Media: Justice League

Hercules Update: Only after arrangements were made for Hercules to be delivered to animal control this weekend did the owner make contact to say Herc would be claimed by Sunday. He and his girlfriend are doing another pass through rescue organizations. The transport I arranged was on Saturday, so that had to be re-scheduled. But yay, owner taking responsibility, and yay, Herc may yet live. Still, boo that I had to essentially sign the pooch’s death warrant before his owner was driven to act. Still not thrilled about human beings.

This weekend, I was subject to the television-viewing interests of other people, specifically my sweetheart’s twelve-year-old daughter, and thus I got to see the Justice League two-parter In Blackest Night. It brought to my attention the world and society as we present it to kids, and some elements that distress me about it.

I should throw out some disclaimers here:

Disclaimer Zero: I’m still depressed from the whole affair regarding Hercules (above). This is meant to be a light topic, but rather than trying to format it as if I were making a point, I’m leaving it in separated components. Much of my (general) point ends up in disclaimers, and much of my specific points end up in bullet points. It’s insight into how I think. Today, I’m trying to write when really I don’t want to expose myself too much to the world, or look at the world too much. So it’s probably not going to be my best work.

Disclaimer One: In Blackest Night was aired November 9th and 26th 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks during which all the media networks were carefully selecting what materials were offensive and what weren’t. (Clear Channel Media Holdings — now iHeartMedia, Inc. was notorious for striking the John Lennon song Imagine from their broadcast playlists.) More importantly, In Blackest Night was produced well before the attacks, probably during the the calm but melancholy first-year of George W. Bush’s presidency while the dot-com bubble was popping. In Blackest Night was also a loose adaptation of Justice League of America #140-141, No Man Escapes the Manhunter and No World Escapes the Manhunters both written by Steve Englehart and published in 1977, and I don’t know what from this original source was regarded as important to retain. (I bet it wasn’t the raygun gothic futurism.) Some bits might have been thought too canon to modernize.

Disclaimer Two: Again, I’m looking at a pre-9/11-era 2001 episode from the standpoint of someone in 2015. There are even presumptions in Tom Clancy stories circa 2007 that are outdated in our post-Snowden, post-Ferguson world. Much like the shake-up in fiction while the Soviet Union collapsed, well, our times seem to continue to stay interesting. We even have cell smart phones.

Disclaimer Three: I would say my point is that we should be careful what our children watch, but the real point is that we should be careful what we watch. The United States is still reeling from the revelations of multiple programs (most famously the CIA program) that feature the apprehension of persons-of-interest (including Americans) without trial, their extraordinary rendition to black sites abroad (and now, domestic) their extrajudicial detention and enhanced interrogation. That is, respectively, the United States kidnaps innocent people, denies them access to the legal system, transports them to undisclosed secondary locations and keeps them there and tortures them. Indefinitely. And while many of us are ashamed this happened (and still is happening) Some people believe such methods are justified, and have pointed to Jack Bauer, who (in the fictional series 24) tortured people to save the world. Among these advocates Justice Anton Scalia of the United States Supreme Court specifically mentioned Jack Bauer in the SCOTUS review of US policy regarding torture.

So here in the United States, there’s specific, identifiable damage done due to careless media consumption.

If we are going to expose ourselves to media that might paint specific attitudes or ideologies, we need to be able to do so with the ability to regard the content critically, and if we don’t have the capacity to regard content critically, we need to be aware of what we watch and how it affects who we become.

In the Justice League two-parter In Blackest Night Green Lantern John Stewart is summoned to Ajuris 5 to stand trial for the destruction of Ajuris 4. According to a witness testimony (featuring extracted memories) John Stewart use his ring to blast a ship. The attack bounced off the ship’s shields, struck a vulnerability of Ajuris 4, causing it to explode, allegedly killing three billion persons. In Blackest Night is about the trial and the events to follow.

