Friday, March 17, 2006

This American Superhero

As I write this, the station I work for is airing a superhero-themed episode of This American Life, that kicks off with a few interesting comments from Chris Ware about his childhood.

The funny thing is the first segment actually managed to piss me off. The guy who put it together went around and asked people whether they'd rather be able to fly or turn invisible. One woman said she thought everyone, if they were honest, would choose invisibility and that people who choose flight have a disingenuous, mythic view of themselves.

And I'm such a geek that it actually made me mad, and I started going over retorts in my head like, "Well, if you could fly you could fly beyond everyone's sight so you get the best of both worlds," or "Well, in Hollow Man Kevin Bacon effectively couldn't sleep because his eyelids were invisible (bad movie, but the logic is still pretty sound)."

No, moving out of your parent's, having sex, and getting a job don't cure you from unacceptable levels of geek, and I'm proof of it.

UPDATE: The show just ended, and the host mentioned that Chris Ware allowed them to post a comic called "I Guess" on the show's website. You can see it here.

I should also mention that this might be a repeat, as someone who works here told me they've been airing a lot of repeats lately. At least, I haven't heard this episode before, and I've worked the Friday night shift (when we air it) for a year or so.


Jhunt said...

The Superpowers TAL episode is indeed a repeat (first aired 2/23/01, which doesn't change the fact that it's a great episode. I wish my (admittedly Canadian) radio station played TAL. Thank god for the internet.

But come on, Mick. If you had invisible eyelids you could just wear a sleep mask.

Mick Martin said...

Yeah, but on the show he said that people asked questions like "Are your clothes invisible" and he said "yes," so wouldn't your sleep mask go invisible, too.

Actually, the whole thing got me thinking about invisibility. There's that issue of Wolverine where Sue Storm blinds Wolverine by making his optic nerves invisible. Well, when she turns invisible don't HER optic nerves turn invisible? So wouldn't SHE be blind?

Invisibility is just too damn complicated. And in everything from Hollow Man to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, invisible people just don't have happy endings and they almost always go bugfuck crazy. It's just a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

That segment always bothered me too. The narrow-mindedness of that one woman was one problem, but mainly I thought they never brought up the most important distinction between the two powers: with flight you could actually go out and help people fairly easily (by joining the fire department, I figure), but invisibility, not so much. That's how I chose, but maybe I've just read too many comic books.


Jhunt said...

Have you read memoirs of an Invisible Man? The movie (w/ Chevy Chase was excrement, but I seem to remember the book as being quite good.

However, you are correct that invisibility as a power falls apart under pretty much any logical analysis. (...which is why I have stopped all work on developing an invisiblity potion, in favor of focusing my efforts exclusively on my jetpack)

Mick Martin said...


Didn't read the book but I remember the movie.

And don't even get me started on jetpacks, man! You'll burn your ass off!


Well, the narrator did say he asked people why they chose the powers they chose, and that almost no one said they would use it to fight crime.

But yeah, the woman in question had a right to her point of view, but I didn't like how the narrator took it and basically made it the defining moment of the piece. She seemed to assume that, given the choice of either this power or that power, everyone ("if honest") would choose based on their self-image. Me, I don't have any particularly mythic view of myself. Hell, I look like Kevin Smith if Kevin Smith let himself go. More. But I'd choose flight. Not because I have a mythic view of myself, but for purely pragmatic reasons. Like free travel, and no parking. Plus, crime-fighting notwithstanding, how fucking cool would it be to fly?