Civil War released this weekend, and like my first protagonist Achilla Johnson, Athena Johnson is designed to answer a question.
What does it mean to be a social justice warrior? The answer does not lie in the derogatory context used to mock people who are passionate about social justice movements, but it can be found in Johnson’s character development as a martial artist with an activist’s empathy.
This is where Achilla and Athena differ. While Achilla acts as judge, jury, and executioner, she doesn’t invoke societal change. She finds a problem person, extinguishes him, and moves on, but she does nothing about the conditions that created him. This is a major flaw in Achilla’s methods, and as a result, her problems tend to repeat themselves(see: Xerxes and Artemis Harris).
Athena is different. She educates herself on the world’s problems and finds solutions because she cares about the long game and seeks to make a positive impact on the world. A cynic would call her an idealistic bleeding heart who doesn’t understand the world, but of course there is more to her than that. She has a PhD for a reason, and there is no room for ignorance in her pursuits. Still, while Achilla quickly deals with a threat, Athena always thinks about the impact her actions may have, and there are drawbacks to thinking too much. Her desire to make the world a better place might leave her susceptible to cruel elements of the world who have no interest in changing, and it makes her a target for those who see her ideals as a threat to their bottom line. In that context, Johnson’s adult journey, starting in Civil War, allows her to define the social justice warrior for herself and answer if such fighters have a place in her world. Her conclusion doesn’t come easily and neither will the reader’s.
Stay warriors, my friends.