Superheroes: a cultural phenomenon.
I bet when superheroes first hit the newsstands, people thought they were just a fad. But superheroes are here to stay. You know why? Because we love them!
The superhero fandom is massive, loud, dedicated, and willing to spend their dollars and go to great lengths to express their love of all things superhero. From vintage comics to replica costumes to conventions and countless websites dedicated to superhero love, it’s clear that superheroes are a worldwide phenomenon.
But what is it about superheroes that has won the hearts of legions of fans? Is it their alter-egos? Their flashy costumes? Their superpowers?
Why All the Love?
I recently found myself wondering why we love superheroes so much. At first, I thought it was pure wish fulfillment. I mean, who wouldn’t want the ability to fly, right? We love them because we want to be them.
But superheroes are often dark, haunted, or miserable. Just look at Wolverine. He never smiles! Batman’s always brooding. Hulk is always pissed off about something. I got to thinking that maybe we love them because we can relate to them. They have strengths and weaknesses, just like we do. The only difference is that their strengths and weaknesses are super magnified.
Then it occurred to me that there’s a hero inside each of us, a desire to make the world a better place. Superheroes are the ultimate symbols of heroism. We are drawn to them because we want to save someone–maybe the world, maybe just ourselves.
I do think these are a few of the reasons we love superheroes so much, but I also think there’s more to our adoration.
It’s All About Hope
Suddenly it dawned on me: we love superheroes not because we want to save someone but because we want to be saved.
It’s not a stretch to say the world is fast approaching a dystopian state of affairs. There’s a mass shooting almost every week. Wars wage on indefinitely. Little girls are shot in the face for wanting an education. Governments are spying on citizens en masse. People care more about who their favorite celebrity is dating than the fact that 200 to 2,000 species go extinct every year. Rape victims are blamed for getting assaulted. Approximately one in twelve teens engages in self-harm, cutting or burning their own flesh. Over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Global warming is devastating the planet. In the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, fifteen million children go to bed hungry every night. We pack prisons full of non-violent offenders and then set rapists and murderers free because of overcrowding.
We live in a world where shit like this happens. That’s the reality. So we read the headlines and wish the Avengers would drop out of the sky and save us from the madness.
Superheroes make us believe the big bad bullies of the world can be taken down. When the difficulties seem insurmountable and problems seem unsolvable, superheroes show us that anything’s possible, that truth, virtue, and justice can win in the end.
Each superhero story is a rallying cry for underdogs all around the world. They give us hope. That’s why we love them so damn much.
Superhero Love Jam
In the end, I think we each love superheroes for our own personal reasons. They appeal to us on many levels, and we all have our favorites. I’m partial to Catwoman, although I’m told she’s more of a villain than a superhero. What about you? If you could be any superhero, who would you choose and why?