We've been going through a lot of kids' movies from the library here at Casa Abbott, as Bug enjoys a little bit of screen-time to settle down when she's getting sleepy. It typically takes three or four days to make it through a regular cartoon movie (unless I finish it after she's gone to bed), since we watch it in spurts, which is not an optimal viewing experience for me -- but it does give me the excuse to catch up on the cartoon movies I've missed over the past few years. I'd missed Disney's Meet the Robinsons,
for example, which I think was pretty poorly branded and misrepresented by the trailers. (I ended up thinking it was pretty cute.) We've seen Tangled
(which I loved), Ratatouille,
and we're in the middle of The Tigger Movie
now. We also picked up Megamind,
which I decided was not really a kids' movie after all, and so finished on my own.
If you're not familiar with the story (and it's a familiar one), Megamind is one of two aliens that get sent off in small space pods from their dying worlds to live on earth. Metro Man has all the super powers you'd expect, while Megamind has a big blue head, a minion that's a fish, and can make crazy mad science inventions (but otherwise doesn't seem too inherently bright). He also ends up being very good at escaping from jail. They go to the same school as children, where Metro Man is the popular one, and Megamind is always picked last for everything. Naturally, they become rivals, with Metro Man as the hero and Megamind as the villain. The story ends up having this great feel of the hero and the villain completing each other in a fluffy bunnies version of the Batman/Joker relationship, but it takes awhile to get to that realization.
In the mean time, I started wondering just what has happened to heroes lately.
I admit that I'm behind on some of the great super-stories that have come out lately, so I can't speak to the trend in its entirety. (I even own Black and White
by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge and haven't read it yet; I'm super excited to get a hold of Carrie Vaughn's After the Golden Age
as well.) But here's what I've noticed based on a few recent samplings of the spin-the-super-story genre. The hero? Not really the good guy. Megamind
is a prime example of this: despite the fact that Megamind
is all about being the villain, he ends up being the character the audience really identifies with -- and, no real spoiler here, he ends up turning a new leaf by the end of the story. (Thus, it may actually be a kids' movie after all.) Better still: Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog.
Metro Man ends up having some redeeming qualities; Captain Hammer's only redeeming quality is that he's played my Nathan Fillion -- otherwise, he's a complete jerk. Even in Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible,
the villain, who is a mastermind (also the common thread here), is extremely compelling as a sympathetic figure.
Now, take a look back at the uber-superhero: Superman. Apparently he can sort of be a jerk in some of the early comics, too -- but not at the expense of a nerdy rival. No, Supe's secret identity *is* the nerdy guy. Originally created by a couple of pretty nerdy guys, Supe was a fantasy that bought into the whole Charles Atlas mentality of self-improvement: even nerds could have awesome body-builder style strength. (Of course, Superman was even more awesome than just a strong man -- but still, he's a fantasy that nerds were supposed to identify with, rather than despise.)
And Clark Kent isn't the only super-nerd. Let's wander into the Marvel-verse. Take Spiderman. Peter Parker: total nerd to start with. Reed Richards? Actually makes a name for himself as a nerd -- who cares that he can go all bendy as Mr. Fantastic when we need his super brain? Even Tony Stark has some serious nerd cred (though, granted, he never really embraces the nerd lifestyle, and no one ever gives him crap for being smart, unlike the other heroes I've mentioned).
So, nerd has always equalled good in the comics world -- but strong has not always equalled jerk. I'm wondering if this trend of the super-strong hero-as-villain trend has to do with embracing geeks-as-overlords. (That's mostly tongue in cheek -- but, as Alec Hardison on Leverage
says: "Age of the geek, baby. We rule the world.") The thing is -- I get the geek-as-hero trend (see: Chuck
as an example). But this geek-as-villain thing? Is this a subversive, refusing to work for the man thing? Is it supporting the idea that we who were picked on for our nerdiness as kids are out for revenge (rather than being willing to save our tormentors)? Clearly, Doctor Horrible doesn't end up happy with his career choice, and Megamind converts to the side of good... but still. What is going on right now to make the supervillain nerd anti-hero a popular trope?
I would love to hear thoughts on this that don't come from inside my own head. :) In good news, the whole thought process inspired a quick short story, which I drafted in one day and Max Gladstone
has already gotten me crits for. Hooray for creative contemplation resulting in actual word count!