Saturday, June 21, 2014

Villainy and Valor: The Superhero Obsession

(This post was originally posted on on November 5, 2013.)
From Batman to Iron Man, Superman to Spiderman, our society has become obsessed with superheroes. It’s not just a kid thing anymore. Whether it’s because of the special effects or the romantic elements, people flock to the theaters for any movie that involves a caped (or suited) crusader risking his (or her) life to save those he loves. The good guy always learns responsibility and self-sacrifice, and, though all hope may seem lost, he always wins. So why is it that everyone loves these somewhat predictable  and unrealistic movies so much?
Perhaps people love these movies exactly because they are predictable and unrealistic. The way the good guy saves the day might not always be the same, but the fact that the day will be saved remains true. Even the bad guys are usually pretty similar – they all feel betrayed and persecuted in some way and sulk behind a cloak of lies while they plot for some kind of world dominion and power. These movies provide two and a half hours of escape from an unpredictable and depressing world. