Superheroes and real-life villains

Have you ever stopped for a moment and wondered why we care so much about superheroes?

Vixen, D.C.

I mean, it’s not like there will ever be a man who can shoot lasers out of his eyes and can fly really fast. Or a woman who can harness the power of any animal by wearing an heirloom necklace passed down from generations in her family. Those things just aren’t realistic.

Yet here we are, in the age of superhero movies and TV shows. Marvel and D.C. are fighting (pretty literally in some of the movies and shows) for our attention and we don’t have to be convinced to watch them. Whether or not we know the backstories of each hero doesn’t matter so much as it matters that we crave this genre, particularly at this time in history.

As for myself, I’m loving the D.C. shows on The C.W. and Fox. There’s something about Arrow, The Flash, Super Girl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Gotham that have really gripped me and have sucked me into their worlds for the last 6 or so years.

Marvel movies are also in that category for me. D.C. movies, not so much. (I haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, so that may change my mind a little.)

I don’t know when I started liking superheros, but I do know when their stories began inspiring me: sophomore year at BYU. I finally got myself to watch Smallville (W.B., then The C.W.’s incarnation of Superman’s origin). I binged watched all 10 seasons in about two months, consuming every episode with wrapped attention and allowing the characters to enter my heart like I once let books in. It was exciting, but also much more than that. I grew to love the idea of superheroes and what they stood for. I felt bad for Lex Luthor (which is partially why I keep trying to get Michael Rosenbaum to talk to me on Twitter. So far, he’s liked 2 of my tweets!), and identified strongly with Lois Lane.

That was during a time in my life when I had to make some important choices about what to study and what career path I wanted, and I’m not ashamed to say it helped a little in choosing journalism at first.

The common theme with all of these superheroes we give so much attention to is their tragedies and how they handle what they’ve been dealt with. Sometimes they had their parents brutally murdered in front of them, or a disaster of some sort caused powers to manifest, or they were stranded on an island. Whatever horrible thing happened to them didn’t matter so much as what that horrible thing inspired in them.

Take Batman, for instance. He was just a kid when his parents were murdered in front of him. That experience turned him to seek justice for his city, a place he loved that also had a ton of problems with gangsters and the criminally insane.

So what does that mean to us? Sure, it’d be nice if we could eradicate terrorism and all the other bad things in this world and have someone swoop in and save us, but that’s not quite it.

It’s the symbol of what these heroes are. It’s the idea that even with the worst of circumstances it is still possible to turn your life around and do some good in the world. It’s a symbol of the ones who support us who are the real heroes. (What would the Barry Allens do without the Cisco Ramons?)

We need people to inspire us and to motivate us to be our best. To tell us to cut the crap when we are carrying the weight of the world and remind us who we are.

Because if someone with superpowers can have a bad day, it’s okay that we have bad days.

If Green Arrow can defeat Death Stroke without killing him, we can work with that person who we don’t totally agree with all the time.

If Batman can stare insanity in the eye and put things back where they belong, we can combat anxiety.

We have very real villains in our daily lives that try to thwart us in everything we do. Sickness, physical limitations, hurdles, trials, temptations, hurt feelings, opposition, depression, hard times, anger, sadness, etc, all try and stop us from being who we are and becoming who we need to be. What we don’t have is super speed to get things done or the power to transform into someone else so we don’t have to deal with the hard things.

What we do have are people who support and love us. We have heroes to look up to and inspire us, whether they be super or not.

That’s why I think we crave superheroes so much. We want to see that it is possible to make it through the darkest of times and come out on top. We want to see the impossible, because it tells us that real life isn’t that bad. It tells us that we can do the seemingly impossible.

This post is dedicated to Adam West. We lost a good man and a great Batman this weekend. I hope he was able to see how many people he inspired through his talents. 

Adam West, 1928-2017


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