Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~
Recently, Pat Robertson made an effort to divert the course of Hurricane Florence. Concerned about the storm’s impact on the Tidewater region, his beloved Regent University, and the CBN television network he runs, Robertson led a congregation in prayer to shield the Tidewater region from harm.
Robertson was lampooned online for an approach that sounded more like sorcery and honestly I wasn’t too sure at the time about the efficacy of this particular approach. However, as I write this column, Florence has just made landfall in Wilmington, NC, pretty much right on top of some relatives and alarmingly close to my family’s barrier island home.
Does this mean that when Robertson makes the classic post hoc ergo propter hoc error and claims credit for diverting the storm, we can blame him for whatever damage Florence does to us? If so, thanks a lot Pat.
As I said, I don’t really think that Robertson has the power to control the weather, but there are a few characters in popular culture that do. And this particular real world example demonstrates the kind of great power and great responsibility problem that makes the superhero genre so fascinating.
Consider Storm. Orphaned at a young age, Ororo Munroe traveled Africa and eventually settled in a village where her mutant power to generate and control weather caused her to be worshipped as a goddess. Later, she heeded Professor Xavier’s call to from a new team of X-Men and ever since she has been an important member of that team.
I have always loved Storm because of the character’s rich emotional backstory and her fierce individualism. In addition to the prejudice that all of Marvel’s mutant characters face, over the years Storm has also struggled with the different cultural expectations in America and with the leadership roles she would grow into. Also, she can shoot lightning bolts, which is wicked cool. Storm’s powers bring particular challenges though. If she is not careful, her very mood can change the weather around her.
Ever since Spider-Man failed to stop the burglar that would go on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben, Marvel Comics have centered on themes about the consequences of action and inaction. Does the power of weather control give one a de facto responsibility for all weather? Said another way—everybody talks about the weather, but does Storm have to do something about it?
Recently, Storm insured good weather for the wedding of her friends Kitty Pryde and Colossus. Even though that wedding fell through, Storm still kept things nice. But what if changing the weather in New York messed up somebody else’s wedding that day in another location? Or maybe Storm is opening up the greatest possible service in the wedding planning industry.
On a larger scale, perhaps Storm should be out there stopping every hurricane that arises. That sounds like a full time job which would only get worse as one factored in other dangerous weather events like tornadoes, blizzards, or derechos. With every dangerous weather event she pushed around, there would be consequences for other locations.
Storm would, no doubt, have a response to this dilemma, a classic X-Men monologue on the balance between personal life and global responsibility. Storm would do what she could without endangering others. In that way, a fictional character would have thought it out more than a real world person did.