These days, a person can’t escape the concept of superheroes. They’re everywhere we go – their images are printed all over children’s clothes and school supplies, they star in summertime Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows, and they even occupy the minds of several adults who participate in activities such as cos-play, and other forms of creative expression. Taking all of this in, it got me wondering why people of all ages gravitate toward these figures. After all, you don’t see adults still playing with Legos or carrying around dolls, right? It seems that there may be a deeper reason that people of all ages find so much meaning in the lives of these fictional characters.
One possible reason for this trend may be that most people can relate to feeling powerless in some aspects of our lives, and we really wish to gain power to control the situation, like a superhero. Our creative minds go wild, and we practically live vicariously through our superhero of choice. For me right now, it’s all about the Flash and Wonder Woman. I simply can’t get enough of them.
Some superheroes use natural talent, like the Green Arrow. Others use god-like power, like Superman does. Even human technology, manipulated for the greater good, like Iron Man, is a classic recipe for a superhero. Then, there’s my favorite category, the “not-having-a-superpower-is-my-superpower” group, like Batman. I nearly forgot the superheroes who gained their powers after an experiment gone horribly wrong, like the Hulk!
Regardless of how they attained their superpowers, they all have something woven tightly into the heart of each of their stories. Despite being one of few individuals with the strength to overcome evil, superheroes are all shaped and influenced by the lives of the regular people around them – Think of Lois Lane, Laurel Lance, or Iris West and how their presence alone inspires the superheroes to which they correspond. Even though the superheroes create change, it is often done in a way that benefits the average person and sometimes may even require a sacrifice from the superhero. They are super because they put other people before themselves, and that is something that is truly beautiful.
Another aspect worth consideration is how people use story-telling to instigate change. My favorite example is how one of Superman’s early villains was the KKK organization. This act displaying the KKK in a way that even children knew that they were the bad-guys actually undermined their organization in a way that had never been done before. Superman, fictional as he is, actually contributed a small amount to the Civil Rights Movement. Maybe one of the reasons we like super-people is because they are what we wish we could be.
I think that the real reason we can’t stay away from superheroes is because the people of the world are yearning for one. We wish there was someone to save us from poverty, depression, slavery, debt, starvation, and the multitude of issues that our planet faces. Like the plot of one of our favored fictional character’s stories, we find governmental corruption to be a frightening aspect of our reality. Maybe it will take a superhero to bring peace to our world. Or maybe we can use the stories of superheroes to inspire us to make the change that we want to see in our world. Perhaps they’re just like mirrors, and their presence alone will challenge us to reflect the idealism of their fictional stories into our world.