Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Selfish Jordan Family

Well, this has been a long time in coming. Originally, my Livejournal was only intended for fiction, but I often get the urge to post my thoughts about stuff, and I realized that I would really rather have a separate place to do that. Thus, this. If you've a hankering for fic, particularly DCU/Green Lantern stuff, you can find it at Towards Twilight. If you want to listen to me babble, you're in the right place.

It would be fitting if my first post was about Guy Gardner, but you know, a thought occurred to me the other day and it won't leave me alone. I was reading the conclusion to Aranel Took's Green Lantern elseworlds pirate epic Pirates of the Emerald Dawn the other day, and the topic of Hal Jordan's selfishness came up late in the story in a way that I will not spoil for you. Now, I do bash on Hal a bit from time to time because it's just so easy, but I like to think that I'm capable of appreciating his character for what it is. It's refreshing to have a hero whose flaws are so apparent -- and Hal is very real, unlike some other heroes I could name. Don't we all know someone like Hal Jordan? Charismatic despite his flaws, well-intentioned even when he's wrong, etc?

Hal isn't selfish in the sense that he would let a bunch of orphans burn because he doesn't want to mess up his pretty (oh so pretty) hair. Of course not. If he was, he wouldn't be a hero. No one could accuse him of cowardice, or say that he hasn't given and sacrificed a hundred times over for the good of other people.

His selfishness is more on a personal level, and a lot of it stems from his more dominant nature, I think. He's the sort of person who makes decisions for other people without consulting them. "This is what's best for you." He might be doing it out of actual concern for the other person, but that doesn't change the fact that he's taking the decision out of their hands without regard for their personal feelings. Remember when he and Arisia were living with John and Katma? Excuse me, living off of them? Yeah, that's selfish. I don't care if you can't get a job as a test pilot -- when you're mooching off of someone else, you get a job at McDonald's if you have to. (Besides, didn't Hal have experience doing other weird things, like truck driving?) For that matter, a lot of Hal's entire relationship with Arisia is riddled with selfishness and bad judgment. Even in the end, when he returned to speak with her at Warriors and offered her a return to the way things were, it might seem like a nice gesture, but he had to have been completely disregarding her feelings to even ask such a thing. It was like asking her to forget everything that he had done, and everything that had happened between them, because none of that was important so long as he fixed stuff, right?

Similarly, there's The Last Will and Testament of Hal Jordan. He manipulated Tom. Put the Kalmaku family in danger. And for what? Because he felt bad. It's like breaking someone's vase through your own blatant negligence (not just a simple accident) and thinking you can make up for it by taping it back together with duct tape. There, I fixed it. We're cool now, right?

But my thought was: look at his parents. In general, I would label them pretty good as far as parents go -- and certainly they were better than Rolly and Peggy Gardner, or the absent Aaron Rayner! Hal loved them. They raised him to be a reasonably well-adjusted, confident young man.

But they were both selfish in their own ways, too. There's nothing wrong with a father encouraging his son's loves, or being a hero to his child. But there's definitely something wrong with encouraging (even passively) your child to be late for, or skip school, just so he can hang out with you. Maybe Martin Jordan enjoyed being hero-worshipped just a little too much. And he was certainly unselfish when he took that plane down away from the crowd, but that doesn't change the fact that he wasn't exactly a responsible parent. The impression I get of him is that he was a lot like Hal turned out to be as an adult: arrogant but very charismatic.

Hal's mother is the one who really gives me fits, though. She did a lot that deserves respect. Raising three boys alone, particularly when Hal was one of those boys, is no easy task, so hats off to her for that. And it's perfectly understandable to be afraid, maybe even terrified, of losing a son the same way you lost a husband.

But to attempt to smother your child's hopes and dreams completely? That's... horrible. I don't even have words for how horrible that is, though I tried hard to capture it in The Wild Blue. What makes it worse is that planes were what Hal associated with his father. Cutting him off from his dreams was like cutting him off from all the memories he had associated with the parent he lost. And while it also might be understandable to restrict him a little as a child (particularly since Hal didn't seem inclined to actually listen very often and probably deserved that bit of discipline), it's completely out of line to forbid your child to do what he's always dreamed of doing once he's old enough to do it. Was it selfish of Hal to sneak off in the middle of the night and join the Air Force anyway? Sure. But should he have had to resort to that? No. Of course no mother wants to see her child die for any reason, but I think it's fairly obvious that her desire to restrict him was born more from a fear wrapped up in herself -- a fear of how it would make her feel if he were to die. Or maybe even a fear of the fear itself -- which she would no doubt feel every time he went up in a plane.

Keeping with those restrictions on her very deathbed, though... that's what really takes the cake. She's dying. She knows she's dying. She's known that it was going to happen for a while now. And she still can't bear to see him so long as she knows he's in the Air Force. Once she dies, it's over for her. No more worries, no nothing, and she had to have known that. But Hal is going to have to live with these memories, without having any closure with his only remaining parent, for the rest of his life. That is, unless he gives up the life he loves the most.

So Hal gets it honest. Maybe it was a good thing that Hal was selfish in regards to the Air Force, though. Can you imagine what life would have been like for him if he had respected his mother's wishes and suppressed his dreams to make her happy? Squeezing the life out of a young Hal Jordan... like squeezing an orange dry.

And that brings with it another thought: what would have been different if the Lanterns' origins were switched around? What if Guy had been the one with the father who died in a crash and the mother who couldn't get over it? Would he have rebelled like Hal did, or wither away in response to his mom's wishes, or something else entirely? What if Hal had grown up in an abusive home... or as an only child with a father who was presumed dead? What if Kyle had Hal or Guy's origin instead?

No love for John, I'm afraid: we're still waiting for a real origin story for him. Maybe his life was just very normal and angst-free in comparison to the other three.


SallyP said...

Duskdog, you've got a blog! Woohoooo! I thought that Ragnell, Kalinara, Sea of Green and I were the only Green Lantern nuts around. Drink the koolaide and join us!

I'm afraid that both Hal and Guy had strange childhoods. I never really thought about it before, but yes, I think that you are right on the money,when you say that Martin Jordan probably wallowed in Hal's hero-worship just a little too much. Understandable, I suppose, considering that Jack and Jim didn't really care that much about what he did, but there's not doubt that Hal was a chip off the ol' block.

Hal's mom's attitude on her deathbed has always disturbed me. Talk about grandstanding! That's a pretty rotten thing to do to one of your own children, I don't care WHAT he did. Selfish indeed.

If Hal had had Guy's parents, he'd have been Mace.

Duskdog said...

If Hal had had Guy's parents, he'd have been Mace.

Oh my God. It's true.

And it would have been just Guy's luck, in this funny origin mixed-up world, to be Hal's little brother. Fate is cruel.