When last did you truly believe in superheroes? When was the last time you enjoyed a superhero movie without wondering about technicalities and logic? Way back into our childhood. We would have donned our mothers’ saris or shawls as capes and tried to fly off the edges of the bed, battling imaginary supervillians and saving the world. That was at our age of blind faith in superheroes. Idols like Superman and Wonder woman to Captain America and Batman were our knights in shining armours with superhuman abilities. They made our lives care free and hopeful for they were there to bail us out of any situation. After all, how hard would it be for someone who averts global crises on a daily basis?? A child’s play, literally.Then, one fine day, we stopped.
Why did we ever stop believing in superheroes?
There are indefinite reasons. We grew up. Priorities changed and our world transformed. It shrunk. The bottom line is that we caught up with reality and in the long run lost hope. But now as we look upon our nephews and nieces, or our own children, we reminisce. Good old days. While we tried to imitate our favourite superheroes, children today actually play the roles of superheroes in their video games. For better or worse, they have miraculously jumped from comic books and television series to movies and games, alas with the help of rather normal human beings. Even Cartoon Network is not the same as it was 24 years ago. Neither are the superheroes. So are we.
As adults, we aren’t content with the awe they make us feel. Rather, we want to know how ‘super powers’ worked and demand that they conform to the realities of life. We found a simple truth which we had not known as a child – they are not real. They are just figments of someone’s overactive imagination and do things which we desire to, yet do not, do.
But, chance favours the prepared mind.
The creators of these stories were well equipped, for such an argument was expected and quite inevitable. They had indeed given reason and rhyme to the stories. That is one of the greatest strength of these superhero stories. Set in an essentially realistic world, their powers or abilities have a logical, though at times far-fetched, explanation. This ranges from genetic mutation and irradiation to great athletic capabilities and in some cases pure brilliance at what they do. What started off as mere ‘good vs. bad’ stories evolved to include comparatively darker and psychologically more complex characters. The superheroes started fighting off terrorists and psycho-maniacs, rather than villains with similar powers. Today, like it or not, they hold a certain sway over their audience, both young and old alike.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Through the decades, superheroes have handled this power wonderfully well. The impact they have on the moulding of the minds of their young audience is significantly greater. They have moments which cast and ingrain principles and attitude. Some are teaching moments which impart a life lesson in an aptly placed dialogue or a nuance. Interspersed among these are classic moments. They are the traditional heroic actions of saving the damsel in distress and so on. Last are the ideal moments, which are more subtle and aim to inspire the audience. The stories are incredibly crafted and have several layers to them. What seemed simple enough to the ‘child’ you would have a much greater meaning to the ‘adult’ you. As you come across each thinly veiled layer, you would get more insight into the characters and find they are more human than superhero.
We may have outgrown them. But we still get keyed up when we see them on screen or on print as they give us hope of a ‘happily ever after’. We are proof enough that superheroes are a never-ending story. Some argue saying superheroes are born in the minds of people desperate to be rescued. May or may not be true. But, the undeniable reality is that we all need them, at one point or the other.
We are never too old to be young.
It is never too late to sit down with the children for a regular dose of ‘superness’. Even if the superheroes fail to instigate you, the utter belief and hope reflected in the eyes of the hero-worshipping children will make you feel optimistic. As Stephen King said, “We make up horrors to help us deal with the real ones”. We made up superheroes to help us reinstate hope, for hope is a Ferris wheel and it would be a pretty good ride with superheroes on.