Making the Perfect Society

Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio

I guess as a self-proclaimed expert on Wonder Woman a lot of people are interested in my take on the latest issue of the series.  Coincidentally enough though, the topics raised there sort of intertwine with another theme I have been thinking about.  I should say first of all that I recently finished reading Brave New World for the first time.  In the realm of dystopian novels I guess Brave New World sits on equal ground with Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 as the best in the genre.  That having been said though, I was not particularly impressed with Brave New World.  It seemed in a lot of ways too simple of a concept for me, and while it did raise some interesting points it also seemed almost too obvious.  Of course in hindsight I realize that it is kind of visionary at the time seeing as it was written in the 1930s before there was 24 hour cable or the obesity epidemic, and I don’t want to take away from its brilliance in that respect, but simply as a society that already deals with some of the problems posed in the novel that it is not surprising to read.  That is beside the point though, what I really had on my mind was this concept of manufacturing societies, in part by programming and in part by design.  As this relates to comics is twofold (spoilers ahead).  First of all in Green Lantern #7, Hal has been abducted by Sinestro to confront the Indigo Tribe.  Granted not much has been revealed of the Indigo Tribe since their first appearance and there is a sort of mini-revelation that they are re-programming villains to act more like heroes (they already have Black Hand reprogrammed and they are planning on working on Sinestro.)  In the other case there is Wonder Woman #7 where it is shown how the Amazons repopulate themselves.  It is done by essentially raping male pirates or other seafarers and then keeping the daughters and being rid of the sons by trading them to Hephaestus.  Both of these issues touch on the same topic, in one where the people can be reprogrammed (as in 1984) and the other where there is a form of genetic engineering occurring (as in Brave New World) albeit a crude version. 

Incidentally I do like this explanation, as vulgar as it might be because it explains a few things about Wonder Woman which had thus been missing.  First of all it explains how the Amazons have seemingly inexhaustible warriors to send into battle.  Secondly it somewhat answers the unnecessary question of the sexual orientation of the Amazons.  Thirdly it highlights the growing gulf between Diana’s very liberal tendencies, and the (now even more extreme) conservative tendencies of her sisters. 

Back to the manufacturing of societies though, I find it interesting that comics are touching on these topics instead of simply going for an easier story.  This builds on the dystopian societies which were evident in Flashpoint and especially so as both included Diana in such ways.  For those who are interested in comics for action, that is of course available, but for those interested in something deeper it is nice to know that those stories are out there as well.  

 

 

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#1 Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus (6885 posts) - - Show Bio

I will agree with you on a good point you made. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is definitely the weakest link when it comes to what I call the "literary triumvirate" of modern dystopian genre, triumvirate due to the other two big ones being Orwell's 1984 and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It was a bit simplistic yes and definitely parallels the "manufacturing society" paradigm you suggested. As for that also seen in the GL and WW titles I cannot speak to it yet but now I'm fairly intrigued now to read up on it since dystopian themes fascinate me. And when put into the "manufacturing" concept...it makes me think how similar the Amazons were to the Kaminoans who helped create the clones that supplied the Army of the Republic in Star Wars fiction. Fascinating stuff, huh?

#2 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29499 posts) - - Show Bio

I heard a lot of people are ticked off over this backstory addition.

#3 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@InnerVenom123: I am not really bothered by it, in fact I think it is a very interesting development 
 
@RedheadedAtrocitus: The Star Wars reference is not entirely accurate, but I know what you mean.  In this case the "male Amazons" seem to be on the side of angels.  
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#4 Posted by Renchamp (2285 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't read DC, but I hope this pans out better than Marvel's Nova Roma explanation. Manufactured societies have a lot of potential for really great stories. Origins for how things came to be, the few who stand up, and the bitter victories that come in small doses. Then again, one could argue that any society is manufactured, it's merely the degree those in charge are aiming for. (I say as a tear rolls down my cheek in reverent awe for Big Brother.)

#5 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@Renchamp: yeah well, I was thinking of writing something back to do with Marx, but decided against it.  this is a comic book website after all
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#6 Posted by Primmaster64 (21138 posts) - - Show Bio

Its kinda like the roles are reverse.

#7 Posted by tonis (6202 posts) - - Show Bio

as always you fire up and shake the brain cells into action, excellent discussion.

