Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm OK! You Suck!

In 1969, Thomas A Harris MD published his famous book titled I'm OK - You're OK. I won't go into the long and probably boring details about Transactional Analysis, if for no other reason than it's the title that's the main point. While the Harris book suggests that people go through different "life positions" the final and most desirable is a general acceptance of yourself and people around you, in reality, it seems not to work that way.

It seems more like we can only be "OK" if someone or something around us gets to be "not OK". Batman has no reason to be Batman if there's no Joker, or Two-Face, or Riddler around to battle, beat, and put in prison/Arkham. If the world of Gotham were reduced to petty pickpockets and shoplifters, Bruce would have to hang up his cowl and take being a billionare more seriously.

Superman's probably a bit better off since, even in a world devoid of villains (super or otherwise), he's still good for rescuing people, cats stuck in trees, averting natural disasters, and that sort of thing. Yet a comic book, film, or TV show of Superman only rescuing people and never facing an adversary would probably not attract much of an audience. For some reason, we really need to see the Man of Steel beat the living crap out of someone. It's even more satisfying if we see Batman do it, since the Caped Crusader has fewer inhibitions about drawing blood and breaking bones.

What does this say about us, the audience? Are we a bunch of blood-thirsty thugs who get pleasure out of seeing someone hurt (if you're a fan of the Twilight books/films, I suppose "blood-thirsty" has a somewhat different meaning)? Maybe, but it's not the most likely explanation.

People, when they get angry, generally don't stay angry for very long. It's tough to feel hurt enough for hours on end. Eventually, we cool off. But frustration that breaks out into occasional anger can last for years. Just look at Batman. Decades after witnessing his Mom and Dad being gunned down right in front of him, Bruce is still putting on his cowl at night and having it out with whatever punk that's unlucky enough to cross his path (Go ahead, make my day...uh, night).

In previous articles on this blog, I've suggested a variety of reasons why we are attracted to superheroes. Reasons going from the desire to be entertained to seeking the best in us by seeing it in our costumed heroes. The reason I'm citing now is not so nobel...but it's very human.

When we're hurt, we can't always retaliate. Unlike Batman, if we try to beat someone up, even if they deserve it (by virtue of robbing a bank or hooking a 12 year old on drugs), we'll either get beaten up instead or get tossed in jail. We can however, get a vicarious thrill out of seeing Batman or some other comic book character do it for us. It doesn't change the nature of the world and it doesn't put real "bad guys" away, but for a little while, we can experience a sense that someone is out there, delivering the type of justice we wish could really happen...

I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? -Harry Callahan

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