Lex Luthor

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by safarial, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    May 10, 2005
    The visitor's bullpen
    Because some people just *are* evil. We didn't decide that, they did. By their own actions. What's there to understand about, say, the Nazis? It was perfectly obvious what they were all about: the complete and utter conquest of the world. They demonstrated that time and again. So why should we have wasted valuable time trying to 'understand' what is already obvious?

    Ah, I see. And this matters how, exactly? What did we do to Hitler? Nothing, to the man personally. To his forces? We waged war against them, with the rules of engagement in place. That is what we do. So what's the problem?

    I think a better word than 'destroy' would be 'contain'. Did we destroy the Nazis? No, we fought them openly and defeated them. And after that, we didn't destroy the survivors, we put them on trial for war crimes. Would you count that as destruction?

    Says who? You? Superman would disagree. He follows the rules - he never kills. He could have killed Luthor at any time, but chose not to. (Except in a rather lameass Superboy episode, of course. ;) )
  2. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 15, 2001
    Chicago, IL

    Actually you are wrong about Hitler. The allies spent years psycho analyzing Hitler before, during and after WWII. Indeed most dictators have been psycho analyzed at one point or another. Knowing WHY people do what they do allows you to better understand them and thus makes them more predictable.

    There were endless documentaries and papers written on Saddam Hussein before we invaded Iraq. Quite a bit of our initial war strategy was based the government's understanding of him as a man. Having a better grasp of his psychology also explained both why he did not comply with UN weapons inspectors yet had long since destroyed the WMDs he did have. His actions seem illogical until you understand how he views the world and his place in it.

    Krimlinology was the study of the Soviet government. Not just how it was fun, but the ideological basis on which it functioned. To this very day (including the situation in Georgia) it has been argued that we fail to understand the Russia's often paranoid mindset. Understanding and acknowledging their paranoia makes their actions of late so much more predictable. We do not have to buy into their paranoia, but it helps us to know that it exists and why they respond in a particular way.

    The reality is that NO ONE EVER sees themself as the villan of the story. Hitler really did think he was doing the world a favor by eliminating the Jews and trying to conquer Russia (and honestly did not understand why other Western countries fought against him).

    Many homicidal murderers think that they are perfectly justified in their killing. Mobsters frequently see themselves a businessmen filling a preexisting nich in the market that our societal rules create (hell many members of the Italian mob still go to church and are devout Catholics). Gang members think that it makes total sense to shoot someone for any percieved act of disrespect (to allow such disrespect is to put ones onw life in danger).

    Likewise, even a cursory glance a terrorist literature of any stripe lets you know that they think that they are doing good and necessary work.

    Its this reality that has always made some aspects of the DCU seem rather childish. No one forms a "Secret Society of Supervillans" or an "Injustice League." The "Crime Syndicate/Society of Amerika" makes little sense if you think about it. How can people that run the world and make the rules call what they do a "crime"?
  3. Galactus

    Galactus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Aug 25, 2002
    The High Father
    I have often heard those arguments made, and I can say that except in a very few cases, the person truly knows what they are doing and know that it is not good. There is a difference between having a different policy such as a country and it is another to think that slaughtering people in a good thing. The problem is that people now know that people they thought were good, have done things that are not so good. The extension of that is that people they know are bad have also done similar things so are they really as bad as you thought or are the misunderstood?

    I have no doubt that a lot of the people that do evil deeds say they are the heroes, but they know they are evil. That would be the ultimate form of evil would it not.
  4. Cary L. Brown

    Cary L. Brown Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Oct 14, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Very well-stated. For the past several years, I've spent a fair amount of my free time reading about and studying Islam (from an "outsider" perspective, mind you). Because of this, I understand why those among that belief system who engage in violence are actually thinking... and yes, they really do believe that by blowing up a schoolbus full of children in Israel, they're doing "good." Horrifying, but true.

    I moved to a new topic a couple of months ago, and have been studying the history of socialism (in all of it's forms). From the first real "socialist" government taking power during the French Revolution, to Hegel, to Marx, to Lenin and Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler... all the most well-known "internationalist socialist" and "nationalist socialist" leaders... to the lesser-known "religious-socialists," to the softer forms we see among western democracies today (usually referred to as "progressives").

    It's easy for those on the right to villainize all "progressives" as evil, simply because their philosophical basis springs from the same well as the others mentioned do... but that's not really fair, because the overwhelming majority of people who follow that belief system really do think that they're "doing good." Unfortunately, the teaching of history has failed, in recent decades, to pass along the lessons of who some of these "villains" of recent history really were.

    Hitler was undeniably a bad guy. But if you really know much about what he did and where he stood on a LOT of issues, well.. it's stunning to see how many of his positions are broadly supported here, in the USA, today. Not by "neo-nazis" and certainly not by conservatives, but by well-meaning "progressives."

    Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Part of learning from history involves UNDERSTANDING the people you're talking about. Hitler was a racist and an extremist nationalist... but he was also a crusader against cancer, strongly against smoking, a teatotaller, in favor of "the village" taking on responsibility for the raising of children... anti-big-business (unless it was under the direct control of the government), anti-religion, except for historically germanic "pagan" beliefs, a proponent of "pure evolutionary" theory (and it's offshoot, Eugenics), very much in favor of governmental funding of arts, of governmental control over education... and the list goes on and on. The fact that he was also an ultranationalist racist is the only thing that clearly separates him from current American "progressivism."

