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Hogarth judge

December 2017

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Architecture and "fanboy entitlement"

The Empire State Building is a national landmark and a historically important building. It is also a commercial building presumably owned by private businesses of some sort. Suppose that business wants to tear it down and build a bigger and more modern skyscraper in its place. Since the art deco style of the original building is expensive anymore, they'd rather rebuild in the concrete rectangle style from thirty years ago.

Preservationists (i.e. architecture fanboys) will likely object, will probably sue, and will probably win. The Empire State Building is a cultural monument worth preserving. Its owners have a legal duty to preserve it as is, because we recognize that they have a prior moral duty to preserve it. Because of its cultural significance, they do not have free rein. There may be some loony libertarian who objects to preservation laws, but most of us can recognize a duty to preserve important cultural monuments, at least when they are buildings.

Captain America is like the Empire State Building in significant ways. He too is a part of our cultural heritage, and a cultural monument worth preserving. If he can be owned, then his owners have a moral obligation to conserve and preserve him.

Technically, the Empire State Building is a federal National Historic Landmark, so the relevant law would be at 16 U.S.C. 470 et seq. It is written, "the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people."

Yes, Captain America is like that. I mean, he's Captain America, isn't he? Yes, there is a moral obligation to preserve him as a part of the historical and cultural heritage of the nation. Quite simply, Marvel and Disney are morally obliged to preserve his character and identifying features in ways that reflect his cultural and symbolic importance, so that the character in current stories is a recognizable version of the character as depicted in the past.

Fans who object that the character is being portrayed badly, wrongly, or inconsistently may be right or wrong in their objections. They may react prematurely after only seeing part of a story. The rules for preservation can't be made so onerous that the building or character becomes no longer useful.

But, like architectural preservationists, fans are indeed entitled to seeing their characters preserved. Perhaps not legally, yet, but morally, yes already. The argument that a character is being written inconsistently or destructively does in fact carry real moral force. The objection, quite simply, is not something that can be dismissed out of hand as "fan entitlement", as if the fans are asking for something they have no claim to. The American people have a stake in Captain America. The people who read comics with Cap in them are indeed entitled to defend that stake.

Comments

Agree wholeheartedly, but what happened?
Nothing that terrible has happened to Captain America recently, although the AvX event did him no favors. It's more of a metaphor of what's happening to Wonder Woman, but I used Cap mostly because he's an equally venerable character, and one I'm not all that invested in.