by T. Mack
It’s 2016 and we find ourselves in the Golden Age of Superhero Movies. Since Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in May of 2008, superhero movies have taken over the Summer box office and branched out to cover the end-of-year holiday season as well as many other months along the rest of the calendar. I’m personally enjoying myself immensely! But not everyone is so besotted with the costumed vigilantes, mutants, aliens, and super-humans who grace so many of our screens.
While dealing with my overwhelming enthusiasm for Captain America: Civil War, which premieres today in the U.S., it occurred to me that I might be able to help give a little understanding to those who simply cannot understand the superhero obsession. Here are 12 reasons superhero fans absolutely love superheroes.
1. They Represent The Good We Want To See In Ourselves
We all wish we were better at something. We wish we were smarter, or stronger, or faster, or more determined. We wish we didn’t procrastinate, or curse, or put people down, or think mean things about others. Superheroes offer us an idealistic view of ourselves. They show us what we wish we could be and offer something for us to strive towards.
2. They Remind Us That No One Is Perfect
Even the strongest, fastest, and best superheroes aren’t perfect. They make the wrong decisions sometimes. They hurt the people they care about and fail to save those they’ve sworn to protect. They make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. They are forced to say they’re sorry on occasion, just like us. Because just like us, they aren’t perfect. And if we can forgive them for their imperfection, maybe we can also forgive ourselves and everyone else.
3. They Offer Escape And Distraction From Real Life
Real life often gets boring, depressing, sad, stressful, and a plethora of other adjectives that are less than good. Superheroes and their stories offer an escape from all that. They give us the chance to stop thinking about real lives. Instead we get to follow the adventures of our favorite supers as they fight, stumble, fall, get back up, and defeat bad guys to save the day. We are able to be drawn into their lives so that for a short while, we don’t have to think about our own.
4. They Bring Excitement And Adventure Into Our Lives
As we leave our own lives behind to jump into the world of superheroes, we are taken away from the mundane and leap into adventure and excitement. Normal days don’t happen to superheroes. Instead, they run, jump, fly, and fight. There are epic battles, grand adventures, alternate worlds, and so much more to fuel our imagination. When we finish reading a comic book or watching a TV show or movie, we get to take that sense of adventure with us, even as we continue our mundane, everyday tasks, like washing dishes, folding laundry, and answering email.
5. They Give Us Someone To Root For
Superheroes are the good guys. They risk their lives to battle bad guys and save people like us. And they do it for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. We see in them what we want to see in ourselves. They are idealized, so we are able to get behind them fully and root for them with all our hearts. Because they’re heroes.
6. They Give Us Someone To Root Against
The villains that superheroes battle are awful, crazy, sadistic, and selfish. They represent the worst parts of our own humanity. Even when they become villains for what could be argued as a valid reason, they still show us the worst ways to respond to circumstances. The way we see the best of ourselves in heroes, we see the worst of ourselves in villains. And because of this, we are intrigued to know what they will do, but relieved when the heroes stop their dastardly plans. We root for villains to be defeated because we long to overcome the parts of ourselves that we see in them.
7. They Remind Us That We Can Overcome Tragedy
Superheroes are inevitably born out of tragedy. Bad things happen to them, around them, and in front of them. And when they realize they have the power to stop such things from happening again, they make a choice to do so. In that moment, they become heroes. The tragedy they suffer and see is what keeps them fighting battles, reminds them why they fight, and never lets them give up. In real life, bad things happen as well. And while our suffering does not often result in superpowers, we are reminded that just like our heroes, we can overcome tragedy. We can come out the other side stronger and more determined to make certain that our tragedy did not happen in vain. Because of it, we will be better and make things better for others in whatever way we can. We may not be heroes. But we will act like them when tragedy strikes. We will also overcome.
8. There Is Always Someone Like Us
Somewhere–whether it be in the pages of a comic book or graphic novel, on a television or computer screen, or in a movie theater–somewhere, there is a superhero that thinks like we do. They are either fun-loving and sarcastic, just like us. Or they are brooding and grumpy, the way we tend to be. Whatever our personality, there is a superhero somewhere who is kind of the same. And as heroes diversify, we are able to see ourselves in the way they look, as well. It means a lot that our heroes are like us, whether in personality, looks, or both. It means that some part of us is like them, too. And if that’s true, we can believe that some part of us might have a hero inside.
9. There Is Always Someone Like We Wish We Could Be
Superheroes come a thousand different types. There are those like us and those who are nothing like us. Sometimes, it’s in the ones who are completely different from us that we can find the most inspiration. After all, if I have a hard time with confrontation, Wolverine might just be the guy to show me how to stand up for myself. If I’m kind of stoic like Batman, I can look at The Flash and see what it’s like to be a bit more carefree. Superheroes have a great way of showing us what we wish we could be. And who knows, if we pay close attention and follow their lead, maybe, just maybe, we can become a little less like ourselves and a little more like them. After all, we may not have a skeleton and claws covered in adamantium, but we can still learn to stand up for ourselves by saying a gruff, “No way, Bub!”
10. They Make Us Think
We’ve already determined that superheroes are not perfect. But there are sometimes when the right choice is not black and white. There are times when they have to make choices that can have even us divided within ourselves as to what we’d do in the same situation. Superheroes and their adventures often have us questioning our morality, our loyalty, and our limits. What is the line we would or wouldn’t cross for the “greater good?” The self-inspections that superheroes make us perform can often help us understand not only ourselves, but others as well. They can help us stop to think about things from different perspectives than our own and make us sympathetic and empathetic to what others might go through. In making us question their actions, superheroes make us question ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, and our reactions. What a better place might our world be if more people took a lesson from superheroes and considered both sides of things.
11. They Entertain Us In Epic Ways
Superheroes have exciting lives. That excitement includes love, danger, adventures, battles, team-ups, break-downs, death, destruction, and more. It’s all incredibly entertaining. And being entertained is fun. It brings joy to our lives, relieves stress, and makes us happier. Superheroes in any medium entertain us and by doing so, make our lives better.
12. The Fandom Is AMAZING!
Fans of superheroes, superhero comic books, superhero television shows, and superhero movies are a fun-loving breed. We enjoy our heroes for all the reasons listed above and a million more. We make places online and in person to gather and share our love for all things heroic. We love to talk about, write about, and read about superheroes. We love to represent and even dress as superheroes. We are superhero fans and we are AMAZING! If you’re one of us, we’re glad to have you. If you’re not, we’d love to have you join us. The world of superhero fandom is and can be whatever you want. If you have the imagination to make it happen, we’ll embrace it and you.
It’s perfectly okay to not love superheroes. It’s even okay not to understand why they appeal so much to so many people. But even if you’re not into supers, I hope this has helped you understand a bit about what makes those of us who do love them do so.
Do you love superheroes? Do you prefer American superheroes from classic comics, those from anime and manga, the ones who originated on television and in movies, or heroes from other genres? Who are your favorites? And what reasons did I leave out? If you don’t love superheroes, did this article help you understand our obsession just a bit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.