    Now, let's talk about other "bad guys." Ones in the world today. The leader of Iran, for instance... you can dismiss him as a nutcase, but that's both insulting and stupid. Find out what he really believes (about the imminent "return of the 12th Imam" and everything associated with that) and you'll understand why he's so dangerous. The man believes that Allah intends him to be instrumental in the "end of the world."

    On the other hand, Kim Jong Il is FAR less threatening. Why? Again, you need to understand who he is and why he does what he does. Jong is not nearly as anti-west as he's portrayed in the American press. And his "nuclear weapons" aren't really anything developed by his country anyway... they're basically "gifts" from the Chinese government, who've had nuclear weapons for many years (and are now building US-created designs they obtained last decade!). He's actually in a very rough position... as the defacto "pitbull" of the Chinese government, he knows that if he were ever to go against them, he'd be dead. But don't forget, he lived in the west for many years until his father, Kim Il Song, died... and his apparently "goofy" actions (like his love of Elvis Presley) are at least as much an effort to show us (in the west) that he's not REALLY consumed by hate for what we represent. The poor guy simply has no choice... be the "pit bull" or turn up dead one morning. :(

    Milosovich... why did he do the "evil" things he's accused of? Do any of you know anything about him except that Javier Solana chose to side against him? You know the term "genocide" has been tossed around, but have you ever tried to understand what HE may have been thinking?

    The point is... you can't effectively deal with ANYONE, without understanding what their motivations are. And EVERYONE thinks that their motivations are "good." (Even when they're totally wrong!)
  5. Othello

    Othello Commodore Commodore

    Mar 2, 2001

    There it is. On Smallville he's not just evil for the sake of being evil. There is a method and reason to his madness and it was a beautful thing to see play out.
  6. Othello

    Othello Commodore Commodore

    Mar 2, 2001
    That theme is very much right on target. Hero's NEED villians to bring out the goodness for others to see and cheer for. As "Rowdy" Roddy Piper said about he and Hulk Hogan "do you think they would have cheered you so hard if they didn't hate me so much" I mean people totally DESPISED Piper in a visceral way and the more he pised people off the more they cheered Hogan. It's the same way in the movies and tv.
  7. Praetor

    Praetor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 18, 2004
    The fine line between continuity and fanwank.
    Cary, I won't quote you because that was so long but I think it was quite well said and insightful. I think that part of the appeal of Luthor as a character is trying to understand and rationalize why he would stand against Superman from a very common, human, emotional place, in the same way we try to understand our enemies.

  8. Holdfast

    Holdfast Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Feb 19, 2000
    17 Cherry Tree Lane
    OK, let me see if I can explain it. Not to convince you, because we clearly come at things from very different angles, but just to further the exploration/discussion. I'm enjoying this thread.

    I've always found evil characters fascinating. Done well, they are an exploration of the extreme. Most of us are bound by societal rules and at some level agree to conform to them, recognising a net utility to doing so.

    Now, not all of us consciously and overtly make that choice, but it's there. Whether we choose to get jobs, get married, obey laws, raise children, or whatever, it's an expression of an agreement with the status quo because we either consciously or subconsciously recognise we get a net benefit from doing so. We suppress some parts of ourselves to get a net reward. Again, not saying this is always a conscious choice, but I don't think it's rocket science to suggest it happens at some level with everyone, otherwise there would be anarchy.

    Criminal behaviour in general is a fascinating study because they think they are able to break out of that conformity. Comic book supervillains or even more existential evil forces like Lucifer or Sauron are criminals of the purest sort - they represent what every child wishes they could do. Break the rules without either morality or societal coercion/punishment intervening. Pure id. In short, perfect emotional freedom. Freedom is a very attractive concept, which makes supervillains of this sort very charismatic.

    Their sheer audacity in defying convention and conventional morality demands attention. However, unlike a child throwing a temper tantrum, the best villains harness that audacity to a razor sharp intellect capable achieving their aims - they are the Moriarties, Lecters and Luthors of the fictional world.

    Of course, in reality, such characters would be terrifying to encounter. As someone who has interviewed psychopaths, both of low and high IQ, there is little more genuinely chilling than chatting with a true high-functioning psychopath. What's most chilling is that for a while one actually quite likes them, until they say or do something so horrifically unconventional that it shocks you back into perspective.

    However, with well-written fictional supervillians, that almost never happens - instead you see the charm, the chutzpah and the freedom. When they do something horrific - like Lecter frying and feeding whathisname his own brain, the audience squirms, retches and chuckles but doesn't feel personally threatening. That's why fictional supervillains are so appealing to large numbers of the public, including myself.
  9. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer The Mod You've Known for All These Years Moderator

    "If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete."--Sun Tzu
  10. Galactus

    Galactus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Aug 25, 2002
    The High Father

    Thank you for you well thought out answer. I based on my own experiences I agree with most of what you said. I know the idea that one can do whatever they want is very fascinating to a lot of people, especially today, which is why you have shows about bad cops, a spaceship full of people you want to be killed by robots because they deserve it, a serial killer, and the list goes on. People truly like people like this, and I really think they would like these type of people in person. People that tend to do bad things, surround themselves with bad things. It is one thing to understand your enemy, it is another thing to admire them.
  11. Guy Gardener

    Guy Gardener Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Apr 15, 2000
    In the lap of squalor I assure you.
    Personally, with knowing what was to come, Australia could have been a little better off with Luthor in charge.

    I just saw Slaughterhouse 5 for the first time yesterday. Miss Tessmachers chesticles were like omnipresent and should have gotten top billing as they paraded from side of the screen to the other and back again.