A Thought Concerning Superhero Movies
The list of superhero movies include Superman movies, Batman, Spiderman, the Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America, the Avengers as a group, and recently Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman, to be followed by Transformers, another Spider-Man, Thor, and others.
The question is, why?
Why are we revisiting the world of superheroes who stood for truth, justice, and the American way, when our society seems to be moving away from those values? Truth is relative, justice is questioned and even a bit slippery, and globalization seems to be far more important than the American anything.
And yet our movies harken back to the silver era of comics that trotted out one superhero after another who set to right what was wrong in society, effecting change one person at a time.
Why do we want to see movies about superheroes now?
Are the movie makers altering the superhero’s DNA to fit the liberal agendas of those behind the scenes, or does the superhero of today hold fast to his or her once-clear principles? I don’t have anything with which to compare them because I was not a comic book reader, apart from the occasional Superman or Spiderman story I read when I was visiting my cousins.
But I find it fascinating that we have come back to the superhero in an age when fathers aren’t considered super or heroic, when government officials are not respected, when police are considered untrustworthy by many, when lawyers are mocked and judges are politicized, when clergy are denigrated. In other words, where are the real-life heroes?
Are we turning to a fictitious superhero of the past because we long for heroes or because we want to mold them into a new image to fit with the facts of contemporary society?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve blogged about this before. My thoughts are pretty much the same.
Personally, I think we forget that “the good old days” were not as good as we make them out to be. In this case, I think lawyers have been mocked for ages, I know judges have been politicized (prior to the number of Supreme Court Justices being fixed at 9, Presidents would make sure they had a majority by appointing enough judges to get a majority, since they couldn’t get rid of the old ones).
In fact, I think Wonder Woman (the movie) makes a similar point: humans have always been corrupt (or at least since the Fall), we can’t assume it is some new thing.
I have seen some people argue that modern heroes reflect modern values, just as modern heroes influence what we value. And there is a certain truth to this. The super hero is something between an archetype, a genre, and a medium. This is true of many other parts of our fiction, such as the fairy, or the alien. Yes, there are certain things you have to give all of these besides just the name if you want people to believe that you are actually using them (if you don’t give a fairy magic, you need to at least give it sufficiently advanced technology), but other than that they can be used to tell any sort of story.
As for why we are using superheroes to tell these stories so much now? Well, besides advances in film technology making the replication of comic character’s powers easier, I suppose part of it is that we have long loved to retell stories, from the Odyssey to King Arthur to Paul Bunyen. I guess you could say that superheroes are the newest myths.
We’re looking for a saviour. Some of us say, “It’s that Jesus guy.” The rest can’t believe it’s someone who refused to use his superpowers. Never mind that he was suggesting that all it takes is a little more humanity than we are willing to be, mixed with a little more divinity than we are willing to receive.
The choices made in the past continue to add up to something we don’t like. We like it less and less, and then we die and someone else comes along to like our choices less and less. Superheros are our constant in the loop of longing and death.
There are real life superheros, it’s just easier to imagine them than be one.
Nicola, this is an amazing quote: “…all it takes is a little more humanity than we are willing to be, mixed with a little more divinity than we are willing to receive.” Yes!