Evil Thoughts by the Evil Richard Bleil
The other day, I was watching a superhero movie and had an interesting thought. On quick review, I realized that the superheroes are, for the most part, brutes, and the geniuses are supervillains. Oh, don’t get me wrong; some of these superheroes are gentler than others, but basically, they’re brutes. The Hulk, Superman, Spiderman (friendly but still super strong), Captain America, all of them have superpowers of super strength.
There are some superheroes that aren’t born brutes, but they tend to use their abilities to basically become brutes. Batman is, for all intents and purposes, just a man, albeit a very wealthy one. And what does he use his money for? To learn how to fight and build an arsenal to turn himself into a brute. And Iron Man? One might argue that he is, in fact a genius, which is true, but what did he use his brilliance for? To build a suit to make himself a brute.
Strength is always seen as heroic. Maybe it’s because of our love of sports; the strong football players, the powerful baseball players, the agile soccer players and so forth are all pictures of masculine strength. And the villains? Lex Luthor uses his brilliance for evil. The Joker is another although in recent movies we are apparently supposed to feel sorry for him. Doctor Doom is brilliant and wealthy and evil. And the list goes on.
So, I thought, could I be a supervillain? This sounds arrogant, but let’s be real. I’m not brilliant (although many people seem to believe that I am intelligent which I personally do not believe), and I’m certainly not comic book brilliant, but then again, who is? But I am highly educated, and I’m certainly not the manly beautiful oiled body built athletic man that superheroes all seem to be. So, yeah, that would make me more supervillain than superhero.
I posted this question to my social media page, and a friend of mine pointed out that this has always been the case as far back as Shakespeare. I submit it goes further. In 1596, Shakespeare produced The Merchant of Venice introduced the Jewish moneylender named Shylock who lends money to the hero but with the special “joke” condition that if he does not get his money back by the deadline, the hero Antonio will owe Shylock a pound of his flesh. The irony, of course, is that in the Jewish faith, collecting interest is a sin so it’s unlikely that he would be a moneylender. But, and forgive me if I misunderstand or say something offensive, as a culture, the Jewish people were among the first to covet education, so in jobs that required proper training, such as bookkeeping in banks, it was not uncommon to tend towards the educated Jewish community, and in return for their foresight they were vilified for trying to improve themselves through education.
I would suggest that this bias against intelligence dates back at least to Socrates around 400 B.C. The Olympics games began a few hundred years earlier as a means of fighting without loss of life, pitting the heroes of the city states against each other to win the prize. Homer was famous for writing plays that raised the Olympic hero on high with powerful and athletic heroes like Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Hercules. They all were envisioned to be beautiful oiled athletic men who could not be defeated by friend, foe or mythical creature. Socrates, on the other hand, who started the first institution of higher education (the “Gymnasium”, as ironic as that is) was tried and executed by Hemlock out of fear of what he was teaching his followers. His prosecutors didn’t understand his philosophy and therefore had him executed.
Fear of what we do not know is nothing new in human history. We’ve always feared the unknown and coveted the protectors. Nothing has really changed. Even today, you will hear people discuss politics in terms of “the eggheads” or “nerds”. One of the most interesting elections I can recall was the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The election was expected to go to Al Gore (sound familiar?) and he did win the popular vote (how about now?), and there was a lot of post-election analysis as to how the pre-election analyses could have been so wrong. A very funny comment from one of these news reporters was his claim that the election prediction was based on post voting surveys, and, he said, you know that primarily it’s eggheads who fill out those polls and they always vote for those Democrats.
Since when is education considered to be bad? A lot of Republican candidates and supporters will be badmouthing Democrats and Liberals because, frankly, it’s not uncommon for the most highly educated members of our society to support the viewpoints espoused by these groups. For some reason, this will work for many voters. Why is it that we tend to belittle the educated in our society rather than pay attention to them? I’ll never understand this.