Unfortunately, I need more time to properly chew through the next batch of Host chapters.
So, let’s talk about the new Superman and Star Trek movies.
In Star Trek, a guy accepts a deal to save his daughter’s life in return for blowing up an important area of Star Fleet and killing forty-some people, enraging Starfleet because if you’re going to kill forty-some people you’d damn well better not involve Starfleet. (Someday, I wish police forces explicitly saying they’re going to treat something more seriously and throw everything they have at it because someone dared involve their own people would stop being praiseworthy.) He then launches an attack on senior command, killing one of them who Kirk is particularly close to, which makes Kirk go completely berserk. Kirk actually attempts to beat the guy into the ground after he surrenders because he’s so mad about the one death of that guy he knew.
Later, about half the enterprise is blown up and tons of his crew flushed into space, and it seems to only register to Kirk on a theoretical level. He’s definitely upset, but he’s mostly concerned about the rest of it getting blown up, presumably because that part contains the named characters. Eventually he dies and is brought back with magic blood, and no one seems to think about maybe retrieving any of the corpsicles of the many, many people flushed into space and seeing if any of them can be saved too.
Also, a great deal of this (and various future problems) could probably have been avoided if Old Spock had just fucking told them stuff originally, instead of declaring that the development of Kirk and Spock’s bromance was more important than saving lives.
It’s a story where what matters is the lives of a small ingroup, which is how a lot of people think but not something I want to see from supposed heroes, let alone a supposedly heroic organization in a utopian future.
There’s some counterpoints to that, though – Spock is willing to die on a needs of the many outweigh the few reasoning, and he’s also the one who makes the argument that the fact someone killed a Starfleet captain doesn’t change that he has certain rights and should be arrested and tried rather than nuked from a distance. But it’s definitely the minority viewpoint. I came out feeling pretty positive toward the villain because he had a higher number of people whose deaths mattered to him than anyone else and also generally uncomfortable about how tribal Hollywood was being.
And then I saw Superman, which made that pale in comparison. Star Trek may be a far cry from an enlightened future, but it’s definitely pretty enlightened compared to what passes for current heroics.
The beginning of Superman has Superman saving some dudes. It’s great. You really do not need to watch the rest of the movie from there, but it involves, among other things, Superman responding to the bad guys threatening his mom by piledriving one through two cities. Later, Metropolis is destroyed, untold thousands dying in the rubble, and Superman makes out with Lois Lane in the middle of it, they exchange quips, kiss more, then chucks Zod through the remaining undestroyed buildings that we know are not evacuated because we just spent a long time seeing how people weren’t evacuating the outer buildings while the gravity destroyo beam was crushing the inner ones. I want to be very clear – it’s not just that Zod punches him into buildings and he fails to try to move the fight away. Superman smashes Zod into populated skyscrapers, repeatedly. And mundane materials don’t even hurt Kryptonians, so it’s not like he’s killing them for some slight tactical gain. As far as I could tell he was just in a bad mood and destroying buildings with the guy’s face was making him feel better. But it’s okay, because the one known character caught in the rubble and two trying to rescue her were okay by then, so there were no casualties that matter
And it’s not like Superman was only callous when he was angry. When he learned he could fly, he immediately went all over over the globe despite having about as much control over it as a three year old driving a semi. Basically, as soon as he meets space daddy he turns into a dick.
There’s the big bit about how the Kryptonians demand Superman be turned over to him, except there’s no actual tension in the choice because Superman just somehow knows that they’ll kill everyone anyway so he doesn’t feel any need to turn himself over, and he has this whole thing about how he doesn’t want to come forward because he doesn’t know if he can trust humans to, I guess, let everyone die because he doesn’t want to go. That’s not you being a persecuted alien, that’s just you not being worth more than the entire human race! Then only does it because the military comes for Lois on the unfair basis of knowing exactly who he is and how to find him, the assholes, so apparently one person being locked up matters but billions of people getting murdered was something he could deal with.
The movie has this whole temptation bit about bringing back Krypton, except that Superman never knew the place and also, we do and know it was an absolute shithole and the only thing to mourn about it is 1) innocent babies died, 2) innocent Kryptonian fauna died and 3) that they managed to save any of their shitty culture whatsoever in Superman’s space ship. I mean, we hear that they stopped doing space exploration because they got population control, only apparently that didn’t mean their population lowered and the people on the edges returned home, it means they cut all contact and left every colony to die horrible deaths. This is without getting into their many, many stupid decisions. (There’s even this point where Jor-El’s consciousness thingy is trying to talk down Zod and Zod says he’s not going to argue with a ghost, not that it’s a little rich of Jor-El to be arguing against genocide when he was in favor of genociding his entire race. Seriously, Superman’s new backstory is not getting launched at the last second, it’s getting launched while his parents decide it’s better to wait and die with everyone else (including their loyal dragonfly dog or whatever that was) because everyone down to the other babies are tainted because they weren’t born special like Superman.) Why does Superman hang on asshole space dad’s every word? Why does he want to identify with these people? Apparently it’s because they’re his people and blood matters, and it’s some huge deal that he grudgingly decides to be on our side despite them being evil monsters with no redeeming features whatsoever.
Oh, and he ultimately comes down on the “I’m for America” side and not “I’m for humanity” side, screw you, rest of the world! The occasions Superman bothers to save people will be happening in AMERICA because Americans count more than the rest of you.
But even if Superman is so, so much worse about it, both ultimately boil down to people you know or are related to are the only people of value. Superman saves random people when there’s nothing else to do while Kirk cares about people dying only when they’re people who matter to him personally. (Would he have exposed his ship at the beginning to save any member of his crew? I’d sure like to think so, but given he kept telling Spock it was because he cares so much about Spock personally, it doesn’t seem like it.)
This is a way humans act all the time, but that doesn’t make it good. Superman is heroic because he cares about everyone. Star Trek is a utopia because it’s full of equality and laws enforcing that, instead of people only getting justice if they’re important to those in charge. These are good things, because all of us? We are the everyone else. Almost everyone is the everyone else, that’s what everyone else means. For things to be good, you can’t just have it be good for a couple people.
(Also, both had issues with female characters, but Star Trek did relatively well and just had the usual mostly-guys thing, while Superman’s only redeeming features were Lois Lane was competent and this one waitress bit character was good in her couple seconds screentime. Superman’s birth mommy gets special mention for being the shittiest in a shitty, shitty movie, because this is a story about Men and their Man Conflicts with Men. I feel there’s a connection there.)