Thursday, September 27, 2012

The day of Dredd

I have not seen the new movie.

Let me be clear on that point.  I suppose I'm still a bit apprehensive after the Judge Dredd fiasco of a film from 1995 starring Stallone.  Let me also be clear that I don't blame Stallone for the outcome of that film.  A great many people had their hands in that pot, a great many who should have known better.

That said, the new movie Dredd has had me thinking about the titular character.  I know that I've written about him on here before, but that was brief.  This time I would to take things a bit further.

Judge Dredd is a British creation.  He first appeared as a character in the science fiction comic 2000 A.D. all the way back in 1977.  My first introduction to Dredd, would you believe Anthrax?  Yes, the heavy metal band and yes, they are still around to this day.  Anthrax has a song called "I Am the Law" and in the burgeoning days of my heavy metal phase, I thought it was one thrashing tune.  While clearly about a character named Judge Dredd, I was unfamiliar with who that was.  Luckily, I found out.

In the comics, Judge Dredd lives in a future world that has been ravaged by nuclear war.  Those who still survive have massed together into enormous Mega Cities.  Joseph Dredd is a Street Judge of Mega City-One, a sprawling stretch of urban area that is meant as covering the east coast of the United States.  I used to enjoy looking at maps and conjecturing just where the boundaries of Mega City-One fell, if it ended at Washington D.C. or went further austral, and how if its on the East Coast it survived a full-tilt nuclear exchange.  Anyway, a Judge in this setting is a law officer who is empowered to be instant judge, jury, and executioner.  As the song goes, he is the law.

To do this job in such a claustrophobic urban environment, a Judge needs a lot of tools.  In comics, only Batman has more "wonderful toys" than Judge Dredd.  Dredd patrols the streets of Mega City-One on a massive motorcycle that has an onboard AI computer that responds to commands, machine guns, and a powerful laser cannon.  Then there is always a Judge's gun.  Dredd named his gun "Lawgiver," keyed only to his bio-signature and ready to dispense justice Dirty Harry-style.

I think that's why Judge Dredd was a hit.  He is a product of the response that comes the reptilian part of our brain.  When confronted with crime, most people's understandable and quite rational instinct is to protect themselves and their own...and by any means necessary if need be.  That's why we come up with policies such as "Zero Tolerance." In essence, that's what Judge Dredd is right?  Correct crime by destroying anyone who commits one.

Certainly is reactionary and leaves little room for compassion.  To be fair, the majority of people Dredd wastes are total scum, so that leaves this component out of the equation.  But the essence of Judge Dredd, to my way of thinking anyway, is still a classic, science fictional, cautionary tale.  Not only of what we are capable of doing to our world through nuclear destruction, but what our society may become if our reactions to social ills are not measured and tempered with reason.

Us?  Overreact in crisis?  Never.

At least Dredd's fun to read about as he does it.

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