5% saving citizens, 95% endorsing Pepsi
Welcome to my monthly musing~ (from now on they’ll be monthly…) Last time I talked about villains, and this time I’m talking about superheroes! No, I’m not going to discuss what makes a good hero like I did for my villain post. The heroes I’m talking about are people with special powers that normal humans don’t. (Sorry about that, heroes without powers. You’ll have to sit in the sidelines for now.) They risk their lives in order to keep the city peaceful and the citizens safe. They ask for nothing in return, not even recognition – they’re just here to protect you for their sheer love of helping people.
Hahaha, if only life was like that.
Tiger & Bunny has some very cynical glimpses at what a superhero would go through if they existed in our society today. Oh how the majestic image of a hero is tarnished. In T&B, superheroes aren’t glorious figures of hope as much as they’re a brand, a label, or a celebrity. Since good old Taigs and Buns aims for more laughs than real critiques dissecting the issue, I thought I’d dive in a little deeper myself. Let’s see just how far from glory heroes are when they’re plucked from their perfect world and thrown into reality.
Hero as a Job
First, let’s talk about what Tiger & Bunny is getting right. Anyone with a special power is called a NEXT and these people almost always end up working as a hero. That’s right, working. Instead of depicting superheroes as glorious saviors fighting for the sake of others, a hero is just an occupation. They do it for money. Heroes are stripped of their pure love for justice and instead given a job where the only real pre-requisite is being able to use super powers and being willing to chase after criminals.
They’re still using their powers to save people, and that’s still a great thing, don’t get me wrong. I would appreciate having someone turned into an iceberg if they stole my wallet (and I didn’t get a chance to break their shin in time) thank you very much. Although they’re doing the same thing as any typical, crime-fighting hero, their actions are cast in a very different light. A light that’s a lot more realistic, since everyone’s main goal is fending for themselves first and helping others second. Kotetsu is the odd one of the bunch who does his job earning money as a hero, but still believes in the traditional ideals. Fighting for justice and all that. Of course some people will retain this ideal, but it’s not necessary to be a “hero.” So much for hero and justice almost being synonymous, hmm?
Hero as a Product
In Tiger & Bunny, NEXT are still respected for their heroic efforts, but at the expense of their pride. Leave it to the crazy guys in advertising to think up a way to abuse heroes for money. T&B depicts heroes as a new industry first and foremost. They are more like billboards who just happen to also save people. I find it completely plausible that people in 2011 would see superheroes and someone would realize “hey, we could make money with this!” and change the whole thing into a vehicle for profit. The heroes save people, and companies get money in return. The reason they get money is because the heroes work as a sponsor for a specific company, logo emblazoned on their costume as proudly as Superman would that giant S on his chest. The media films every crime they can to further advertise the heroes and the company they represent, turning the heroes into celebrities.
Most of the time heroes are admired as celebrities in movies and anime – that’s not new, because of course you’d think someone was frickin awesome if they could shoot fire from their palm. The real novel idea Tiger & Bunny brings to the table is the idea of a company paying a hero as long as they fight crime in their name (and wear their costume). Just look at Barnaby: TV shows covering his life, photoshoots, interviews. He’s like a famous actor or athlete and there’s no mysterious identities, keeping to the shadows, and staying humble.
I’m sure you’re thinking “Well this is all lovely, but is glitzing it up for the camera really such a bad change from the humble hero? As long as they protect us, it’s all good.” A cheesy hero is still a hero…but not if the whole Hero TV rat race gets in the way of things. As for the wellbeing of the heroes, companies treat their heroes like products. How many points they accumulate on Hero TV comes first, and their safety second. Who the hell knows where “happiness” ranks on their agenda. This issue was touched on a little bit in Karina Lyle’s episode, where her boss told her that her only duty was to make the company popular and screw anything like becoming a singer or actually helping people. Even the main duo Kotetsu and Barnaby spent an entire episode ignoring calls to help civilians because their company said they was too busy doing a swimsuit photoshoot/interview. Saving lives? Pffft, it’s all about the fame.
This is bad for the civilians in need of saving. With this sort of corrupt way of thinking, heroes stop saving civilians because they garner less points than nabbing the actual villain. Barnaby is very guilty of this, ignoring every crime unless a television camera is near and rolling, and I predict he might get worse in time. What’s the point of saving someone if he doesn’t get paid, right? And for the filmed crimes, heroes are going to start ignoring things such as evacuating civilians or protecting small children if they could just get more points for landing the first hit. This sort of mindset turns saving people into more of a game. Broadcasting it on television is even worse, and treats the lives of all the NEXT and the victims as disposable and existing solely for everyone’s entertainment.
Hero as a Test Subject
Alright, let’s get down and dirty with some “what-ifs” that we didn’t really see explored in the (usually) light-hearted Taigs and Buns. Some extra food for thought about heroes if they were in our world. Kotetsu, Barnaby, Fire Emblem, Sky High and all the heroes are treated rather nicely in Tiger & Bunny, as if they were celebrities. But think about what a hero is in the context of this show. A human with special powers who uses those powers to save people. Being a hero and being a mutant differ only in intent. Most of the villains in Tiger & Bunny have just been average criminals, but there was one NEXT who dared to use his powers to steal priceless artifacts. Heck, there was even that kid who started controlling statues and running amok because he was teased. NEXT are dangerous things, and as with any new phenomenon, scientists are going to want to know how NEXT are created.
Human experimentation is forbidden, but they could be subjected to a whole gambit of medical tests. If the government passes some specific laws to accommodate heroes and their abilities, they might make health check-ups every week or so a mandatory occurrence. Imagine if they found the cause for their special abilities through something like a blood test (because we’re not dissecting them Toshio Ozaki style…I would hope. But who knows, in our crazy world…). Now imagine if they developed a cure for their abilities. I think we all know the outrage that usually ensues when a group of people are implied to be “abnormal” and in need of a “cure.” Riots! Rebellions! Protests! Division between those who want to live normal lives and get the cure and NEXT who want to stay as they are! Let’s not even think what would happen if they found the specific genetic sequence that caused people to become NEXT…Genetic enhancements and designer fetuses in order to turn humans into mutants. Science can do some scary things.
Sometimes, the lulzy pictures I use for my editorials scare even MYSELF
Now it’s your turn
First of all, if you missed out on Tiger & Bunny or didn’t like the first episode, I really suggest giving it a second chance. It’s one of my favourites of the season, and a master of balancing comedy and action. Also, Seto Kaiba’s seiyuu plays a flaming homosexual who parades around in pink heels. Secondly, it really is an interesting look at how unglamorous the lives of heroes would be in real life.
We’re at the end, so I leave the floor to you once again! Remember, the point of this is less for me to rant and more for me to hear your thoughts. It’s all about the discussion, so gather round! Some questions to get you started: how do they think heroes would be treated in real life? Anything to add, agree on, or dispute? Think Tiger & Bunny has the whole sponsor thing down pat or think it’s a totally bogus prediction? Feel free to bring up anything else Tiger & Bunny or hero related. Don’t forget your mini fanart spam on the way out.
Bonus Tiger & Bunny Mini Spam:Show ▼