Zizek and Arrow: Modern Prophecy in Comics?

Zizek spends a good chapter of his book “A Year of Living Dangerously” analyzing a TV show called “The Wire” which I haven’t seen, but I love the new Super Hero genre – Angsty Spiderman, Plotless Thor, Awe inspiring Batman, a psychologically probative Superman, and now the Arrow.

It’s a common theme among these films and TV shows now to overturn the status quo. The bad guys attempt it, the good guys attempt it. Arrow even is so brash as to use the term 0ne-percent-ers.

So, film makers and TV makers are offering in their own way a picture of the problem they see with injustice and inequality. To be honest, it comes off as a caricature in some films like Angsty Spirderman, and in others it comes off very sincere. For Comic books this is hardly new ground. X-men offered a picture of racism or elitism combatted by Dr. Xavier. I’m not comic book buff, but what a fantastic place to come from.

The hero’s in these films challenge the methodology of combating crime and inequity. Zizek looks at violence and inequity as inherent parts of the system. He’s a communist so he looks at the ills of capitalism and the particular type of leadership that it produces. Now, I’m not a communist, but Zizek’s critique doesn’t end there. He points out that the “carnivals” of protest were not only ineffective, they had very little consensus about what they wanted to accomplish in the first place.

This puts us back into the frame of motion pictures and comic book heros. The writers can’t make up their minds on who is wanting what change or what methods are ok for revolution. It seems that the protesters didn’t either.

What I love about Zizek is in this section he acknowledges the good of Christianity at the same time as he explains that the problem with the protestors is that they don’t have the unity nor the willingness to experiment with the leadership necessary for actual transformation. It’s a hopeful critique – it’s one even the church needs to hear. Leadership and organization are not evils or some sort of inherently destructive force, they are essentials to sorting out what will be new or novel or different about the new order.

They miss the obvious, and I mean both Zizek and film industry, there have been revolutionary groups all over the place for centuries cloaked in monastic orders, the Moravians, the Quakers, the Agri-Universities, the Confessing Church in Germany, the New-monastics, and now folks like the simple-way and Epworth House.

But there is something to seeing all these ideas played out in a TV show or movie – the question is, how are they forming us? Are they forming the protest without any direction releasing pent up anxiety? Or will they help us to work within established structures or truly transform the system around us? I have a feeling that the most radical transformation would be something small and simple where we can paraphrase Ghandi by “being the change we want to see in the world”.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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