Mutant Registration Act in the X-Men comics and movies.
Both story lines address the idea of how a society would handle people who are different, some of which are different in extraordinary ways (we all are) that could make such people a risk to the life, health and liberty of others. The X-Men series by Bryan Singer handled this aspect wonderfully and melded in the allegory or real world issues through super powers being like a metaphor for other human rights issues. It initially brought up the argument that a Governing body (Church or State) does not license the right to live free based upon our differences as people on this planet nor should any entity impose such an idea upon its population. As the Marvel film franchises through the Marvel phase 3 move onto this ground it will be great to see them touch upon the other aspect to this very turbulent and morally difficult road, but it all comes down to a few ideas that Stan Lee already laid out fairly well in comics like Spider-Man and that is the idea that with power comes responsibility and with great power comes great responsibility.
Now let's just consider this for a moment and how this fits into the ideas and conflicts sure to come in the film world and more importantly in the real world that are examined by this issue. What if you had powers or abilities that gave you a means to benefit others or yourself by their use. What if you could predict the future accurately. What if you could read minds? What if you could affect the emotions of other people (without words)? What if you could do things that would make you a possible benefit or a danger to others? What if you could use those abilities to be a succeed in life without others knowing that you could do those things?
If you could accurately predict the future, how could one benefit themselves or the world from that and how could one use it to harm others for their own benefit? Questions like that when considered have real world ramifications and give us an insight to an important area of morality and personal responsibility. This is the world that superheroes live in and must contend with every day in their daily lives whether they are in a fictitious world or in a real one. What they do with their unique abilities is important to the lives of others as by the very use of those abilities, they could possibly infringe upon or protect the liberties of others. What about their liberties?
In what way should a person have limits imposed upon them if they exceed at something in a certain way that makes them able to succeed in its use or fail as a result of scrutiny originating from such use? Hence the Registration Act of the upcoming films and the already visited upon world of the X-Men although I still hold issue that Kelly Hu's character, Lady Deathstrike should have been liberated from her captor and joined her other heroic compatriots in the final battle rather than being felled by Wolverine.
Maybe I'll write (or is it right?) a piece of fan fiction under the What If? moniker that Stan Lee used to cover Marvel's universe to handle such questions. The ironic point in case is that the Mutant Containment program from the second film, depicted a Government contracted agency and program that practiced mind control to manage the mutant threat. A huge breach of one's liberties and freewill in the first place.
If your newly gained powers or the ones that you were born with could cause physical or emotional harm to others bar any action that did not actually bring harm to others by intent, then you'd have a moral dilemma and most likely the terms under which you'd use those abilities. With great power comes great responsibility is the sign post.
The way to know for sure is to know what you do with what you know you can do and what you could do. Therefore the use of any such ability could be deemed just as long as it does not cause damage or disrepute to living beings (whether it be physical, mental or emotional harm resulting from the use of said powers), the environment, property or a person's freedom under the same rights.
Much easier to say than it is to know the ramifications thereof but a starting grounds nonetheless. Now what about people who had such abilities who completely ignored the morality and these ideas to cause harm to others? How would or could this be handled? Secret Police? A surveillance society? A vigilante group? A super powered group of investigators who would or could investigate via their own powers such activities? How do you protect from such things without becoming the problem?
Here's another interesting point. What if your powers were the ability to affect other people's behavior for the worse? Ie you could make them angry, or reactive or even produce a spontaneous anxiety attack in them or a instigate a public outburst from them despite their better character or good will? Using such an ability against the Hulk at an inopportune moment could most certainly be the difference between life and death for many and be chalked up against Dr. (David) Bruce Banner. That would mean that someone could affect how someone else was perceived by the public opinion, perhaps sometimes the harshest of judges (besides oneself). Such a power would definitely fall under the category of causing damage to another person by way of taking their freewill and producing behavior in them that resulted in public scorn, and hence harm that affected their ability to sustain themselves with the same freedoms that others had in such a society.
What if such a power was used against the elected leader of a country in response to the support of an issue that was not agreed with by those who possessed such a power to manipulate not one's mind but their emotional behavior and reactions? Whose democracy is it anyway? By its very definition that question is one that should only have one answer. Everyone's. Its not the democracy of those who had an ability to affect such behavior in people to influence public perception about others with regard to an issue. It belongs to everyone.
Such a power could be used to persuade the public against members of office who supported issues that weren't supported by those who possessed such a power (like human rights issues based upon the foundations of human rights organizations world wide). If someone supported issues that were disagreed with by those with such powers, they could literally produce behavior in their victim that would lead to their own public self destruction or provide the contrast to push the someone else up in the eyes of the public.
So the reality of this issue is a very complex one that needs to be discussed as we enter into the age of genetic manipulation for the purposes of healing and might be a little more pertinent to real life than some would think. Manipulation of someone else's emotional behavior and mental state is a dangerous thing that infringes upon the liberty of others and affects the future of those who such a power would be used upon.
Perhaps there are people out there who have powers of their own and are aware of these issues who fight against such abuse in their own way for the protection of others in addition to the everyday heroes that protect us from crime, fire and medical problems.
It should be interesting to see how this issue is handled by the upcoming Marvel and DC Universe films as both throughout comic book history have looked into this aspect of being. I can't wait to see what their take on it is. I still haven't seen the new Avengers movie so I'm still dodging spoilers.
Its not what you do.
Its what you do with what you could do and know you could do.
Brian Joseph Johns