Most people look upon my fascination or nerdy obsession with comic books and superheroes as a childish endeavor. They see these stories of super men and women battling fantastic creatures and global threats as weightless fiction that brings no sort of cultural forwardness to the table. Comic books, and by proxy, all entertainment that springs forward from these pages, are often maligned as being vehicles for the fantasies of middle-aged men. These men have yet to reconcile the much uglier and more mean-spirited “real” world they live in. It’s an unfair categorization, and I feel these men (and women) are more aware of the world we all share than perhaps we realize.
Over the last few days, I’ve been made aware of a breaking new story via Facebook that gives me the chills right down to my toes. It would seem several of these United States have passed a series of laws “legalizing” racial and sexual segregation based on business owner’s preference. That people can now choose to enforce a law that celebrates ignorance and prejudice proves that we’ve complete lost our moral compass as a country. There’s no turning back from this slippery slope. Once the dangerous precedent is set, it’s only a matter of time before more states follow suit. Suddenly a country founded on the principle of freedom becomes one mired the prosecution of free and the brave.
Setting aside the complicated and morally gray political situation we find ourselves in, there’s been a great deal of personal darkness for me as well. Some days are harder than others to cope with, but it hasn’t been easy overall. There’s a lot of huge emotional decisions bearing down on me, and I’m not always sure I have the strength to not completely breakdown. In short, the world at large and my own personal slice of it are in a time of great upheaval and discord. I try and find inspiration and a beacon of hope in any way that I can as of late.
Funny thing though…. You know where I draw the most inspiration from?
Those fake creations of childlike men who supposedly have no concept of the real world have saved me and my dying hope of a better tomorrow a thousand times over. These writers and artists don’t just craft tales of Captain America punching out an alien race for no other reason than to sell books. The people who craft these tales see the world for the awfulness that envelopes it and try to give us a glimmer of hope.
These stories we’ve grown up reading are more akin to parables. The X-Men, for example, is an allegory to the entire LGBT community. The struggle for acceptance in a world that doesn’t accept them even though they contribute just as much if not more than the status quo. Captain America, as I have already referenced, is a huge touchstone for me. He’s a man out of time, who despite the change in his surroundings, sticks to his ideals and doesn’t let the strangeness of this new world deter him in any way. I cling to a lot of outdated and old-fashioned notions, so seeing this man stand by his convictions unmoved by the deteriorating world around him is a huge inspiration. These aren’t just flights of fancy that are meant to get the rocks off of comic book shop-dwelling denizens. These are universal tales of acceptance and hope in a time where our country threatens to choke itself on its greed selfishness and excess.
Not just children are seeing these movies or reading these books anymore. The demographic for this kind of entertainment has opened up immensely and is showing no signs of slowing down. There are scenes in the new Avengers that go out of their way to show our heroes not just putting a hurt on the villains, but stopping amidst the chaos to help out the innocent civilians. It actually becomes somewhat of the focus of the 3rd Act. In what started out as standard good guy vs. bad guy fluff, the superhero genre has evolved into more evocative tales of these good like men and women’s impact on the world around them. They don’t just travel all over the world to stop Dr. Doom from unleashing his master plan; they help the citizens as well.
One of the best scenes in any comic book movie comes out of one of the worst comic book movies in recent years. There’s a scene in Amazing Spider Man2 where right after the webhead has stopped a few bullies from harassing a kid with a science project, he goes one step further. Instead of slinging away in triumph, Spider-Man helps the kid fix his project and then **gasp!!** walks him all the way home so he feels safe and comfortable. It’s an incredibly quiet and human moment silently tucked away in a film that is filled with bombast from beginning to end. This is what I’m talking about. The quality of that film is not withstanding, that particular moment perfectly summarizes why these films and comics are so successful. That even though these heroes are constantly facing threats of the global variety, they never stop to forget what it is they’re fighting for. They remember that humanity is good and that we deserve to have someone go to bat for us when we don’t have the ability to do it ourselves. They tirelessly put their lives on the line to ensure that we have a better and safer tomorrow to look forward to. I know that you’re going to say that these are fictions characters. However, isn’t it sad that we live in the world where are fictional heroes are better suited to protect us than the actual governing bodies and law enforcement agencies we put in place ourselves?