Controlling Supers: Regulating the Extraordinary

A very popular theme that shows up in most superhero movies is the idea of restricting or regulating superheroes or superpowers. This theme is prominent in The X-Men, The Justice League, The Avengers, and even The Incredibles.

Superhuman Registration Act, Mutant Registration Act, Superhero Registration Act. There are many names for this kind of regulation in different superhero universes; each universe having a unique law of their own. Despite the different names, these laws garner the same set of regulations and restrictions—requiring the superheroes to surrender their private information to the government (and to the public for the X-Men’s Mutant Registration Act), therefore resulting in the superheroes no longer being able to hide their identities. Superheroes are also required to surrender their rights to use their superpowers to a higher authority; the government, forcing the superheroes to fulfill a set of requirements and permits before they are able to use their superpowers for any purpose.

The most popular example comes from the ‘Civil War’ comic by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, where the Superhero Registration Act states that, “In accordance with the document at hand, I hereby certify that the below mentioned participants, peoples, and individuals [The Avengers], shall no longer operate freely or unregulated, but instead operate under the rules, ordinances and governances of the afore mentioned United Nations panel, acting only when and if the panel deems it appropriate and/or necessary.”

The reason why the Superhero Registration Act is such a prominent theme is because it tackles multiple social and political problems in the 21st century, including the violations and restrictions of basic rights; gun-bans (violation of the second amendment), the violation of the right to privacy, as well as the violation of the freedom of speech—people and ideas being regulated.

The Second Amendment

As everyone is already familiar, this amendment is about the right to bear arms. The entire purpose of the second amendment is to promote defense against government tyranny, and self-defense. If the powers (or weapons) of these superheroes are surrendered straight into the authority of the government, they’ll be deprived of their power to stop the government from going haywire. By allowing the second amendment to fulfill its purpose, we take away the possibility of being fully controlled by any higher authority. After all, a true democracy should be of the people, by the people, for the people.

In real life, while people maintain the right to bear arms, there are certain licenses and permits that people are required to possess in order to own and use firearms. The reason why people are attempting to ban guns is the same reason why the Superhero Registration Act in superhero movies is being implemented; because of the possibility of weapons and powers being used for malevolent purposes. But the truth is that it’s not about the right to bear arms that causes harm, but the mannerism in which these arms are used. Supervillains aren’t villains because they have powers, but because of their malicious intentions. Therefore, a law like the Superhero Registration Act is a proper metaphor for the restrictions of the second amendment. There are always going to people who use weapons maliciously; some of these people even owning permits and licenses to bear arms. Even with these regulations in place, the second amendment should not be the one to blame when weapons get into the wrong hands.

Violation of Right to Privacy

Still in the theme of a Superhero Registration Act, as stated in the law itself, superheroes are required to “register” and surrender their private information to the government. This gives away the secret identity of each and every superhero, and violates their right to the privacy of their personal identity considering that they’re not really public figures. Sounds familiar? RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is becoming more prominent every day in this day and age when technology is advancing the fastest. Your workspace or even your school may be utilizing this technology. The problem with this is that it allows information to easily be accessed and even allows people’s locations to be tracked against their will. The RFID is a system that is meant to be implemented for the average person. The controversy behind the growing use of RFID technology or the general idea of a universal ID is that the everyday man’s private information such as name, health conditions, and the such is going to be available for someone, somewhere to view. In the X-Men universe, the Mutant Registration Act requires all mutants to surrender private information as well as their respective powers for public viewing. The purpose of this is so that people can be cautious of the mutants around them and what they can potentially do.

But just like regular people, everyone has the potential to do harm and to do good. Why should that mean having to surrender private information? The right to privacy is something that should be respected and should at no means be violated.

Regulation of People and their Assets

Imagine a world where brilliant people with brilliant ideas are subject to having their assets regulated or confiscated. That’s essentially what the Superhero Registration Act does. People who were born with special talents and special powers are forced to surrender their assets to the government simply because they possess special abilities. What if Steve Jobs was held back from making the first ever popular and innovative smartphone? What if Elon Musk’s idea of electric street cars was banned because it will result in some businesses becoming obsolete? Well, superpowers are like special talents. These are things that are innate in an individual and these are things that we ought to use. To deprive the individual of letting their creativity flourish and letting their talents develop is to hinder progress of society. Everyone is born differently and with different assets. We should all be free to make and create our own decisions and no one should be able to tell us what we can do with our talents.

It’s true that nobody in the real world is a superhero with superpowers, but there are some people in the world with great skills and great talents. Why should anything or anyone deprive them of their assets and specialties when they should just be free to do what they ought to do? This topic has been a hot-topic to people who have enjoyed some kind of superhero series or franchise. Stan Lee, the most famous comic book writer and publisher, had stated to Times Magazine, “We created the first superheroes who weren’t perfect, who worried about paying rent. It was satire—fantasy in a realistic setting.” The bigger picture is that superheroes are meant to resonate with someone, somewhere. Even if superheroes have superpowers, they still struggle like humans, which makes the idea of a Superhero Registration Act even more relevant to today’s world where people are being regulated and restricted. The prominent theme of superhero regulation is a response to the growing violations and restrictions of the Bill of Rights.

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Arturo Perlada

Arturo Perlada is a senior at the University of Asia and the Pacific located in the Philippines. He is a freelance photographer and filmmaker who likes to write songs and stories in his free time about trending and controversial topics that are relevant to himself and to the people around him.

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