Why do we still love superheroes?

Image: hajagosb

Image: hajagosb

Guess what? Another superhero movie is coming out.

I won’t say which one, because this statement is timeless. There is ALWAYS another superhero movie coming out.

I’m a little bit of a cynic, I’ll admit to that. I believe Marvel have marketed the Avengers franchise extremely well, and that is why I’ll cough up thirteen bucks to watch men in tight clothing beat the crap out of each other for 120 minutes.

But I’ll put that aside, because surely we should have moved on from leotard heroes by now? Surely we don’t watch these movies for their plotlines (and seriously, why must the final battles ALWAYS take place in densely populated cities?). Sure, there’s the action, and the suspense, but if we wanted an empty man-flick we’d watch Die Hard.

When we were kids, superheroes were who we wanted to be. We ran around in capes made of sheets or beach towels (or maybe your parents bought you real costumes, whatever) and beat up the baddies with our superpower of choice.

Photo: B. K. Dewey

Image: B. K. Dewey

Then we grew up. We stopped flying around the front yard, got jobs, and pretended to be responsible adults. We started seeing the plot holes in Man of Steel.

But despite all this, we still love Batman, because he’s Batman.

We might forget how awesomely cool it is to run around in an old bed sheet with our undies on the outside, but we can’t forget the characters. Superhero movies are all about character. Superman. Spiderman. Thor. Captain America. Iron Man. We’ve grown up with these names, and Gen-Y is as attached to them as we are to Harry Potter. Even though Clark Kent is really just a wimp with good genetics, Peter Parker is a wimpier wimp with an inferiority complex, and Tony Stark isn’t a real superhero because his name isn’t alliterative. It’s a complex relationship born of sentimentality and escapism (because face it, we’d all love superpowers. I still live in hope of being bitten by a radioactive pterodactyl).

You might also ask why the hell we like Iron Man so much. My generation seems to have a special obsession for Robert Downey Jr in the Tony Stark character. All the girls want him, all the guys want to be his drinking buddy. He is the perfect blend of fallibility and baddassery. He is both an imprint of who we are, and who we want to be. Because when it comes down to it, we want to be like them, but we also kind of want them to be like us.

But seriously, kudos on the marketing.

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3 responses to “Why do we still love superheroes?

  1. Way cool… I always wanted to be the super hero who could fly…..But I have one question…. What about Super Girl? Wonder Woman? Why were the Super women not as cool as the super men???? Why??? 🙂

    • Eugh. What about them, indeed. Marvel is pretty dodgy on the female superhero front. Honestly, the only ones I can think of (that have been adapted into movies for the wider current audience) are Elektra and Black Widow, and neither of them actually have superpowers. They were both assassins originally—classic femme fatale. “Ooh, I’m a bad, bad girl.” Classic geek fodder. Same goes for Catwoman (depending on the incarnation) and Poison Ivy (who pretty much epitomises the femme fatale stereotype).

      DC is looking more promising. Wonder Woman is a pretty strong character, and with the JLA franchise in the works, she should (should) get some good screen time. Here’s to hoping.

      But really, all these movies came from comic books, so what can you expect? Comic books are traditionally for geeks and nerds. Geeks and nerds have a harder time getting girls, so they get their Vitamin femme from busty, scantily clad illustrations. Characterisation didn’t really need to go much deeper than that.

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