looking at superheroes - myth, pop culture, ideology...

Friday, May 19, 2006

House MD and the Justice League

Now is the part where I discuss superheroes and mythological forms.

I was at the lovely Jessica's house the other night, watching House. I hadn't seen the show before, but knew it was about a disgruntled doctor who has a heart of gold. He leads a team of doctors, who work miracles and save lives of patients. They are outstanding members of their field, restoring things to how they should be through the power of science.

Sure, the show was interesting and all, but the analytical film student in me couldn't help but notice structural similarilites in the storytelling to something else. Something called the Justice League. This is the team of superheroes who combine their individual superpowers to fight bad guys and bring the world back to balance again. The team includes Superman (the unofficial leader), Batman, Green Lantern, Wonderwoman, Aqua Man, Hawk Man, the Flash... and others.

House and his team of super-doctors struggle against the odds to help individuals from badness.
Justice League, the team of super-heroes, struggle against the odds to help individuals from badness.

Same stories, different characters, all part of the same mythological culture. House is aimed at adults, mostly middle aged women. The Justice League, in its current version, is a saturday morning cartoon program, aimed at coco-pops munching kids. The programs both transcend the medium itself, to become part of a grander social mythology, where the audience and the producer of the content are in a constant process of defining and contesting the meaning of the world. What is goodness? How can it be overcome? What are the limits of our society? Mythology involves us, we are part of it - through our conversations with others, our relationships. Discussing who would win in a battle between Batman and Galactus is developing forms of myth that have been with us for thousands of years. The nature of good versus the nature of evil. Raw moral tales that show humanity at a purely universal level (individuals battling with life and death) that show us how to live.

Contemporary medical dramas and saturday morning superhero cartoons. Its all the same story.

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