Saturday, January 8, 2011


Steve made a point when discussing the Watchmen (Zack Snyder, 2009) that a war was relegated against the wearing of masks. What an amazing concept! Is it possible to be a super-hero without a mask? Would one be recognised as valient without the costume and theatrics? Or do some masks go unnoticed as such?
I think it's generally recognised or accepted, at least within the field of psychology that without our ego mask we would feel frightened, out of control and isolated. Without our ego we would have to truly face aspects of ourselves we may prefer not to. This happened to Superman in Superman III (Richard Lester, 1983) when Clark Kent receives a dose of synthetic Kryptonite ~ his nemesis, he is quickly turned into his evil alter ego. It’s only after a lengthy battle with this malevolent being that his noble self wins out. Or does it?
Although Hegel elaborated on the struggle for recognition through his dialectic, Nietzsche symbolized man’s struggle through an emphasis on the tragic hero and through the divided nature of the human psyche represented by the Greek gods, Apollo and Dionysus. It is Dionysus who becomes synonymous with the Ubermensch, the superman, the force, which is understood by Nietzsche as the will to power. Nietzsche suggests throughout his work that it is the Dionysian aspect of man’s psyche that contains the inner drive for ecstasy, power and creativity; whilst the Apollonian aspect is a mask, an illusionary aspect of man’s nature, that attempts to cover up the terrors of man's existence by creating order out of chaos, beauty out of ugliness and harmony out of discord. It also places rationality over emotions. Dionysus becomes then, not so much the animal aspect of man’s nature, represented throughout Greek culture as the horned and hoofed satyr. He becomes instead Apollo unmasked, revealed as the side which propels the Apollonian and representing a justification of why order is required and why the passions must be controlled.
Dr Manhattan’s self-imposed exile from humanity certainly makes him sound like Zarathurstra who chose to live apart from ordinary folk in peace and solitude in the mountains. After all, a Ubermensch is not interested in the ways of the ordinary human who seeks happiness in things. According to James Hans:

Those who embrace Utopian possibilities, from the Nazis to those who believe humans are capable of perfection, see in the overman a species that would have eliminated the problems of being human, yet this is clearly not what Nietzsche intended by the term. On the contrary, for him the overman was an image of a kind of human that was first and finally able to live with those problems that cannot be eliminated. The overman leads to no utopia but rather forces us to address what it means to be human and to accept it (1991:3).

Perhaps, as Steve says, Manhattan's desire to ‘make some life’ may mean that he can come to terms with being human. After reading Steve's review I'm certainly going to try and see the film. It sounds intriguing.

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