What Batman did for me
The task that we traditionally assign to classical culture is successfully completed by comics. Once I wrote about the fact that Russian classics do not instill morality (if morality means banal following examples), but provides material for reflection. Now let’s talk about what works still teach morality. While teachers, methodologists and officials are arguing about the pros and cons of a single textbook on literature, schoolchildren have completely different problems. A film about Batman and Superman, for example, or “Magic Creatures.” Because comics and films on them do for children something that school literature does not cope with. It’s not even about finding easy entertainment instead of excruciating thoughts about the eternal, but about real and simple role models. A teenager needs to turn to positive patterns, and exploits and adventures excite the imagination. And here pop culture comes into play, the products of which lovers of the classics dismissively call “chewing gum for the brain.” In elementary school, I read stories about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and later switched to DC and Marvel comics. I met Batman around the time when we walked onegin and stavrogin in the classroom, and in the corridors we encountered the merciless bullying of the nineties: high school students took money from the younger for breakfast. You can guess who won in my eyes. Byronic heroes and characters of Dostoevsky were idle or committed senseless, cruel acts, and Batman found the strength to survive the death of his parents and began to help people. Pop culture gave me exactly what the school curriculum did not: heroism and values. When I felt bad, I recalled that Batman did not give up, even when he broke a ridge. When someone offended the weak, I thought: what would Batman do? In Gotham, where this character lives, there is a conflict of interest related to how different people manage power and means. Bruce Wayne, whose superhero alter ego is Batman, invests in charitable foundations, supports medicine and rebuilds abandoned areas of Gotham, and the antagonist Penguin is mired in corruption, saving on the city’s needs to make more money in his own pocket. Are these moral problems really far from us, and the themes raised in the comic have no connection with reality? My other favorite hero was – and still remains, in truth, Spider-Man. A modest, quiet student-photographer with glasses with thick glasses, who in the evenings turns into Spider-Man, closer to the real life of his readers than Bruce Wayne. Unlike millionaire Wayne, Peter Parker is not rich, takes care of his aunt, studies, works, and at the same time finds time to fight crime. All superhero stories revolve around superpowers, but none of the superheroes are trying to turn their abilities into evil. On the contrary, they always somehow decide that they should use them to help others. Perhaps this is where some important pattern is hiding, associated with personal initiative, the ability to think and fight independently. Therefore, before condemning Western pop culture for “lack of spirituality,” as many do, it makes sense to think about what is happening with children’s and youthful literature in Russia, why do we have no analogues to Western comics? Maybe the fact is that personal creative activity is generally not respected in our country? In Soviet children’s literature, the concept of special abilities also comes across: a boy with matches by Yuri Tomin, Alexin’s “Country of Eternal Vacations”. All these stories are built in the same way: the hero begins to abuse his gift, wanting a huge amount of toys, sweets and entertainment, loses friends and, repenting, refuses the gift. As a child, these books aroused my active protest, as did the inglorious re-education of Old Man Hottabych into a Soviet citizen. The moral was obvious: material enrichment is sinful, and children who are planning to be young capitalists should be ashamed. However, for some reason, none of the book pioneers had the idea of doing good deeds for others and protecting fellow citizens from criminals and dishonest politicians. In-depth ideas about collegiality, whether it is monarchist, Soviet or some other, do not leave the character with personal initiative. The hero from the school program, at most, bursts out with the speech “And who are the judges?” The students then mechanically mutter at this blackboard at the blackboard. It is not surprising that Superman, Batman, Daredevil and The Avengers evoke much more sympathy for them than Chatsky or Andrei Bolkonsky, who is powerlessly lying under Austerlitz sky.
Of course, superhero comics give a simplified view of the world. The villains there are always desperately villainous, and the heroes are noble. But this was the way genre literature was organized at all times. There are also graphic novels that are more complex in terms of problems (for example, the works of Alan Moore, where there is no naivety and a binary view of things). There are many frank exploitation, where moral lessons can not be found.