Making the Grade: The DCU Emotional Spectrum

Red (Rage)
Red Lanterns are all about the rage, and not just rage against the machine. They’ll take any rage you’ve got lying around: rage against injustice, rage against the dying of the light, rage against the existence of Michael Bay’s film career, you name it. Problem is, while rage can be darned handy in small doses, it’s downright vulgar — and sheer hell on local property values — to spend all your free time spouting its virtues. Even more so,  if it leads to you time-sharing with the blood-vomiting cat. On the plus side, as any fastidious serial killer will tell you, trying to get blood stains out of your clothes is a truly enraging experience, so at least rage is somewhat self-perpetuating. C-

Orange (Avarice)
Orange in the Green Lantern mythos is the color of avarice. Donald Trump is a very orange man. Coincidence? Maybe. One might not think greed would rate as a primal emotion akin to rage or love, but then one might never have taken a six-year-old out trick-or-treating on a Fun Dip high, either. This one could have proved problematic for the Green Lantern writers, since it’s hard to imagine avatars of avarice (which I’m totally trademarking before another punk band claims it) willing to put aside their inherent greed and share the source of their power, but Geoff Johns — rather ingeniously, I have to say — concocted the story of Larfreeze, the universe’s sole Orange Lantern whose fellow corpsmen are light constructs of all those he has killed to keep from sharing what he sees as rightfully his (which includes pretty much everything). Not the most convivial of fellows, true, but tell me that kind of moxie wouldn’t come in handy at a Black Friday sale. C

Yellow (Fear)
Ah, fear. Inhibitor of dreams, dampener of spirits, groin-kicker of romantic possibilities. This one’s tough to grade — fear’s not something anyone wants to get inside their Happy Meal box, and the Venn diagram of “people who tend to dig dishing out fear” and “people who are real dicks” looks exactly how you think it would. On the other hand, history and penal codes are both pretty clear on the effectiveness of fear in shaping social mores and discouraging rude behavior. Hey, you don’t like it, go ask those blue guys to hope you up a new car stereo. Come on, let’s give fear its due by overlooking its unpleasant side effects just this once and admiring its ability to get things done… or else. B+

Green (Will)
What, so will power is an emotion now? My ability to turn down a third helping of my honey’s delicious pumpkin pie counts on my GL application form? Sweet. For the longest time, green was the Original Flavour Lantern of the DCU, and its foot soldiers were described as fearless, honest, chock full of wholesome amounts of will power, and so forth. And hey, look at that — green just happens to be the exact centre of the color spectrum, making it the perfect color to symbolize reason and emotional balance. Think Finger and Nodell had that in mind back when they came up with the original Green Lantern? Probably not. Anyway: without will power, we’d all be a lot fatter, poorer and more regretful than our sorry butts already are, so let’s will ourselves to show some respect, people. A-

Blue (Hope)
Otherwise known as hope, a.k.a. the useless one. I’m sorry, I know the GL comics make a big fuss about hope being a powerful emotion that unleashes the true power of Green Lanterns, but really all the Blue Lanterns do is glow and float around spouting platitudes like super-serene fortune cookies until a Green Lantern drops by to loan them a cup of will power. Sure, in the real world hope is handy for keeping your mind off the rougher edges of life, but hope alone doesn’t bring home the bacon, people. Or any other pig part, for that matter. Hell, I’d give mild bemusement 4-1 odds over hope in a fistfight any day. D

Indigo (Compassion)
In the comics, the Indigo Lanterns are the most mysterious of the seven corps, speaking in their own untranslatable language and everything. That’s because they deal in compassion, one of the rarest emotions in the DC universe. No kidding — it’s hard to see how that emotion could gain a foothold in a universe where muggers and convenience store robbers entertain regular head-stompings from masked vigilantes. Having just suggested how hopeless hope can be, I’m tempted to say the same about compassion… but something’s got to keep all of us from going apeshit when the stressed-out barista hands us a non-fat latte with cinnamon sprinkles when we specifically asked for chocolate and why would I ask for cinnamon when everyone knows how I can’t stand cinnamon and don’t take that tone with me because I know what I asked for, you pretentious little… er, anyway. Compassion: rare, mysterious, and vital in maintaining social ties, it’s totally the tantalum of emotions. Go look it up, I’m not your damn Wikipedia. B

Violet (Love)
And so we arrive at love, the far end of the spectrum opposite of rage. It’s interesting that the emotion most often associated with Top 40 radio and Christmas films starring large ensembles of British actors is seen as equidistant from the rational centre as the emotion most often associated with impromptu killing sprees. There’s probably something to be said about the mindset of the average comic book reader that equates love with irrational, scantily clad space Amazons who force you to submit to their power, but it’s probably nothing that hasn’t been said before. Anyway, love: that one scene where Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister character gets caught lip-syncing to the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (for My Love)” is pretty amusing. Do you think Thatcher ever rocked out to Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money”…? B+

 

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