First off, a definition. Probably unnecessary for followers of GL because for the most part, they’re aware of who these beings are. But any good breakdown should start off with a dictionary entry – or at the very least, a widely accepted definition. The Guardians of the Universe are the founders of the Green Lantern Corps. These small, blue-toned extra-terrestrials claim authority over the universe on the basis that they were there before the creation of the universe today. As the universe expanded, and emotion ran rampant, the Guardians took it upon themselves to govern such a place.
Hal Jordan, the posterboy for emotion, challenges the Guardians constantly, trying to wage a war of emotion v. logic, which I think many of us are familiar with in some shape or form. We all have never-ending battles over whether or not to pursue a relationship, if it’s right to sleep with so and so, if it’s even okay to have dessert. The more I go through my days, I see this battle evident in many other forms of entertainment. Star Trek, for example, with Spock’s internal struggle concerning mind v. heart due to being born of a human mother. What I’m attempting to say is that you, dear reader, are familiar with this conflict. I know you are.
As much as the Guardians upset me, they have just reasoning for the things they do. And their reasoning is rooted in an Aristotelian idea. As explained in his Nicomachean Ethics (I’m not even going to pretend I’ve read this book, but this source is cited in Green Lantern and Philosophy), there is a “golden mean” that must be maintained to keep the universe in order. Jason Southworth, the author of the first section in GL&P paraphrases Aristotle’s idea by saying “For any emotion, there are two extremes – an excess of emotion at one end and a deficit of it at the other. In between is just the right amount of that emotion, which Aristotle called a virtue…” (12). Obviously, the latter could be identified as the Guardians whereas the former, any given member of a Lantern corps. Knowing this, it can be assumed that keeping a “happy medium”, as my old dance instructors used to say, is the ideal state in which the Guardians strive to preserve. He goes further to say that “In order to always hit the Golden Mean between emotional extremes, you must possess prudence, or right judgment*. Without prudence, while you might still occasionally hit the Mean, you do not fully possess the virtue”. (14) I think this idea needs no more elaboration because you all are smart enough to realize that the Guardians, at least given their current behavior, are not doing their balancing act very well.
Would it be radical to say that the Guardians seem power-hungry nowadays? At least since the introduction of the other-colored corps. In the past, in addition to the GLC, they made two separate armies to aid in the policing of the universe. How necessary was that, really? With the Third Army showing up in GLC thread, I’m getting concerned over the future of the Lanternverse. It could be argued that the Guardians did mean well in creating these armies in the past, seeing it as a way to regain control over the universe when their corps was not able to do its job for whatever reason at the time. However, the act of creating these armies oversteps the necessary control needed to maintain balance.
Now, I know I’m using the colloquial scale reference here (excuse the weak imagery) but the way I understand it is that the issue is one huge scale. On one plate is the Guardians and their actions, the other, Lanterns who feel. The continual actions that the Guardians enact, such as creating these armies, rewriting Oan laws and creating extraneous rules regarding the regulation of other corps is putting too much weight on the Guardian-side. It could even be said that if their action continues, the weight will render emotions useless – save for a way to categorize members of the Skittle-squad. And that’s not Green Lantern at all. That’s a bunch of originalist tyrants sitting around in their citadel. I won’t read that, that’s not Green Lantern.
The thing that keeps it “Green Lantern” as opposed to “Smurfs Dictators in Space” are the members. Hal Jordan…no, scratch that…any Lantern keeps the series going because emotion is inevitable. The way the rings are programmed, there will always be Lanterns despite the hardships brought upon them in any given story arc. That’s how it works and I don’t think the Guardians are prepared to destroy that which they claim to rule over. The reincarnation of these rings are direct analogies for human emotion. No matter what comes our way, we feel emotion in some way. That will never die, just like the rings (unless some writer decides to give the Guardians that power).
One last point to bring up, that I asterisked earlier, is judgment. Given the incredible 3600 sectors the universe has been divided into (plus some nonsense going on outside those sectors), there are many diverse cultures roaming the many planets of this fictional universe. Because there are so many, the customs of any planet will indefinitely differ from any other given planet. This has been addressed in issues prior, so this paragraph is nothing new to avid readers of the stories. So with each planet, comes a different way of life. This causes problems to the Guardians because what is just in one sector may not be fair in another. So the Guardians have the difficult decision of having to sacrifice one culture’s customs for the good of the universe. Realistically, I believe in doing what’s good for the whole rather than parts. Things like these are tricky business and make for thought-inducing stories.
In summation, do I like the Guardians? No. Not in the least bit. But I don’t like them simply because of their job. It’s not liking parking police because they impound your truck. It’s their job, but they have to do it. It probably would be disheartening for the Guardians, assuming they had a heart. As they are written now, they are messing with the balance of power far too much, but hell it makes for a good story. However, I do respect them for taking on the biggest challenge of all, that is making the difficult decisions and attempting to protect the biggest thing of all – that is, you know, the universe.
(by no means is this a comprehensive analysis of the Guardians, rather the ticks that have stuck out to me as of recent as well as real-world applications/observations)