Negative LibertyNegative Liberty

Some sort of highly evolved, enhanced and powerful individual fighting crime and aliens and saving the world from evil has a much deeper concept than just cinematic value and a display of grandeur if you really decide to look into it. There’s a line that separates it from reality, a line that everyone can see but anyone can hardly name it (Negative Liberty) . Defining such abstract things might rob them of their surrealism and charm, but understanding a concept has always made things much more beautiful.


According to Wikipedia, Positive Liberty is the possession of the power and resources to act upon one’s free will in the context of the broader society which places limitations on a person’s ability to act. In short, positive liberty is the right and ability of an individual to fulfil his/her purpose.


According to Wikipedia, Negative Liberty is freedom from interference by other people. Negative Liberty is primarily concerned with freedom from external restraint and contrasts with positive liberty.


I believe the definition of Negative Liberty might have given you an idea about how it works. The concept of Superhero movies lies in the total freedom of the super-powered individual without outside interference i.e. from the laws of the country, the government, intelligence agencies or any world leadership. The idea lies in putting the character in such an idealized position that he/she will surpass any law or rule that binds humanity. Okay, that might sound over-exaggerated but you can’t deny its similarity to the movies. To moderate the negative liberty down, the superhero characters are provided with a moral code, a surreal sort of righteousness, a radical inclination towards fairness and justice. New movies are even providing the superheroes with human-like tendencies to make mistakes and indulge in petty passions to bring the character to be more relatable.


Captain America: Civil War is the first superhero movie (in my knowledge) to actually bring the question of negative liberty down in their world. The movie is positioned at a timeline where the team of superheroes make a series of mistakes which costs them a number of human lives and a destruction of government infrastructure. This happens exactly after one of the superheroes creates a sentient super-humanoid robot that almost destroys a whole country with a large number of human casualties in its previous movie.

The government then officially acknowledges the threat that this group of superheroes pose to the integrity and safety of their constitution, they form the Sokovia Accords (Sokovia being the country they almost destroyed) to regulate superhero activity under government supervision. The Civil war occurs among the characters as half the team agrees to sign the accords and the other half doesn’t as they’re concerned about their freedom and the government slowing everything down.

In the terms of realistic nature of fantasy movies, this factor is what makes “Captain America: Civil War” the most advanced movie of its time. It’s a praiseworthy achievement to have presented a complex political issue is such an organised, story-telling kind of way.


Promoting fairness and justice might be a noble cause, but feeding the concept of negative liberty; an idea that there’s a chance for a person to be completely above what governs the normal human population, is an equivalent of selling dreams to children.

All these years of being fed dreams of possessing god-like power, hailing truth and justice, I was frankly very disappointed when I realised I wasn’t going to wake up one day and save the world from some supernatural creature. After all, who would want to live a life where you weren’t handed a higher purpose on a silver platter and work corporate jobs instead?

It’s funny, how superhero movies had set our expectations so high from a world that is so unyielding.


On a softer note, nothing has been more successful than superhero movies in providing an escape when needed from the same world that, maybe, belongs to us. It’s a relief to see something we admire, a person embodying our sense of freedom, power and goodness sit on a pedestal far from the corrosive and dull touch of reality.

It might be safe to say, that superhero movies are a necessary evil. A child should not be denied a balloon just because an adult knows it’s going to burst.

Given that children or even people like us who have a frighteningly little understanding of how the world works, theorizing little things like negative liberty might just be a step forward in understanding a world that is often so hostile to us.

Perhaps like you, I’m too trying to understand the world as a child that was forced to grow up.

Also Read – The Perils that the Lagbtq+ faces in India

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