Truth, Justice, And The Occasionally Un-American Way

Green Lantern: ‘What are your powers anyway? You can’t fly.’
Batman: ‘No.’
Green Lantern: ‘Super-strength?’
Batman: ‘No.’
Green Lantern: ‘Hold on a second... You’re not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? Are you freaking kidding me?!’
— Geoff Johns, Justice League Vol I: Origins
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I wrote a post a long time ago about superheroes, and the fact that it grows a little tiresome to have an entire population not recognise someone simply through the donning of a pair of glasses (take a bow, Clark Kent), or putting their hair in a bun (yes, you, Diana Prince). I was always impressed with Batman, because at least he was covered from head to toe, and if you take it on the authority of the latter day actors who have portrayed him, putting that suit on means you suddenly speak in a completely different voice as well. As for Ironman - well, Tony Stark doesn't give a flying fig. He loves telling the world who he is. No secret identity there; if there's such a thing as an unsecret identity, that's what he would have on his customs form as an occupation. 

'Name?'

'Tony Stark'

'Occupation?'

'Ironman'

'Oh, you do triathlons?'

'No! I'm Ironman! You know? Ironman?? Fly around, fire missiles at bad guys, save the world - oh hang on, I've got some video on my iPhone somewhere...'

The other thing is the cape. 

In order to fly, it seems one must have a cape. Failing that, an invisible jet is de rigeur for the super hero who wants to take to the skies. Again, the exception to the rule is, you guessed it, Tony Stark, but in my book, any superhero played by Robert Downey Jr can do whatever the hell he wants. I am actually fairly certain Robert Downey Jr can fly unaided himself, but maybe that's just me. 

In the real world, superheroes are harder to pick out. They don't necessarily have the capability to disappear into a phone booth at a fast trot, loosening tie and collar to reveal a glimpse of a golden 'S'. Nor can they whirl around in a circle, hair flying from its topknot, golden wristbands gleaming and star-spangled hotpants looking hot, ready to leap into Wonder Woman action. Maybe that's why there has been a decided lack of leaping tall buildings around the planet of late, and the bat signal has more often than not been going unanswered. It's through an inability to make the transition from ordinary to extraordinary. Nobody is willing to put on the tights because they look stupid, and will stand out like the proverbial dog's tes - er, tail. The capes, meanwhile, are stuffed in the back of cupboards, where they can't be seen, and memories of more courageous actions are just that - memories. 

Apathy. The greatest enemy an everyday hero can have.

I think we have, in the main, forgotten that a cape - that stalwart accessory of the superhero upper echelons - is inevitably just a bedsheet dyed a cool colour, and possibly bedazzled with a few funky sequins. The true cape? That's inside our hearts, our souls, and our hind-brain's knowledge of what is right, or wrong, behaviour for self and society. 

Those who wear a cape on the inside, and are the superheroes of our daily lives, are not often lauded for what they do. Usually they come in for a fair amount of malice, ignorant commentary and sometimes a hell of a lot worse. This seems at face value to be nonsensical, after I have just said how apathetic we are as a collective. However, despite being, on the whole, a species who care little about the big issues, we are nonetheless ridiculously good at vilifying those who attempt to change the status quo for the better. 

So it has been in the United States this week. In an historic 5-4 vote, known as Obergefell v Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. The LGBT community and those who love, cherish, and support them worldwide were overjoyed. Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor and Bader Ginsburg - and their invisible capes - had answered the rainbow bat signal. 

What was so horribly disappointing was not the fact that it was a 5-4 vote. It was never going to be a case of The Justice League slapping palms and hoofing it out the door to help Planet Mardi Gras paint the sky pink. Nor was it because of the mindless drone of various yokels stating they were moving to Canada as clearly, their own country had gone to the dogs (NB: dudes, you may want to pick a country that hasn't had gay marriage for a decade. Just saying. Oh, and Mexico legalised this week. Russia, maybe?)

No; it was the personal venom that the dissenting justices revealed. 

The phenomenally beautiful closing statement from Justice Kennedy drew this snipe from Justice Scalia:

“THE OPINION IS COUCHED IN A STYLE THAT IS AS PRETENTIOUS AS ITS CONTENT IS EGOTISTIC...OF COURSE, THE OPINION’S SHOWY PROFUNDITIES ARE OFTEN PROFOUNDLY INCOHERENT.”

This malicious gunk was present again for another invisible cape-wearer, as President Obama was criticised for being 'too black'. Why? Because of his singing 'Amazing Grace' at the funeral of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a personal friend, gunned down in Charleston last week by a terrorist for racial reasons. Too black? A black man, singing at the funeral of a black woman, who was killed for being black, is criticised for being 'too black'? 

America is a red-hot mess in many respects. The statistics on shooting deaths alone speak to that. But they have managed to prove something to the world that we, as Australians, who pride ourselves on our liberalism (as opposed to our Liberalism), have yet to achieve. 

Equality in marriage. Wow.

Superheroes - whether in Metropolis, Memphis or Melbourne - have difficult decisions to make. They don't just wake up, have a macchiato, a nice egg-white omelet and then cruise on out and hit the shops for the day. They need to get the cape out of the laundry sink, where it's been soaking to get rid of Villain Number 33's blergh, and wash it ready for another day at the coalface of crime-fighting action. So too did those five Justices have to look death threats, dissension, and their own moral compasses in the eye. POTUS - well, he got told by Attenborough, and that's really scary. 

Isn't it about time our own so-called superheroes dusted their own capes off, and changed some really crap policy? Either that, or we just make Robert Downey Jr Prime Minister.

Wonder Woman out.