I always loved Brave New World when it comes to early 20th century literature's take on the future. Back in high school I actually wrote a musical score for a play they were performing of it. :)

Huxley is one the interesting futurists on par with guys like Orwell & Bradbury, and in some ways I think it is his simple approach that is more in line with what we're actually heading into to. We are becoming a pharmaceutical society very much in line with his society and the only real difference is we don't have one magic pill for every solution, it's very fragmented still, but give it time.

We also haven't yet seen the obvious separation between civil and savage perceptions regarding where you live and how your birthed but given the evolution of racial discrimination it's likely this will exist as we go beyond just mapping the genome.

All in all, we're a lot more like his vision than we'd ever want to admit and I suspect the subtle gradual changes and medication via pills, media, etc. will make most oblivious when we're actually there.

#8 Posted by jrock85 (2874 posts) - - Show Bio

Should the Amazons really be labeled rapists considering that the men apparently consent to having sexual intercourse with them?

#9 Posted by Crimson_Butterfly (33 posts) - - Show Bio

They reverse the roles the classic pre52 has the me enslaving the women and raping them now they are rapist and killers.

#10 Posted by WDW (1514 posts) - - Show Bio

@jrock85 said:

Should the Amazons really be labeled rapists considering that the men apparently consent to having sexual intercourse with them?

exactly. NO! the amazons are not raping anyone.

#11 Posted by WDW (1514 posts) - - Show Bio

Simply put the Amazon's are doing what every male dominated society has done since man has been existed on planet earth. They are going after resources which are needed for the survival of there society. As a hidden society they must get rid of the evidence. If they are preying on pirates who inturn prey on unsuspecting passenger ships then whats the big deal.

#12 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23334 posts) - - Show Bio
@jrock85 said:

Should the Amazons really be labeled rapists considering that the men apparently consent to having sexual intercourse with them?

Because you have a real choice when the people who want to sleep with you are physically dominant and brandishing weapons.  
 
@WDW said:

Simply put the Amazon's are doing what every male dominated society has done since man has been existed on planet earth. They are going after resources which are needed for the survival of there society. As a hidden society they must get rid of the evidence. If they are preying on pirates who inturn prey on unsuspecting passenger ships then whats the big deal.

Yeah! Let's rape everyone providing they're not morally sound! That woman deserved to be raped because she pirated a DVD. 
#13 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@FadeToBlackBolt said:
@jrock85 said:

Should the Amazons really be labeled rapists considering that the men apparently consent to having sexual intercourse with them?

Because you have a real choice when the people who want to sleep with you are physically dominant and brandishing weapons.  
 
@WDW said:

Simply put the Amazon's are doing what every male dominated society has done since man has been existed on planet earth. They are going after resources which are needed for the survival of there society. As a hidden society they must get rid of the evidence. If they are preying on pirates who inturn prey on unsuspecting passenger ships then whats the big deal.

Yeah! Let's rape everyone providing they're not morally sound! That woman deserved to be raped because she pirated a DVD. 
I think it is not fair to call them rapists, but I also think it is fair to call them murderers.  Saying they are not rapists is not really saying that what they are doing is moral.  They are definitely having sex with these men under false pretenses, but then so do a lot of people without being labeled a rapist.  
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#14 Posted by fodigg (6142 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting post. First I'll just quote my general response from the main thread:

