August 11, 2006

Who wants to be a golden age superhero?

803990802_l.jpg Who Wants to be a Superhero continues to be terrifically entertaining, but I'm beginning to have a problem with it. Not that it seems to be at least 75% scripted, coached or re-enected — that's pretty much the TV definition of reality, right? I mean, so what if Stan Lee had to act shocked that Mary "Monkey Woman" Votava was really an aspiring actress? (As if the producers hadn't checked her MySpace site and — omigod! She went to Oberlin!)

No, the problem is a philosophical one. Stan Lee's definition of a superhero, based on the qualities he's testing for — selflessness, nobility, unfailing courage, even-temperment — are precisely the ones that he so famously undermined in the 1960s with his Marvel Revolution.

Lee [gave] his superheroes a flawed humanity, a change from the ideal archetypes that were typically written for pre-teens. His heroes could have bad tempers, melancholy fits, vanity, greed, etc. They bickered amongst themselves, worried about paying their bills and impressing girlfriends, and even were sometimes physically ill.

Can you imagine Peter Parker triumphing on this show? Ben Grimm? Tony Stark?

Lee keeps saying "a superhero is always" this or "a superhero is never" that, but his original genius was to say that a superhero is just an ordinary person with extrordinary abilities. I say we leave these people in a room full of radioactive spiders and see what happens from there.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I finally watched the show last night and HATED the second challenge. As far as I could tell, the challenge was "who is willing to lie to me." And this, right after honesty was so vigorously touted in the first challenge (which was very, very cool).

The illustration you have for Monkey Woman is built more like Lemuria. Lemuria certainly doesn't look like the smallest monkey in the world.

Agreed about the lame-o challenge, though the fact that Tyveculus didn't see through it the way everyone else did is a pretty good indication that he's not sharp enough to be a superhero.

As for the illustration, you know what they say: the comic panel adds ten pounds — of cleavage!

I'm guessing he's just plain forgotten. How long has it been since he wrote anything worth reading?

Historically, the Science Fiction genre of film has had some of the very worst acting among all of the B-movies, porn included.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many people turned off to porn flicks and science fiction early.

Notable exceptions among S.F. included the original Superman series, The Twilight Zone, William Shatner performances, Stanley Kubrick films, and more recently, Edward James Olmos' acting. George Lucas has recently geared-up to bring additional ever-crucial believability to motion pictures.

But the Comic Book Superhero genre is a special class all unto itself. The unique de rigueur of Stan Lee should probably humble just about anyone. His acolytes apparently are becoming better for it.

Pretty lady bananas go bye? Pretty lady bananas.

I disagree about the lameness of the challenge. I appreciated the way the producers framed it: Stan said "I can't tell whether any of you are lying, but in the end you did the right thing." I always wanted to see someone on Survivor vote themselves off the island: That part of the show was the one that made me completely lose interest in the competitors as people and the show in general.

Radosh is right on as to the show's obvious scriptedness (to a degree more suitable to Stan's vaudevillian's sensibilities) and his obviously false claims about superhero traits. In the end, there just needs to be some decision criteria to move the plot (not competition, plot) along.

Several Survivors have sacrificed themselves over the years. It's always a let down.

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