Commonwealth Journal

Columns

July 24, 2012

The Agent of Chaos

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It used to be that the motivation of super villains was easy to figure out: greed.
They robbed banks for money. They stole priceless diamonds from museums. Maybe they were power hungry and wanted to take over Metropolis, or New York City, or the world. Maybe they thirsted for revenge against a hero who had beaten them previously, and wanted an eye for an eye.
This is reflective of the times in which these characters were created. The world was drawn more simply then, in stark black-and-white terms. Everyone in American society knew who our villains were and what they wanted. Organized crime. The Nazis during World War II.
Later, comic books were influenced by attitudes toward issues like the spread of Communism during the Cold War and man’s venturing into outer space (you saw a lot more aliens bent on conquering the Earth starting in the “Space Age”). Americans knew that you were to abide by the law, and if you didn’t, you became a criminal and were punished. It’s just the way the world turned.
Evil appears to have changed since then, however, or at least the way we perceive it. These days, it seems more random, more senseless. We’ve seen planes crash into the World Trade Towers. We’ve seen school shootings. We’ve seen bath salt-fueled “zombies” eating off other people’s faces. We look at these things and say we don’t understand. Why did these things happen? How could they be allowed to take place? Rather than seeing clear good vs. evil, we question everything.
Largely because, perhaps, the motivations have changed. The above atrocities were not committed for a simple, rational reason (e.g. steal the diamond, hold it ransom for money, live comfortably on your ill-gotten wealth). They were done for religious fanaticism. In a chemical-addled stupor. For the sake of sheer chaos. Because one day, someone woke up and said, “Why not?”

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