I was never a superhero fan. The likes of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman et al largely left me cold during my teenage years. When it came to comic books I was a 2000A.D. fan. The heroic exploits of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson were what captivated me during my formative years. Although the Sylvester Stallone movie version was a travesty that I have yet to fully recover from.
Even with the recent upsurge in DC and Marvel superhero movies I have been largely nonplussed. Give me Bilbo Baggins over Batman any day of the week. Why watch the Green Goblin when you can have real goblins. And orcs with the odd dragon thrown in for good measure.
The other week though we watched, as a family, the new Wonder Woman movie. I was less than enthusiastic as the opening credits rolled, thinking back to the dreadful American TV series of the same name featuring Lynda Carter. I sat back and braced myself for two hours of bad acting, dodgy plotlines and even dodgier costumes. In family parlance I was taking one for the team.
Two hours later I was left pleasantly surprised. I actually enjoyed it thanks to a strong story, fantastic special effects and an excellent performance from Gal Gadot in the lead role. And not a hobbit to be seen. Maybe, I thought, I was going to become a superhero fan after all.
Which leads me to Jessica Jones. Sick of hearing me moan about my neverending virus, Fionnuala ordered me to remain on the sofa today, get caught up on my box sets and rest. She didn’t have to tell me twice. No sooner had she left the house than I had my feet up with a glass of Diet Coke and the Netflix original series ‘Jessica Jones.’
Jessica Jones is probably the darkest superhero you could meet. It begins with her eking out a living as a private investigator and trying to recover from a traumatic past with the help of copious amounts of alcohol. She is grumpy, sarcastic and permanently hungover. She lives in her office and doesn’t pay her bills. In fact you couldn’t meet a less super superhero.
All that changes as we learn more of her backstory. We are told of her traumatic childhood years following the death of her parents and brother in a car crash for which she feels responsible. She was then adopted as a publicity stunt by the fame crazy mother of TV childhood star, Patsy Walker. And finally her latter years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the sociopathic Kilgrave (played brilliantly by David Tennent) who misuses his superpower of mind control for all sorts of evil purposes.
It is dark, edgy, violent and not for everyone. But I found it to be must watch TV. I only have one more episode to watch of Season One and was delighted to hear it has been renewed for a second season. The one theme that shone throughout the darkness of the episodes was the way in which Jones and Kilgrave use their respective superpowers.
Both suffered traumatic upbringings which largely shaped their approach to their superpowers in later life. Kilgrave decides to use his solely for evil; Jones largely neglects hers, preferring to live a life drifting towards mediocrity and alcoholism. Until events in her life convince her to use her powers for good. It is through this process that she learns to love others and loathe herself a little bit less.
None of us are superheroes. But we are all born with powers, or gifts, that we can choose to utilise good, ignore or misuse. And I’m not talking about leaping over tall buildings or flying at the speed of sound….or any speed for that matter. It doesn’t necessarily mean achieving top grades in your class or being a sporting success.
Your gift can be of much humbler origin, but just as impressive, if not more so. Maybe you are a good listener so can be there for a friend going through a rough time; or you are observant and notice an elderly neighbour has been struggling with their groceries in recent weeks. It is a matter of looking around your sphere of influence and seeing where you can make a positive difference. It is about doing and not just thinking about doing.
The greatest superpower of all is love. And we all have the capacity to love. Love is not a mushy feeling reserved for Valentines Day. It is an act of the will that we can turn into a daily habit. We can teach ourselves to love without thinking about it, even if it is through gritted teeth towards people who we don’t particularly like.
Love is free and doesn’t necessitate a fear of kryponite. It doesn’t involve wearing your underwear outside your clothes or being forced to scan radio channels in the dead of night and respond to crimes in progress. Don’t be a Kilgrave and misuse your gift. Don’t be a Jessica Jones and ignore it. Be a Wonder Woman (or man) and use the gift God blessed you with.
Who knows. They might even make a movie about you one day.
Who is your favourite superhero?
Do you prefer hobbits or heroes?
What gifts can you lovingly display today towards others?