Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Look What’s Happened to Me!
(I Can’t Believe Myself)

For super heroes, evolution is not a theory.

Our continuing pop culture fascination with mutant super humans suggests a hidden subtext promoting evolution over creationism. Like many of my generation, I’ve seen just about every superhero TV show or movie (except The Fantastic Four, nuff said). I used to watch the original Adventures of Superman when I was a boy. I caught the original Batman TV series, The Greatest American Hero (origin of the best TV theme song ever!), Wonder Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Buffy, TV-Star Trek series I, II, III, IV and V, and so on. (I include Star Trek even though the super powered characters were generally non-human). The latest chapter in video-hero evolution is Heroes, which each Monday night kicks 24’s butt.

Recently I’ve seen all the old and new Superman movies (should I say golden and tarnished silver age?), Batman Begins (which, compared to the other Batman films should have been called Batman Gets It Right), X-Men, Dos Equis, Triple Sec, and, of course, Spidey. (Does anyone besides me think that making Peter Parker a “webmaster” in the current Spider-Man comic series is just a little too cute?)

So here I am, a fifty-something baby boomer who has been brought up via the mass media on the Nietzschian belief that there can be supermen, that evolution is leading inexorably to human beings who can fly through the air, lift heavy things, cling to walls, change the weather (back at you, Mark Twain!), bend space and time and stretch their bodies like silly putty.

And why not? When you compare humanity’s current evolutionary state to our closest monkey’s uncle, it is clear that we are far superior. Our brains are so large that we only need to use 10% and often use much less. Every year some Olympian or Marathoner runs faster, jumps higher, swims more synchronously. To your average orangutan, we must seem like the types of Super Hominid into which they’d all like to evolve. But for those of us already at the top of the evolutionary trail, where is there to go but up, as in “up, up and away!”?

One clear advantage we have over the other apes is the ability to imagine the next steps in evolution and the amount of spandex that will be involved. No longer dependent on random genetic mutation to help us forage more efficiently for food or increase our ability to procreate, we can conceive of the types of super abilities that enable us to best the evil mutants who clearly didn’t get the evolutionary memo.

Evolution is no longer an environmental issue: It is a moral issue, which brings us back to creationism. If the purpose of evolution is not survival, but the triumph of good over evil, and if these stories are told with the aid of continually improving CGI, what chance have the stories collected in the Bible? If our morals and mores depend not on divine direction but on random mutation, what gives with that old time religion? One of the creepier aspects of Superman Returns, among many creepy things, was the rather obvious portrayal of the Man of Steel as a sort of divine intervener. Can a feature based on Ruben Bolling’s Godman be far behind?

By the way, I missed Heroes this week, but I did see Spider-Man 3 over the weekend.

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