I think that--just like the change in her personal origin from clay-child to god-child--it's a mixed bag.
Cons:
  • I think making the Amazons scarier you lose some of the idealism of Wonder Woman's character. The "paradise" of her home comes with a terrible cost, and while that is great fuel for stories and consistent with their mythic origins, it negates her traditional role as an ambassador of peace come to show us a better way. With this change, truly gone is Diana as the "guide for a world," and the new Wonder Woman really is just some young kid looking for a fight.
  • Combined with Diana's new "yay, a fight!" attitude, I'm picking up worrisome tones of 90s-style "gritter and angrier is better!" here. She does a lot of brooding in this book as well. I don't mind more aggressive takes on the character (e.g., Kingdom Come, Flashpoint), but I don't want her to turn into a "blood knight" either. Or to lose her personal idealism.
Pros:
  • It makes Diana special by giving her something to rebel against--she's not just some Amazon who wandered off the reservation, she's living ideals other Amazons are not (I hope).
  • It makes the Amazons seem less conflicted thematically and certainly less "holier than thou" in that they have some serious dirty laundry. The Amazons as a peaceful race ran completely counter to the mythic roots as warriors and resulted in very inconsistent portrayals of the Amazons, where they were often factionalized so that more dangerous sub-groups (e.g., Alkyone and her heretics) or splinter groups (e.g., the Bana) could be used as villains.
  • Wonder Woman & the Amazons needed a change that could stick, and simplifying them both these ways--making them more like well-known mythic interpretations such as Hercules and more traditional scary Amazons--is a good step toward making her more accessible to the average Joe.
Neutral:
  • Making the Amazons into dangerous man-killers vilifies them in a very old and tired fashion, and yet empowers them by casting them in the same light as much-celebrated male counterparts. The portrayal of women in a negative light was always something that DC's Amazons were an attempt to fight against (which I applaud), and yet by making the Amazons into dangerous, cultish warriors by default, it puts them on the same standing as traditionally celebrated masculine-run warrior races--Sparta, namely--who were celebrated not just for their prowess, but for their brutality. I think on this point it's a wash.
I think this change will be good for the character if they can maintain Wonder Woman's idealism as a strong personal trait as opposed to a broad Amazonian trait. I always thought the latter was a little too saccharine and inconsistent with their militant roots to begin with.

--but as to your specific points, I think the comparison to Brave New World is a little stretched. The dystopia of BNW is hardly militant, it's controlled by the distraction of irrelevant diversion, not the firm grip of a tyrant. One would struggle, I think, to compare even to other well-known dystopias, such as Ninteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 (or even Animal Farm if we're stretching the category a bit) as the Amazons aren't necessarily controlling via misinformation and misdirection, but rather with an iron fist wielded by uniformed enforcers (clearly portrayed by the hooded Amazon ripping a male child from his mother's chest despite her protests). While Diana didn't know what's going on, I think the larger society of the Amazons must have, and clearly they didn't all agree with it.

Where I do think the comparison to dystopian fiction is quite valid is in the concerted destruction of sexuality and the family structure. Most dystopias subvert (one could even say "pervert" but that'd be a bit on the nose) these ideas to one extreme or another. For example, in NEF (and The Giver) sex and sexual pleasure were rigidly controlled and generally taboo, while in Brave New World, the main female lead is criticized for being too monogamous and a casual attitude toward sex is advocated with the phrase "everybody belongs to everybody else." In all three of those works, traditional family unity is either undermined (in NEF family members report on each other) or outright destroyed (in BNW, all citizens are tank-grown, raised together, and engineered for specific roles in society).

So while I think there are some valid comparisons to be made on how the Amazons subvert sexuality and the idea of the family, I think a more useful comparison would be to mythic military societies, such as the Spartans, rather than the icons of dystopian fiction.

#15 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@fodigg said:


--but as to your specific points, I think the comparison to Brave New World is a little stretched. The dystopia of BNW is hardly militant, it's controlled by the distraction of irrelevant diversion, not the firm grip of a tyrant. One would struggle, I think, to compare even to other well-known dystopias, such as Ninteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 (or even Animal Farm if we're stretching the category a bit) as the Amazons aren't necessarily controlling via misinformation and misdirection, but rather with an iron fist wielded by uniformed enforcers (clearly portrayed by the hooded Amazon ripping a male child from his mother's chest despite her protests). While Diana didn't know what's going on, I think the larger society of the Amazons must have, and clearly they didn't all agree with it.

Where I do think the comparison to dystopian fiction is quite valid is in the concerted destruction of sexuality and the family structure. Most dystopias subvert (one could even say "pervert" but that'd be a bit on the nose) these ideas to one extreme or another. For example, in NEF (and The Giver) sex and sexual pleasure were rigidly controlled and generally taboo, while in Brave New World, the main female lead is criticized for being too monogamous and a casual attitude toward sex is advocated with the phrase "everybody belongs to everybody else." In all three of those works, traditional family unity is either undermined (in NEF family members report on each other) or outright destroyed (in BNW, all citizens are tank-grown, raised together, and engineered for specific roles in society).

So while I think there are some valid comparisons to be made on how the Amazons subvert sexuality and the idea of the family, I think a more useful comparison would be to mythic military societies, such as the Spartans, rather than the icons of dystopian fiction.

