In a recent episode of the Moment of Zen podcast, Marc Andreessen laments the lack of ‘Nietzschean supermen’ in today’s storytelling. His line of thought here suggests a lack of awareness in literature history and storytelling in general.
He’s right in that they do exist in modern TV/storytelling and that they are presented as anti-heroes—we’re constantly in conflict with our identification and empathy for them. I don’t think he’s thinking critically or artistically enough about the depiction of these figures in storytelling.
It sounds like he’s asking for idolization. Any decent writer or artist will search for conflict in their characters. It’s how we arrive at a greater human understanding.
And this is not a new phenomena. ‘Nietzschean superman’ figures have always been drawn with complexity. Dostoevsky defined and wrote about these characters before Nietzsche even articulated and popularized the idea.
So the characters we see in modern film/tv (and storytelling) are in “Glass Onion”, “Tar”, “Crimes & Misdemeanors”, “Iron Man”, “The Matrix”, “Breaking Bad”, “Batman”, “Crimes of the Future”, “The Social Network”…
And I’m not sure when Marc Andreessen sees these types of characters to have ever been presented without criticism or conflict. I think he’s ultimately asking us to praise the ends without having any criticism or introspection on the means. He speaks as though this is something we used to culturall do, although there is scant evidence to support this.
In classical greek theater, the stories of gods and “supermen figures” continually questioned the morality and the fallacies and inconsistencies in their thinking.
If you haven’t read or don’t want to read Dostoevsky’s “Crime & Punishment”, Woody Allen (there’s a conversation to be had, too) best films are riffs on the same idea: “Crimes & Misdemeanors”, “Cassandra’s Dream”, “Match Point”, “Irrational Man”.
If we subscribe to absolute logic we can rationalize any action, good or evil. And humans have an evolving morality on what consitutes these terms. In these works from Allen, it is usually the wealthy, however, that are able to escape social punishment, and so long as they can live with it personally, they get to transcend it entirely.