Superheroes and the Body Politic

Scott Bukatman (man I love the guy) writes, in Matters of Gravity (p70):

The mutant superhero, like the adolescent, is inarticulate within the social system – a categorical mistake that upsets the notions of order and hierarchy through an investment with dangerous, disapproved and uncontrollable powers.

This is true. Society does not know how to handle the teenager, a social entity that has been created in between the innocence of childhood and the control over life of adulthood. The teenager possesses both of these things and the tension betwichfor one of the best explorations. See Rebel Without A Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) for one of the best explorations. Also The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), and even Imitation of Life (Doulgas Sirk, 1959), which has just about every issue you want in it.

I know that Bukatman goes into this later in his book, and I will come to it when I read it again, but I am wondering the extent to which all superheroes are mutants? Many are- not just X-Men, who are his main focus, but also Spiderman, whose body is mutated. But this is only when he chooses it to be, he becomes Spiderman from the regular Peter Parker. This control over a choice to mutate separates him out from other superheroes, and yet he still upsets the order of heirarchy within our social system. As a teenager, Peter Parker was seemingly non-existent even within his own demographic of high schoolers, and as a superhero Spiderman place in society becomes dictated by a parochial newspaper mogul.


And what for a non-mutant superhero- I am thinking of Batman. Although Bruce Wayne created his superhero alter-ego from scratch, with capital and resources rather than a freak mutation, Batman still has no place within the social system of Gotham City. He exists above it, accesses it laterally rather than from within the bounds of the regular city dwellers. His construcrtion of a man-suit in the later films expresses a very distinct desire to upset set heirarchies- rather than being a mistake, Batman shows that social systems are not impermeable, that the body has, and needs to use, its power.


About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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