Note: I try to be vague in this post, but there could be some spoiler alerts.
I’m slogging through the brilliant show, Jessica Jones, a Netflix Original. Season 1 was absolutely fascinating. The character Killgrave is beyond the complexities of most characters we love to hate and really gets under your skin, if you’ve ever experienced the cognitive dissonance of an abuser.
He’s a superhero with a power that should make him untouchable. It very well could make him completely, utterly, and unconditionally good, as well. But, he never learns that character trait. At one point, Jessica Jones tries to teach him to be good, saving the lives of an entire family, and in the process, preventing Killgrave from finishing off the perpetrator of the violence, saving that man’s life too. It was at that very moment that Jessica Jones figured out that it wasn’t at all possible for Killgrave to be good without her influence. And not outside influence – every second of every day, necessitating her to never leave Killgrave’s side.
In Season 2, we witness the short life of Whizzer, another accidental superhero that can run very fast. We constantly see a replayed video of him saying the words, “With much power comes….” Finish that sentence. Is it “…much responsibility”? That’s the common phrase we hear. We hold our human leaders to that standard, and they fail it pretty much every time. But no, that’s not what Whizzer said. Rather, he said, “With much power comes mental illness.”
As I watched the beginnings of Season 2, the binged memories of Season 1 fresh in my head, I looked at the gentleman I was watching with, and asked him, “If you had Killgrave’s power, would you use it for good or bad.”
“Hell yeah, I’d use it for bad, as well as for good. I mean, you kind of have to have the entire spectrum. With power like that, you get bored. Look at the Biblegod. He has the capacity for complete goodness and yet he has to be a mass murderer – just because he can be. I would be the most benevolent human alive, as well as the most evil.”
I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Here, I’ve been claiming that I’m better than the Biblegod, which is still true, according to my definition of good. But I’ve been basing it on a purely logical idea of goodness. If I had the ability to forgive the sins of the world and prevent all humans from burning in hell for eternity, I would snap my fingers and do it, because I can. Because that is my definition of implicit goodness.
But I don’t have power. I don’t understand the mind of a superhero. That individual can define goodness however he or she pleases. Since they have power, of course they can wield it in a completely illogical fashion, then convincing those that are controlled by that power, that their arbitrary nature is nothing short of benevolent goodness. Even unconditional love. And we, without power, lap it up.
Sure it makes sense that you have created earth, heaven, and hell, know all, are everywhere, know the count of hairs on our hoary heads, and the location of every raven that falls to the earth – yet cannot control whether we go to hell or not. Sure, you have every capability to take the Israelites out of Egypt with a snap of your fingers, but have to harden Pharaoh’s heart at least three times, just so you can kill all the babies in that country. Sure, you can kill the snakes that you sent to poison your people, because they simply complained about your lack of sustenance, yet you give them a statue to look upon, once they get bit, at the same time, telling them that they will die if they make any graven image or trust on any other idol.
And yet you don’t do the things that I would consider good. Why? Because you can. Because you simply don’t have to.
Where the odes of the superheroes and the Biblegod diverge is in the purported absoluteness of their respective characters. The conflicted nature of the semi-powerful superhero is in a constant state of flux, as displayed by every comic book, everywhere, whereas the nature of the Biblegod is deemed to be inerrant, infallible, and unchangeable. The same, yesterday, today, and forever. And yet, they are exactly the same. The Biblegod claims that he is the same, transcending all of history and into the future, yet his very book claims otherwise.