As a geek extraordinaire who spent many Friday nights reading comics and reminiscing with BBC characters, I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: superheroes. Specifically, I am talking about the classic, comic book inspired cape and spandex wearing superheroes. Growing up (and still now), I latched onto superhero stories. Even with their limited and often problematic representations of women and people of color (and nearly total lack of LGBT+ characters), I still couldn’t help but love the Marvel and DC Universes (I won’t make this divisive by naming favorites). They gave me a sense of belonging, hope, and protection that I so desperately wanted from the world around me. They taught me how to be brave and take risks, even if it was only in my head, and they taught me the value of all life.
That being said, I cannot help but think now that I might have been missing something in superhero depictions. Superheroes always tow this line between human and god-flawed and emotional like people, but somehow also better than us. However, it becomes only inevitable that their self-righteous independence clashes with the world around them, and the lines between good and evil blur. Heroes start fighting among themselves, and the audience realizes that there are many ways to solve certain issues, some less effective than others.
But what if all superheroes have it wrong? There has to be a reason that there has been nearly 100 years of Batman, but Gotham seems to have just as much crime as ever. Superheroes are warriors, soldiers, fighters to the core (no matter how much they want peace). There is never an issue of Batman where Bruce Wane sits down and really thinks about why there is so much theft and gang violence in Gotham. What does that say about the accessibility and standard of the education system? What is with the ridiculous wealth gap that must exist? Why do comics pretend to live in a post-racial, post-feminist society?
Addressing just a symptom of the problem can never fully eradicate it. I’m not naïve enough to think there can be no violence at all, but there are definitely ways to drastically reduce the rates of certain types of oppression and violence. A symbol or martyr can go a long way for a movement in terms of motivation, but that’s it. We need the nitty-gritty, day-to-day struggling that isn’t glamorous at all to really improve a society. Superheroes can keep protecting us from the supernatural and disturbed, all the while showing us why we deserve to be saved, but we have to take the next step and save ourselves. And maybe we will be the heroes that don’t get dramatic stories, but we just might get everlasting peace.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.