~ I say three billion persons, though the show refered to them as three billion lives. Counting every life form down to bacteria, we lose far higher magnitude of lives on Earth every day. It’s a minor nitpick. Oddly, the show didn’t acknowledge these three billion citizens. Not one child’s doll. Not one off-world bereaved. Not one story of loved ones lost, or barely-escaped. I guess we didn’t learn that stuff until 9/11.

~ As a nitpick regarding Green Lantern, since when does a Green Lantern blast? A Green Lantern ring is capable of fabricating large, complicated machines, and GLC methods regarding hostiles tend to be of the isolate–immobilize–secure school. This isn’t to say John Stewart couldn’t blast a pirate, but it is certainly uncharacteristic of him, or any Green Lantern. Also, if a blast could deflect off a pirate-ship’s shield and cause problems, the ring (which also works as a super-advanced smart phone, auto-pilot and digital assistant) would have advised Stewart at length about the situational precautions he’d have to take.

~ If a blast from Green Lantern could set off a chain reaction that could destroy a highly-populated planet, then John Stewart (and any member of the GLC in subspace-shot) has a far bigger crisis on their hands than space pirates, namely stop the planet with three-billion people from exploding. Planets are really super stable. The energy it would take to crack the Earth (i.e. exceed its gravitational binding) is the total output of the sun for six days, or enough electrical power to supply the entire world (at its current population) for one billion years. Even if the spark that could set off a chain reaction and destroy Ajuris 4 was a few times bigger than the Tsar Bomba that would still warrant declaring a geological crisis for Ajuris 4. It would be huge news, and the GLC would be working triple shifts trying to keep Ajuris 4 from falling apart. Assuming Ajuris 4 has the kind of science sector that one would expect of a population of three billion, and within that, a few associations of Ajuris 4 geologists and ecologists, they’d have long since figured out their own planet has a crazy weakness. Although their mining and oil-drilling industries might be lobbying to instill doubt.

~ When the Manhunters come to Earth to arrest John Stewart, there’s no announcement, no identification, no declaration of intention or authority. They just start shooting. The Justice League responds in kind, making for an altercation with collateral damage. Stewart’s (voluntary) arrest goes down about as well as a suburban SWAT raid. But unlike SWAT guys, Manhunters can eat a bullet, or even a volley from the Battleship Missouri without flinching. They don’t need to swoop in with the element of surprise. A manhunter can actually afford the benefit of doubt, and assume that a suspect is willing to cooperate with them.

~ A court that exacts punishments on advocates and attorneys as a means of solving the lawyer problem totally fails to acknowledge that lawyers actually serve multiple functions in a court of law. For one, they give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, and for another they advise those who do not understand the law. Here on Earth, we too have a lawyer problem, but it is not that lawyers are intrinsically bad for a legal system, just that the US adversarial (and now archaic) legal system encourages lawyers behave poorly because doing so is advantageous for their clients. Throwing lawyers into jail with their clients only exacerbates the problem, and those without voice are once again silenced.

~ Death penalties are intrinsically barbaric. The decision by an authority to deprive a person of life, the life of someone who committed terrible crimes, is essentially an admission that fair resolution is beyond the power or understanding or compassion of the court. When the action of a state deprives a person of life, whether through an executed order to kill a convict, or the action of an enforcement officer to protect his own life or prevent escape, these scenarios are a failure of the state to uphold civilized peace. A more advanced civilization than the Earth would not resort to demanding death, rather would seek to rehabilitate the convict, and provide recovery or compensation to the victims. The more advanced the civilization, of course, the better the means to provide these things.

~ According to the tradition of hospitality, guests of a home (including a business establishment, such as a bar or restaurant) behave themselves even in the face of their adversary. If you cannot remain peaceful, or must take up arms, you take your issue outside. When Hawk Girl challenges John Stewart’s GLC brethren, finding their loyalty lacking, it immediately comes to blows as if they were children. No one even considers sitting down and talking this out. I’m pretty sure policies of conduct within the League and the Corps don’t allow for bar-fights. Or even general belligerence.

Or at least they wouldn’t if they were actual institutions or written as such.


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