Monday, October 07, 2002

true selves vs. actual selves

Newsweek tells us something that may surprise those who are unaware of the nature of budding online relationships.

“In a clever series of experiments McKenna and colleagues showed that individuals meeting for the first time online are more likely to reveal their “true selves” (who they really think they are) rather than their “actual selves” (how they think they should be seen). In addition, people tend to like each other more when they first meet over the Internet, as opposed to face-to-face. Finally, by researching actual Web users, the psychologists found that deep relationships do form over the Internet. When those online relationships are integrated into one’s real world social life, they remain stable over time-indeed, often proving more long-lived than relationships formed through face-to-face introductions.”

This is curious to me because the inital thought was that the Internet would "depersonalize" relationships (and in fact this notion is still held by many, especially those averse to techonology). The amazing thing is that the human spirit can still touch you, regardless of media. Epistolary relationships, after all, are nothing new. Ah, the text generation.


When I look back at the "pop" literature of the past, the best analogue I can find for heroes would be the main characters of the epic cycles (like Gilgamesh or Beowulf), Grecian myth (Achilles, Aenes, Odysseus) or the romances (Roland, El Cid). These stories inspired both masses and nobility, characterizing the traits and virtues their respective cultures espoused.

In my lifetime, it's Superman. A foreigner cast upon a distant shore who uses his abilities for the greater good because of an unyielding sense of honor.

But the question is this - is he my hero?

Should he be my hero?

Sadly, in spite of the fact that I am a comic book afficionado, whatever heroic elements Superman once possessed have been rendered irrelevant, his "S" symbol reduced to a semiotic cypher and his exploits reduced to gimmicky entertainment. In fact, the heroes I once enjoyed in their four-color glory have become outdated - as if goodness, camaraderie and hope all went out of style. Instead, you have reactions to reactions, counters to counters, self-aware writing, Japanese stylings, reductionism, deconstruction, absurdity and grand guinol treatments that may look wonderful but say very little and are even less relevant to the reader. The so-called "indie" press is really no better - as if vanity publications and small press black and white books guarantee depth - the ones that matter come too few and far between.

So in the realm of the comic book, where does one find a hero today?

I don't know.


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