Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Power, Man?

I went to a lecture yesterday about the morality of superpowers. I know, right? I sometimes feel like I don't do any real work at school ever. Anyways, it was really fascinating- the speaker was talking about utilitarianism and this whole concept of "saving many at the cost of some" and kind of how that relates to superheroes. One example he used was 'The Watchmen' where the alleged villain kills millions of people to save billions from the threat of World War 3. His utilitarian logic was that a million is a lot less than a billion, so it was worth doing. I don't think I could handle making that kind of decision, and I'm kind of glad I won't ever have to.

But the lecture got me thinking about superpowers. Okay, I'll admit, I probably think about this a lot more often than I'm willing to admit, but I don't find myself really regularly considering what kind of powers I would choose if given the option. Suspending disbelief for just a moment, let's say I am suddenly able to choose any power I'd like and get everything that comes with it- the struggle of fitting in with normal people, the government hunting me, the sudden conviction to fight crime, whatever- I hadn't really spent much time thinking about what power I would choose! When the speaker asked the audience what powers they'd want, tons of hands went up, but I really had no idea!

So I was thinking about it, and came to something of a conclusion: I would love to have impenetrable skin. Not invincibility or anything, but just skin that was so tough nothing could cut through it, like Luke Cage. He was just an ordinary guy, framed for drug crimes, who agreed to do some government testing in exchange for a shorter sentence. But then (surprisingly) things went wrong and he was exposed to too much of something and it made his skin really really tough. And when your skin is hard as iron, you can bet you're going to be a really strong guy too (and heavy!). What I appreciate about Luke is that he didn't really feel like he *had* to fight crime- he hired himself out as a hero in order to pay his rent! Inevitably some of his missions became more personal as loved ones and his own arrest got involved, but for the most part, he was just trying to make it in the world.

His power is appealing to me because he's not any stronger than the average bodybuilder in terms of muscular strength. He's not going to live any longer than the average person who doesn't get murdered. He's not invincible either- he feels pain when people shoot him, or stab him, or burn him, but it doesn't leave a mark on anything but his ugly yellow disco shirts. It's great! Superheroes like Superman who have bullets bounce off their eyes don't have nearly as much at stake when fighting armed enemies. Luke manages to be a hero, an average Joe, and a mortal all at the same time! I would love to have his power, because I feel like I could be so helpful without the threat of becoming too strong and corrupt.

Anyways, I'm getting tired, and the more tired I get, the less interesting I'm going to become, so I'll end this here with a question: What power would you choose?


  1. Well Tom, if you do get that superpower I hope you never need surgery.

    When I was a teenager I read "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat. If you had asked me back then what my superpower would be, I would have said "animal control" because I wanted attack birds of prey.

    When I hit college I had a friend tell me that if he had a superpower it would be to summon theme music wherever he went, just like the movies. I wanted that right up until the point where my phone made it possible.

    Now I think I'd want supercharm. Like I use my power and everyone's just impressed with me and amazed at how awesome I am. It'd sure come in handy in job interviews.

  2. Oh man! I hadn't even thought of that! My kryptonite would be my own body! That's kind of poetic in a grossly ironic way. Super charm would be really convenient, but I think it would be too easy to misuse :P