This is our truth, tell us yours
contains vague spoilers for justice league
Superhero’s always reflect the times, their powers, and flaws, showing the concerns of their creators right back to Frankenstein, the original metahuman story.
In times of hope we need superhero’s far less, which is why so many of the greatest were invented by those fleeing from the horror of Nazi Germany. Superman’s arrival in 1938 has been seen as no coincidence by far better informed minds than mine. The idea that even if humanity could plunge the depths of evil there were those from elsewhere who were better, must have been exceptionally reassuring.(Probably also explain many alien sighting stories of the 40’s and 50’s, a desire for something, someone to be more than we had shown ourselves to be).
Into this alternate world Justice League arrives, with an opening which sets it clearly in this world, the world of 2017 with Trumps finger alternating between tweets and mastabatory fantasies of popularity.
A non white family cower from a racist smashing up their shop, the police seemingly impotent (or uncaring) in the face of fascist violence. The streets are unsafe, especially for those who are different, whose ancestors may have fled looking for hope 70 years earlier. The camera pans past a beggar whose sign simply reads “I tried”
Superman is dead, and hope has died with him.
It might be a push to suggest Superman;s death represents the post Trump world, . I know the feeling of “I tried” is common in this post Brexit world, and for many of us, like the beggar holding the card, we feel we tried, and failed. As human rights legislation is swept aside, the NHS sold off, obama care repealed, climate change ignored, “I tried” is the voice of failure.
Of course, there are some still willing to fight. But after 20 years Batman feels the aches and bruises, and you can almost see Diana Prince wearily tweeting “#metoo”. Even whilst they still fight, still believe (although Diana does not say exactly what she believes in) it is easy to sense they are unsure why they are the ones left.
This is Hollywood of course, and there must always be hope, the team must be assembled, and those who are alone discover that perhaps you need other people. What could be more 2017 than The Flash not needing to be convinced to join, he just wants friends. Lonliness is a pandemic that even affects our super selves.
The message of Justice League appears to be that we need others, we need hope, but we also need leaders who represent the best of humanity. Batman knows it cannot be him, and Wonder Woman has yet to decide if it can be her. It is arguable whether history is driven by leaders, however, in a world where we have the very worst, venial, selfish people in charge, on both sides of the atalantic, it is perhaps understandable that hope lies in believing change for the better is possible.
The problem is that hope is restored by the type of magical rewriting of the past which in this world is not possible. We are left with what we have, no possibility of resurrecting the figures who would tower over the puny petulant psycopaths currently in power. In the face of them we can learn the lesson of working together, of the importance of changing old ways, and making new alliances, but will it be enough to bring back hope?