Why America Loves Superheroes

  • July 26, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

As kids, most of us can remember borrowing one of our mother’s towels, draping it over our shoulders and attaching it in the front with a clothespin.  The transformation was instantaneous.  With that addition of a makeshift cape we could instantly become a superhero—at least in our own childlike mind.  Why did we want to be one of these caped heroes?  Did donning that cape somehow empower us?

This past week the feature film Captain America came out in movie theatres across the nation.  Moviegoers everywhere can’t wait to see the latest adventures of this well-known, patriotic superhero. The popularity of movies that feature superheroes doesn’t seem to ever wane--in fact, these movies seem as popular as ever.  What is it about these characters that we love?  What do these heroes mean to us, even as adults today?  Before you head to the theatre to see Captain America or any of the other great films out there featuring these shining superstars, there’s a few things for you to consider.

Superheroes help us to escape reality:  Life can be and is difficult at times.   The recession has brought with it hard times and struggles for many.  Getting away from the realities and the harshness of life for a few hours to watch something uplifting can be very therapeutic.  In superhero movies, good almost always prevails over evil and that is a pleasant and rewarding thought process for most.  Superheroes live in a wonderful fantasy world that can be a great escape from the realities of the present moment.

Superheroes can offer hope to your own life:  No matter how strong and powerful the superhero is, his situation is often fraught with various dangers and perilous situations.  It’s never really easy to be a superhero and even though the hero usually comes out on top, they often come dangerously close to losing it all.  Fighting through difficult challenges and never giving up are uplifting messages for everyone.  Learning that perseverance through difficult challenges often pays off offers hope to keep trying when things get really tough.

Live Vicariously:  Superheroes do things that no human being could ever really do, at least not yet (unless of course you're wearing a superhero costume!)  It’s fun to imagine the possibilities, however, and to imagine what it might be like to scale up walls like Spiderman, or fly through the air like Superman.  The inspiration for the world’s greatest inventions started as a simple dream—where will you go with yours?

Believe you can make a difference:  Every single person can be a hero to someone, whether it is in a very small way, or by doing something that has a much a greater magnitude.  Simple gestures such as an encouraging word to a co-worker or reading a book to a child can create a lasting impact.  Never underestimate the sphere of your influence, as it’s probably much greater than you might think.  No one expects you to duck into a phone booth, make a quick clothing change and then fly up to the top floor to pull desperate people out of a burning building.  Your heroic acts are likely much smaller and although they may feel insignificant, may have lasting meaning to those on the receiving end.

A strong moral figure:  People like believing in something that is bigger, stronger, and better than they are to inspire them.  Seeing someone who is fighting for right and trying to fight against evil is inspiring.  This type of example gives each of us something to look up to as well as try to emulate.

Inspiration:  Superheroes offer each of us the opportunity to recognize heroic traits that are still lying dormant within us.  Some of the qualities we see in superheroes through their acts of strength and bravery can make us realize that some of these characteristics actually already lie within our own selves.  With a little inspiration, perhaps each of us will believe we can be much better people than we currently are. 

Making dreams into reality:  There’s a passionate dreamer in each of us.  Having the chance to think outside of the box and imagine the possibilities that exist in every facet of life is a good thing.  Superheroes offer us the chance to dream about something a little bit bigger than we really are.  Where that dreaming takes you of course, is entirely up to you.

The final word:  There is a quote from May Parker in the movie Spiderman that sums up what superheroes mean to us quite well. It goes like this:   “Everybody loves a hero.  People line up for them, cheer their names, and years later they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them to hold on just a second longer.  I believe there’s a hero in all of us.  It keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride.”

Everyone needs a hero.  Go out and be somebody’s hero today.