Are Comic Book Superhero Movies TOO VIOLENT?


We all know, the Logan movie takes heavy inspiration from the Old Man Logan comic book storyline where Wolverine, for the most part, has his claws put away, he put his violent past behind him. But this movie feels like almost the exact opposite. He whips out his claws from the very beginning and starts slashing at people's throats. It is bloody, it is gory, it is brutal, but the movie doesn't treat violence like it's a fun thing that all the characters are engaged in, even when Wolverine is victorious in combat.

The characters aren't throwing up quips or having heartfelt moments of realizations with their teammates during combat, they simply fight because they have to. Most of the violence in the movie isn't Logan or Laura looking for a fight or saving the world as heroes, but simply the result of them trying to survive. It's the world that's violent and the characters just live in it. This, makes Logan different than most superhero movies or superhero stories in general, whether from comic books or cartoons, et cetera. Heroes tend to fight because there's a deep-seated the narrative in our culture that combat is always the solution to every problem.

Theologian Walter Wink coined this as the myth of redemptive violence. He uses Popeye as an example, where a typical episode would feature Bluto taking Olive Oyl. Popeye attempts to save her but gets beaten up by Bluto initially, then
he eats some spinach and wins the fight, washes, rinses, repeat. There's no discussion of whatever rivalry they have, no attempt to talk it out like people. No one walks away with any lesson learned, as pretty much the same thing will happen in the next episode. The basic idea is present throughout almost every story we tell as humans.

- [Walter Wink] "The belief that violence saves is so successful because it doesn't seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It's what works, it seems inevitable, the last and often the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. This myth of redemptive violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam is the dominant religion in our society today."

Wink goes on to explain that this dates all the way back to the ancient Babylonian creation myth where gods were killed, and from their corpses, one of them is the embodiment of chaos, the earth, and the stars were created. Creation itself is an act of violence. It was there from the very start. And the story structure of the victory of order over chaos spread like wildfire, it's present in almost every story we tell, especially superhero stories.

Superheroes have to fight in order to win. Even political issues go from healthy discussion to airport battles, and this is what caused Fredric Wertham to go on a crusade against comic books during the 1940s with his book Seduction of the Innocent. If you recognize that name at all, you might associate him as the guy who really hates comic books, but really he should be thought of like the guy who really hates violence. His life goal was to promote the idea that human violence could end. He simply believed that superheroes and comic books were teaching children that violence as entertainment.



- [Fredric] "We are teaching young people that violence is an amusement, it's an entertainment. Human violence can be reduced, to my mind can be completely abolished."

And while we might consider crime stories to be their own sort of subgenre, Wertham thought about 90% of comics were crime stories, including superheroes and horror comics.

- [Fredric] "We've come to the conclusion, crime comic books are comic books that depict crime. We have found that it makes no difference whether the local is western or Superman or a spaceship or horror. If a girl is raped, she is raped whether it's on a spaceship or in the prairie. If a man is killed, he's killed whether he comes from Mars or from somewhere else."

He felt that children who read these stories would pay attention to all the cool things that the villain was doing for most of the plot and then kind of disregard the last few panels where the hero or the police officer would come in and say that crime doesn't pay.

And Walter Wink echoes a similar sentiment in regards to the myth of redemptive violence.

- [Walter Wink] "For the first three-quarters of the comic strip or TV show, the hero suffers grievously and appears hopelessly doomed, until miraculously the hero breaks free, vanquishes the villain, and restores order until the next episode. This segment of the show where the hero suffers actually consumes all but the closing minutes, allowing ample time for indulging the violent side of the self."

Wink was also worried that redemptive violence would give way to violence as an end in itself, without meeting the redemptive quality of that. And look no further than us comics fans who are constantly asking questions like, In that scenario, we didn't set up a reason why those two were gonna be fighting. They're not gonna do so to save the world or for any sort of higher purpose, they're just fighting
because it's a cool thing to think about. It's violence as an end in itself.

Violence isn't going anywhere. As Stanley Kubrick said,

- [Stanley Kubrick] "There's always been violence in art, there's violence in the Bible, violence in Homer, violence in Shakespeare."


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