RPPR Episode 144: The Vulture was Right

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Synopsis: After seeing Spiderman: Homecoming, we had to discuss the morality behind the movie’s antagonist, the Vulture. After all, he’s essentially a base raider, so I felt obligated to discuss some of the themes with Aaron, Caleb, and Tom. We also discussed the morality of the superhero genre in general. Plus, anecdotes and shout outs!

Shout Outs

Song: Interstellar Capitalism by Anonymous420

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  1. Mentioning hacks… Me and a friend have been talking about how the red markets system is the best system for playing shadowrun either of us have ever seen.

    You inadvertently wrote the best system for playing as shadowrunners (as far as my group is concerned).

  2. Great episode. 100% agreement about Tony Stark.

    That said, I think there’s something to be said for the conservative position for preserving the status quo in the context of an emerging superhero universe like the MCU. Since so many of the powers involved in the MCU have reality-warping/world-destroying capabilities, it is in fact prudent to try to manage their development in a safe manner.

    Ideally, this should be done in a way that gives normal people (non-superheroes) some sort of democratic institutional input on how supertechnology is deployed, since they’re otherwise basically victims of forces beyond their control. There ought to be some sort of “Department of Damage Control,” just like we have the EPA and the Department of Energy to regulate dangerous technologies in the real world.

    But you’re exactly right that in the movie, the conjunction between Damage Control and Stark Enterprises corrupts the whole system. It’s all really just part of Tony Stark’s personal circus of Nietzschean self-aggrandizement. They’re not trying to keep the world from blowing up, they’re just trying to make sure that Tony is the only person who gets to blow it up.

    Essentially, the MCU has the exact same problem we have in the real world: there’s nothing actually conservative about the “conservative” structures in the world. They aren’t actually intended to conserve any order; they’re instead there to protect the concentration of power in the hands of an unaccountable elite. That elite is free to distort the world however they see fit.

    It would actually be way more conservative — in the sense of protecting social order from violent upheaval — for Damage Control to keep The Vulture and his crew on their jobs, giving the working class an economic benefit for participating in the orderly progress of controlled development from the new supertech. Instead we see the classic bourgeoisie/proletariate dialectical class conflict that Marx described.

  3. Author

    “personal circus of Nietzschean self-aggrandizement” is a GREAT name for a band.

    Also, like two thirds of all superhero stories should have been peacefully resolved if everyone involved had liked talked and been willing to compromise.

  4. Weird, it almost seems like careful, deliberate, inclusive social planning isn’t as much fun to watch as boats getting sliced in half by lasers.

    Also! I got to see Chicano Batman open for The Claypool Lennon Delirium a couple years ago. They’re even more fantastic live, and really nice guys too. We bought all their albums after the show.

  5. So I watched Homecoming on your recommendation, and yeah Vulture was right. Factually at least.
    You said you couldn’t really think of a way to apply Vulture to Red Markets but I had two ideas. First one is the idea of battle sites, there would have been attempts to hold the line before the government just blew every bridge over the Mississippi and called it good, so maybe the players could risk scavenging abandoned military equipment while contending with body armored casualties, minefields and the lingering effects of chemical weapons (Geneva Convention being markedly silent on fighting zombies)
    Second idea is you could adapt the idea of the Tinker from the movie as a contact who’s insanely good at building the tech you need from random crap, to the point everyone realizes they could easily be working in an air conditioned lab somewhere in the Recession if they really wanted to. So the question becomes, why aren’t they? There’s definitely some plot potential in “your tech guy is great but has a dodgy past/strange habits/is just psycho enough to legitimately enjoy living in the Loss”

  6. I’ve only seen the sampler, but FATE’s Kaiju Incorporated seems close to the “work crews in a superpowered world” thing.

  7. I haven’t seen Homecoming (because German Dubbing sucks) but I agree with most of the points made… but then, I was under the impression that “People aren’t perfect, and the ‘heroes’ are no better” was an underlying theme of the entire MCU.
    Stark is the prime example because he’s canonically Messed Up; he built the iMan Suit because of kidnapping induced trauma, he’s suffering serious untreated PTSD, and has deep-seated abandonment and intimacy issues from his childhood.

    The only one of the team without crippling trauma is Rogers, who’s stories revolve around him being a die-hard idealist and how that’s incredibly hard to reconcile with an imperfect world.

    The reason Stark and the rest of the Avengers are nominally the Heroes of the setting is that they genuinely want to help people, rather than operating from ‘purely’ selfish motivations (not that they’re absent).
    Look at Ultron (which is a peeve of mine: he didn’t actually make Ultron at all – ultron is an alien AI which was stored in an Infinity stone. Sure, he accidentally set him loose, but that’s a whole different scale of screwup); the motivation behind the Ultron concept was “Holy Shit Alien Monsters AAAAAGH”, which is just a subset of the second setting theme – not a fear of Capitalism (though that was present in the original comics) but more a generalised Technophobia – many of the issues dealt with in the films can be directly equated to issues with emerging technologies (Redical Longevity, 3D printing, genetic manipulation ect.)

    Sure, they’re trying to preserve the Status Quo – not because it’s actually Good, but because they don’t have any better solutions.

    Sure, you can have Superpowers. The cost is being acutely aware of how Civilisation is a paper thin film stretched to the breaking point over a roiling mass of Chaos, Death and Dispair, and you’re the one who has to hold the fraying edges together.

    After all, With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

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