The trouble with superheroes

Like everyone else, I enjoy a good superhero movie from time to time. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. were all present and accounted for during my childhood, and I enjoyed their shows. I admired Wonder Woman for her patriotism and quest for right. I looked up to Superman and wondered what it would be like to just move things out of my way with a simple shove. (Of course, I was one of the few teenaged girls who thought Christopher Reeve was a horrible choice for Superman and I never liked the movies, but I digress.)

Superheroes right the wrongs; they stand up for the downtrodden; they make the bad guys pay, not in “the next life” but in this one, where they have committed their crimes! Superheroes correct society to be better for everyone. Right? People want to know there is someone looking out for them. We want to believe that someone will come along and catch the thieves who stole our family inheritance, or unravel the clues to where the threat to national security is hidden. We want to know, at the core of our uncertainty and fear, that someone is going to take care of us.

Have you ever watched one of these old time superhero shows with a critical eye? Sure, they are campy and fun, and for children they can be a role model for doing the right thing. The trouble with superheroes is that if they really existed, society would fall to pieces. For example, Isis recites some corny poetry and gets nature to do her bidding, thereby pulling the car off the cliff and saving the life of the reckless driver. Does the reckless driver truly face the consequences of his actions? No, not really. Isis saves him and he goes on his merry way. Superman flies over just in the nick of time to rescue the kid dangling from a telephone pole which he climbed against his parents mandate. Does the kid think to himself “whew, better listen to my folks from now on!” or does he continue to test his boundaries? The people the superheroes rescue are given a second chance, but of course the TV shows never really tell us what happened three months later when Wonder Woman wasn’t around to rescue them again.

Let’s face it. If superheroes really existed, people would look to the superhero to solve their dilemma, rescue them from their own foolish actions, and otherwise stand in the role of local, state and federal government/court systems/law enforcement. Superheroes would make us less capable of solving our own problems with ingenuity and critical thinking. They would make us dumber than we already are. People do dumb things, we cannot deny it, but the beauty of doing something dumb is (hopefully) learning from the consequences and then not repeating that dumb thing again. So while it would be nice to have Batman and Robin destroy the drug cartels, or Superman go find Osama Bin Laden, personally I think it’s better that we have to do these things on our own.

A few of the things that made this country great for hundreds of years are innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. Superman, if you are reading this, no offense, but maybe you could crash land in some other country? Thanks.


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