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* updated for National Superhero Day 4.28.16
Even a casual perusal of the posts on this blog or a quick look around my house or a rapid glance in my office at work would suggest even to the most unobservant person that I have a thing for superheroes. Not just superheroes, actually, but fictional heroes of many stripes. Comic book characters, Star Trek crews, Indiana Jones and James Bond types – all kinds of heroes.
I can be introspective when I choose to be (which isn’t all that often) but I have often wondered , especially after thinking about the juxtaposition of the often inexplicably terrible events in our world both natural and those caused by humankind, if there isn’t a reason, down deep, why I surround myself with iconography of superheroes and fill my imagination with stories of super-heroism.
Is it possible that we all need examples to show us the way to heroism? Is there is a reason we turn to fiction? Superman, the progenitor of all superheroes who pre-dates Bond and Dr. Jones and Star Wars and just about every action hero anyone can name, has been published – continuously – for over 75 years. He’s starred in serials and movies and television shows and radio programs. Someone must love him. A lot of us must love him and love to watch him fight the never ending battle.
He stands for truth and justice and fighting the good fight and defending those who are defenseless and we, dare I say it, learn from his example.
I think this desire – the desire to look up to Superman – explains much of the reaction to the version of him presented in the new Batman v Superman film. In that incarnation, he’s somehow too real, too impacted by the events that shape our world. He’s too down-to-earth. He’s not as heroic as we want him to be.
In their purist forms, our heroes are just that: heroes. Iron Man or Spider-Man, Wonder Woman or Captains Marvel, Kirk or America, we want truth from them. We want justice. We want examples.
In fiction, when we immerse ourselves in superheroic stories, real-world stakes are non-existent. And that’s not a bad way to learn – in a contrived environment where the deaths aren’t real, where the tragedy affects figments, where the impacts don’t impact.
There are examples all around us of those who do heroic things: examples of people running towards the blasts, of digging through rubble, of doing one’s job no matter the danger. These are people who have jobs. They have families. They have responsibilities.
They have heroism.
Even faced with darkness, I believe – strongly – that we all aspire to do good, to be better, to be heroes. We aspire to be more than we are and more than we ever thought we could be.
I need Superman. And Wonder Woman. And Captain Kirk. And the Avengers. And James Bond. I need them just as much as I need the examples of the real heroes who change the world.
By saving it.
I don’t know what I would do if faced with dire consequence. I don’t know if I would be able to act with the heroism we’ve all seen this week. I don’t live in a world where Superman saves or Avengers avenge. But I do live in a world where I can…
… look up in the sky.
We all should do that. More often. Especially now.