As long as humans have been telling stories there have been superheroes from Hercules to Gilgamesh to Beowulf. While their popularity has waxed and waned with the times, or at least shifted forms from tales told around the fire and on cave walls to mass media from radio to cinema to comic book, humans have always been drawn to stories about superheroes. While some attribute this attraction to a weakness in humanity, I believe there are three reasons that superheroes are actually essential to our survival.
Superheroes provide an ideal for us. While at first glance many superheroes are perfect, once we delve into their stories we learn that they are not perfect, because, even when they are gods, they struggle with the same human frailties that plague the rest of us mere mortals. They are jealous and tempted and often unlikeable. Yet they continue to strive to be better and to do better. Superheroes represent our idealized selves and give us a model for a hero that we can apply to our everyday lives and those extraordinary occasions when something truly terrible occurs.
Superhero stories challenge and inspire us to live more moral and ethical lives, because we see how giving in to temptation can twist and destroy, how compassion for others can uplift us all, and some things are worth sacrificing to protect or achieve. Superheroes teach us the importance of taking responsibility for the gifts we have been given and that we are responsible for the world and the others inhabiting it. Superheroes teach us that we all have been given unique gifts and it is our responsibility to fulfill our purpose.
Perhaps the most powerful effect of superheroes is what they teach us about hope and potential. It is no accident of fate that we see the rise of superheroes in particular points in history. It is no accident that certain ages are more drawn to these stories and that sometimes the popular conception of these stories shifts over time. Superhero stories show us over and over that we must persist even through tragedy and that we can overcome great loss if we look beyond ourselves and our suffering. Superheroes teach us to believe in a higher power or at least serving the greater good. It is the humanity of our superheroes that teaches us about the potential of humanity to be heroic.
Superheroes provide an ideal we can strive to achieve, models for coping with adversity and loss, and hope for our own potential. Why do you think people are drawn to superheroes and their stories? Do you think superheroes serve important purposes in our lives?Tags: #Heroes, #Stories, #Storytelling