Indiana Daily Student

The good of superheroes

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This summer has seen quite a collection of superheroes — the Avengers garnered raging box office success. Batman broke opening weekend records worldwide. Spider-Man, lucky duck, got with my girl crush Emma Stone.
 
Next year we’ll welcome back the Man of Steel, DC’s revamp of the Superman franchise.

If someone doesn’t follow up with Wonder Woman, soon I might be writing a strongly worded letter.

DC’s got Ages of the Green Lantern and the all-encompassing Blackest Night saga up its sleeve, now that Marvel has exhausted its origins of the Avengers franchise and can move on to a full-blown Avengers party.

So why, after nearly 90 years of superheroes, do these characters still inspire us?
One could argue it scientifically. In the brain there is a concentration of nerves that make up the “god-spot”, the place that controls belief in a higher power.

Eighty percent of Americans believe not only in religion, but in angels, demons and miracles. Why?

It’s a survival skill.

Surprised you, didn’t I?

By striving to be like an authority or power stronger than oneself, the human being learned the survival skills necessary not only to stay alive until the next mammoth showed up, but to develop a highly sophisticated culture.

This means in the freezing cold of Stone Age wintertime, our early ancestors survived because they believed that eventually the sun god would show up again and instead of giving in to the fatal sleepiness brought on by cold, they should continue to survive so they could harvest crops for said sun god.

Then we can argue superheroes historically. Mankind has always created legends and tales of heroes, stories of people, either remarkably gifted or not, that overcome impossible odds to do something for the benefit of a community.

Superheroes are just another story to add to the massive collection of legends that human beings have created since we first formed an intelligent thought.

And we create these hero-tales for the same reason our Stone Age ancestors believed in the sun god, or the Greeks believed in Zeus.

We need to believe in some sort of higher authority that demonstrates the qualities and survival skills that allow us to create sophisticated culture and all that entails: food, art, theater, community, language, education and science. The list
goes on.

But on a less formal note, superheroes simply teach us how to be good people, no matter who we are or where we’ve come from.

We continue to pay millions of dollars to create and view these characters because we need hope, and we need to hope.

We need it in each other and in ourselves, the hope that it doesn’t take Superman to save someone, just a kind face in the darkness.

­— ewenning@indiana.edu

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