Letter: Superheroes deserve the attention



In the opening weekend of “Avengers Endgame,” almost every box office record in film history was broken, with the film making more than $350 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide. Ten years of storytelling have created the most successful film franchise ever, and all that work reaches a climax in “Endgame,” where already the film’s success has surpassed all predictions.

Superheroes are everywhere these days. Superman and Batman have been household names for decades, but in the past 10 years, thanks largely to the Marvel movies, characters once only known by the most devoted of comic book junkies now have their own action figures. Some people have grown up with their image of a particular hero being the character from the movies.

The 2017 film “Logan” featured Hugh Jackman acting the part of the titular character, also known as Wolverine, for the final time. The film’s R rating stood out from other superhero movies at the time. The style had matured since Jackman’s first outing as the character 17 years earlier, the dialogue more realistic with a vocabulary beyond what a PG-13 rating would ever allow, and the violence of battle, both superhuman and otherwise, shown with brutal realism.

Why do superheroes even have such a powerful hold over our imagination? Two researchers in the European Journal of American Culture described superheroes as a part of America’s “national myth.” In their 2016 study, the researchers examined a Marvel comic mini-series called “Fear Itself.” The allusion in the title to Franklin Roosevelt’s famous speech was itself a part of the national myth. That period in history was found to be particularly important to the message of the comic. Captain America, in his red, white and blue suit proudly charged into battle with the same courage real veterans of World War II are remembered with. Multi-culturalism was played as a strength of America, and traditional values such as family and community won over fear.

Campy? Certainly so, in a fashion only superheroes can provide. The reason that camp was appealing to readers is the important factor in understanding the true role and appeal for the superhero. In the 2000s when the mini-series was published, society was in the midst of significant social unrest, 9/11 had left Americans afraid of terrorists, at war on the other side of the world, and in 2008 the real estate bubble popped and set off a years-long recession. Society had a long list of reasons to be fearful and worried, and for most of the 2000s the comics industry reflected that unrest. So in 2011, “Fear Iteslf” called upon America’s national myth, the ideals of society and used superheroes to promote them.

That portrayal of society’s ideals is the true importance of the superhero, and the reason they deserve all the attention Hollywood has given them. Like Greek heroes of old, superheroes are symbolic embodiments of America’s values. They represent the struggles we face and ultimately make the choices we hope we would make, becoming a representation for the kind of person we want to be.

Gideon Jones, Carmel

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