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When Heroes Fall, Who is to Blame? Anakin, Killmonger, and More • Superhero Ethics • Episode 301

When Heroes Fall, Who is to Blame? Anakin, Killmonger, and More

In this thought-provoking episode of Superhero Ethics, hosts Matthew Fox and Riki Hayashi dive deep into the question of why heroes become villains and where the responsibility lies when they fall. Using examples from Star Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Matthew and Riki examine the complex factors that can lead even the most heroic figures down a dark path.

Is Anakin Skywalker solely to blame for his transformation into Darth Vader, or do the Jedi Order and Palpatine share responsibility for his fall? How much did the differing upbringings of Zuko and Azula shape their destinies? And what role did Killmonger’s experiences with racial injustice play in his turn?  

Through their nuanced discussion, Matthew and Riki explore the tension between personal accountability and the impact of circumstances and institutional failures. They argue for moving beyond simplistic notions of blame to instead ask what lessons can be learned to prevent future tragedies. The hosts apply this lens to their own lives as well, reflecting on how self-examination and breaking generational cycles are key to growth.

Other topics covered include:

  • The importance of good mentorship and emotional support for vulnerable youth
  • How authoritarian regimes can re-emerge in the wake of revolution
  • South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission as a model for societal healing

Bonus content for members on the upcoming Acolyte show!

Riki Hayashi and Matthew Fox explore the ethical questions from the stories geeks love—superheroes, sci-fi, anime, fantasy, video games, and so much more.