit 20-some years later: 1) I didn't know that Casey Kasem voiced Robin 2) The musical score was pretty catchy 3) The villains were pretty good role models

Three of our culture's most celebrated qualities are perseverance, nonconformity, and good-humour. If someone never gives up, ignores naysayers, and learns to laugh at life, they have pretty well absorbed the stock oracular wisdom of Western society. Nobody embodies these qualities better than the Superfriends villains.

No matter how many times Lex Luthor is put behind bars or has his plans foiled, he comes back with a the full vengeance of a blissfully-ignorant megalomania. Amazingly, an episode I saw this week showed that the writers were self-conscious of this problem. Lois Lane goes to interview Lex in prison. Lex brags to her that he is intellectually superior to the Superfriends. Lois asks, quite reasonably, why he is in prison if he is so superior. Lex changes the subject and talks about how he will she will find out the truth soon enough. Despite this show's overall dis-interest in developing characterization, this was actually a pretty telling moment of characterization. The viewer is left with little doubt that Lex really does think he will succeed, past failures to the contrary. In contrast, the Superfriends are the one's often often expressing doubt ("I don't think I can break free"..."It looks like we are goners this time"). Kasem's Robin in particular seems to serve no purpose other than to give voice to a constant pessimism.

Of course, in the above episode, Lex does succeed in busting out of prison and immediately assumes his green and purple suit. Most people wouldn't wear such a garish outfit without much fear of mockery. Lex Luthor doesn't care if people make fun of him. He likes this color combination, and he's going to wear it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. Compare this non-conformity with the clique that is the "Superfriends," in which the heroes are so eager to fit in that many of them wear capes out of peer pressure, even when such capes likely prove cumbersome in combat.

Upon assuming his freedom and donning the green and purple, Lex proceeds to laugh, over and over again. He usually laughs at his own cunning and ingenuity, which, when one examines this, is an odd thing to find funny. Yet rather than criticize him for laughing at something that has no inherent humour, I think the lesson that many kids can draw is that it is O.K. to be happy. Contrast the gleeful criminals with the Superfriends. The Superfriends only laugh when their pet monkey or dog does something funny. Otherwise, they are dour-faced. They often make puns, but more so for mockery of their opponents than for a genuine attempt at conviviality.

In fact, the more I think about it, Superfriends villains remind me of the Ayn Rand Objectivist hero--optimistic, self-assured, joyful, and nonconforming. The Superfriends themselves are the opposite. I wish I could draw some further conclusions from this, but I can't get the Superfriends theme song out of my head.


Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

Merry Christmas!

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow Robin, beat me to it, eh?

well, i just have to say. My christmas present to you azor, is that i read your post. SHOCKING (!!) i know, but i did it, just for YOU. be thankful, be proud. be a bee.

but, my god, Lex Luther, or shall i say, the guy who plays Lex Luther is hot. (Talking about Smallville here.) But, i don't think you need to know that?

happy Ukrainian Christmas!

6:56 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

Ukrainian Christmas is in January.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

It's Lex LUTHOR. With an "or". Notice how you put "er" when it's supposed to be "or" and vice versa (like the Mulder/Muldor thing).

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Likening Ayn Rand to a Superfriends Villain is the most fitting characterization of her I have encountered so far. Thanks.

5:22 PM  

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