What’s So Super About Heroes?

Everybody needs a hero, right? Someone to look up to. They inspire us to aspire to become more than what we are. They move us to improve. And their very nature makes them super. Heroes cannot be anything but super. They perform at a level beyond our wildest dreams. They operate on a different plane from us mere mortals. They are faster than us, stronger than us and smarter than us. They are flawless and their reflected glory casts a little more light on our drab and dreary everyday existences. We follow their exploits on the silver screen and in glossy magazines. They are everything we dream of being but are not. They are perfection and that perfection exposes and magnifies every fault and failing we spend most of our lives trying to hide from the world.

I disagree with pretty much all of the above paragraph. I’m sorry if that has burst a few bubbles out there. Maybe you want to skip this post and we can hook up again next time. You see, I don’t really want my heroes to be super. To me, a perfect hero isn’t really a hero at all. If everything you do is effortless then it’s not really super. It kind of becomes mediocre. Bland, mundane, run of the mill. I saved the world again today. It was easy…..yawn. Where’s the blood, sweat and tears in that? Where are the demons they have slain to become who they are today? Where are the staggering odds they have somehow overcome along the way? Er….we kind of skipped that part because we’re perfect and cut straight to the super, heroic bits.

I don’t want perfect heroes. Anodyne and featureless, every scrap of personality scrubbed clean from them. Now before I continue I know there will be many Christians reading this so, before you start, let’s set Jesus to one side for the purposes of this blog. Yes I know he was without sin and, therefore, perfect. He was the ‘Godman’ however and I’m talking about human beings here. Ordinary men and woman who commit extraordinary acts. I’m also not talking about superheroes like Wonder Woman or Captain America. I am talking about real people. I’m not really a DC or Marvel hero anyway. Give me orcs and dragons any day of the week. Or possibly Jessica Jones at a stretch.

I’m not really talking about celebrities either. Yes there are role models out there who inspire and motivate us but we risk straying into dangerous territory here. When we start to worship our heroes it can become idolatry. Which is largely unhealthy and counter productive. They are human beings and human beings have a nasty habit of letting you down. Never meet your hero they say as they have a habit of disappointing you in the flesh. They are not what you created them to be in your imagination. They are a pale imitation. That’s because they are flesh and bone. They can never possibly live up to what we have created them to be in our fevered imaginations. They will always fall short.

They are a concept, an ideal, an unattainable image. Striving, and failing, to be more like them will only end in frustration and resentment. I’m not saying unfollow Taylor Swift on Twitter and take your football and baseball posters down but just be wary they don’t take over. Obsession is a companion I know all too well. Filling your head with such individuals are a distraction. Distracting you from the people around you who truly matter. You will never become them and aspiring to do so is a futile exercise. Focus on becoming a better you not a better them.

Having real life heroes can be problematic as well. It’s all very well and good but once more they will eventually let you down. The higher you build them up the further they will inevitably fall. They cannot live up to your lofty expectations of them. And when they don’t it often ends in recrimination and broken relationships. There is resentment on either side and irreparable collateral damage is caused to trust and respect. Seeds of anger are planted on such fertile ground. From these grow weeds and thorns that will choke and entangle us. We will grow to despise those we once loved. And they will despise us back just as hard. Friends become enemies and allies become foes. I’ve lost so many friends so I know this all too well. My days of setting others on pedestals are over.

So what is the point of this post? I’ve dismissed just about every hero in the book. From Batman to Tom Brady. And everyone in between. Comic book heroes, action movie heroes, everyday heroes. Firefighters, brain surgeons, megachurch pastors and your big brother or sister. They are not heroes. They are just people like you or I. Respect them, admire them and love them. But don’t set them on a plinth and get all gooey eyed over them. For they deserve better than that and so do you. Plinths and pedestals are barriers to true relationships and mutual growth. Let’s all get on a level playing field.

Death to heroes.

What are your thoughts of hero worship and heroes in society today? Do you regard it as healthy or a hindrance? Please comment below.

Everyday Superhero 

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?

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