It is a bit of a stretch, but the male Amazons do bear some similarities to the Epsilon Semi Moron Class (Huxley' term not mine).  And yes some other comparisons might be better, but in this case, I was just exploring some dystopian ideas.  As Themyscira used to be called Paradise island, there is an idea that everything is perfect there, but perfect societies don't really exist, nor can they.  
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#16 Posted by The Stegman (22990 posts) - - Show Bio
@RazzaTazz:  
 
First and foremost, let's get the most important thing out of the way, your Icon pic is awesome [insert lil' hearts here] 
 
 
Second, I agree with this entirely, When I think of Amazons, I think of  warriors who will do whatever it takes, including extreme measures, to protect their way of life, and their "sisters" To me, it seemed obvious that they would do that to keep their species alive. I mean if i'm not mistaken, in the old version, Amazons were immortal, never dying, however new women were never added to their ranks, which means they had a set number, yet how are they still alive judging from all of the ones who died in various battles they fought? This is a good way to answer their seemingly miraculous increase in ranks every so often.
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#17 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@The Stegman said:
@RazzaTazz:   First and foremost, let's get the most important thing out of the way, your Icon pic is awesome [insert lil' hearts here]   Second, I agree with this entirely, When I think of Amazons, I think of  warriors who will do whatever it takes, including extreme measures, to protect their way of life, and their "sisters" To me, it seemed obvious that they would do that to keep their species alive. I mean if i'm not mistaken, in the old version, Amazons were immortal, never dying, however new women were never added to their ranks, which means they had a set number, yet how are they still alive judging from all of the ones who died in various battles they fought? This is a good way to answer their seemingly miraculous increase in ranks every so often.
I first wrote about that here.
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#18 Edited by fodigg (6142 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz said:

It is a bit of a stretch, but the male Amazons do bear some similarities to the Epsilon Semi Moron Class (Huxley' term not mine). And yes some other comparisons might be better, but in this case, I was just exploring some dystopian ideas. As Themyscira used to be called Paradise island, there is an idea that everything is perfect there, but perfect societies don't really exist, nor can they.

Does Hephaestus "program" the infant boys, though? The Epsilons, though socially reviled, are explicitly created by the society in BNW to serve as a slave caste. The context, as I understand it, in WW is that these boys are considered undesirable by the Amazons who birth them and Hephaestus seems to take them in and just put them to work. They're not as far as I know 1) tailored specifically for their tasks or 2) intentionally developmentally retarded in order to prevent their rising up, which in my mind are the two notable and terrifying aspects of the Epsilon concept. Not that I think Hephaestus is a saint, granted. He's still buying orphans for use as hard laborers. They're a slave caste either way.

I hope you don't view me as nit-picking here, I think that this is an interesting comparison to make and I certainly understand when a book is fresh in your mind some free association comes up. And recasting "paradise island" as a dystopia rather than a utopia is a very interesting spin on the Amazons. I just felt pointing out the differences as well as the similarities can be useful.

#19 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@fodigg: Not at all, I think you raise a good point.  The Epsilon comparison is not completely accurate, but maybe could be considered in a mythological sense.  These male Amazons are meant to just work and not think and despite this are happy with their place in life.  
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#20 Posted by jrock85 (2874 posts) - - Show Bio

@FadeToBlackBolt: If someone is pointing a weapon at you and forcing you to engage in sexual activity with them, then yes, that is rape. However, the current incarnation of the Amazons seduce men into having sex with them rather than coercing them.

#21 Posted by Lady_Liberty (8211 posts) - - Show Bio

I kind of like the new way the Amazons are set up, not because its better then the old way, but because there was so little exploration of the themes and implications of the past Amazons that any more in depth look is welcome.

#22 Posted by RazzaTazz (9478 posts) - - Show Bio
@fodigg 
@tonis:  
 
Have either of you read Zamyatin's "We"?
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#23 Posted by tonis (6202 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: have not but if you recommend as good reading it's on my must check out list :)

#24 Edited by fodigg (6142 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: I haven't, but I just looked up the wiki summary and it looks pretty interesting. I'll have to check it out, thanks!

edit: That reminds me, I have to go to the library and renew my card. Life without a valid library card is no life at all!

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