581: Superpowered

What superhero(s) do you want to be most like?


Full episode script

In Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society, author Danny Fingeroth says:

Whether they’re super-powered aliens, lone vigilantes, or teenage sidekicks, all superheroes share certain characteristics in common, “some sort of strength of character (though it may be buried), some system of positive values, and a determination to, no matter what, protect those values … the superhero-more than even the ordinary fictional hero-has to represent the values of the society that produces him”

 

There’s plenty of theories of why and how the idea of a superhero is so popular, but there’s also plenty of discussion about the fact that superheros aren’t really a new idea. While they weren’t referred to as such, myths and mythology are packed with individuals who are basically superheroes. There are plenty of larger-than-life characters, from gods and goddesses to sprites, spirits, and even fellow human beings completing feats of great physical or emotional strength.

 

There’s plenty of theories as to why superheroes are so important and why we often identify with them. One theory is that these characters reflect our worries and concerns, as was explained in publication The Blade:

“People who aren’t comic-book freaks can relate to having multiple identities” such as “Batman as Bruce Wayne, Superman as Clark Kent,” said Richard Reynolds, an English college professor whose published book Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology deals with the cultural importance of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man.

 

“We put on a special face to mask our identity. Superman migrates to the United States from Krypton, and also he’s the country boy from Kansas who goes to the big city and has to become someone else when he gets there. Cut through to what they’re saying about the nature of life in a modern metropolis and the multiple identities and the elements of I think comics have such longevity.”

 

Another theory, as publication Lateral outlines, is more that we learn from and idolize these characters for the fact they approach ethical dilemmas in productive ways. Quote:

There is a strong relationship between comic books and superheroes, and the field of psychology. The former have a long history of reflecting societal change: they are often progressive and this challenges both children’s and adults’ moral development, while the characters are so exaggerated that they give people the opportunity to compare and contrast individual traits. They are based on us, and we feed off their images, integrating their characteristics into our personalities, ethics and morals.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.