What is it behind our obsession with SUPERHEROES?
‘Spiderman- no way home’ is luring people to the theatres like how a bag full of candies would attract 5-year-olds (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, rest assured- no spoilers 😁). And India’s very own superhero- ‘Minnal Murali’ is also getting a lot of attention- I can already imagine the Minnal Murali masks and hoodies being sold off like hot buns in the SM street. Interestingly, this is not a new phenomenon- we as a species were always fascinated with these fictional characters with superhuman abilities like speed, strength, mind manipulation, psychokinesis, teleportation, invisibility, shape-shifting, x-ray vision, flight, weather modification, magnetism, clairvoyance, reality-warping, extrasensory perception, levitation, intuitive aptitude, eidetic memory, psionics, pyrokinesis, and so on (pardon the superhero fanatic in me for the unnecessarily long list 😅).
But what is truly behind our obsession with these demi-gods in colourful suits and capes? How do we explain grown men with respectable jobs go crazy for the humanoid alien who can defy the rules of physics and does it with his brief above his suit?
I believe it is all about what these fictional characters represent. They project on screen the version of ourselves we aspire to be- and it is not just the superhero part of it but mostly the morality and humane side of the story.
How a common man struggling to come to grips with the reality of his own life grows up to be this hero that saves the day is a story that we want to be in as the protagonist.
How a teenager who has lost everything that mattered to her transform herself into a badass crime-fighting machine is inspirational to both a five-year-old and a fifty-year-old.
How an evil incarnate with a dark past finds light in the act of helping others is a story so moving and soothing for us.
It is hope- that these movies and series sell- hope that despite leading an average and mediocre life, something special would happen to them soon; a genetically engineered spider would bite them, or they’ll realize that they are not even humans and came from another planet, or be selected by a secret society of superheroes to be one among them.
One might doubt this would only work on kids- but you’ll be amazed at the average age of a typical Marvel or DC fan. It is not rationality that dictates the box office success of these films- but rather the emotional attachment one feels towards these characters (empirical evidence that humans are not logical beings by nature, but emotional ones 😅). This is why Marvel films are apparently more successful than DC films (hope my fellow DC fans won’t crucify me for this comment 😬). Marvel comes up with these absurd concepts on the genesis of a superhero- even ridiculous at times, but almost always install relatable characters into the screen to wear the mask and armour. What DC does (or what it used to do) is that it portrays ‘almost- Gods’ who doesn’t lead a life familiar to the commonwealth. However, the Joker movie that came out in 2019 broke this pattern and was celebrated by the people despite being the origin story of a villain. People usually go for the heroes that they can envision themselves as; not the physique but the psyche. To prove my point, just ask people in social media how many of them adore ‘Vision’- the synthezoid.
With the experience being more immersive and the VFX more advanced now, we are fooled to believe even the illogical parts of these fast-flowing photos. We dress as our favourite superheroes in Halloween parties, talk about these masked vigilantes for hours on end, dream of ourselves wearing a super-suit and being summoned by the avengers or justice league, and deep inside we hope one day we’ll turn into these superheroes saving the world from imminent danger.
These superhero characters might not be real in our materialistic world, but the power they have over us is very real. They teach us the value of morality, pro-social behaviour, courage, sacrifice, persistence, discipline, and determination.
Let us just hope that the creators of these creative caricatures realize that, with more power comes more responsibility (this certainly is not a spoiler 😉).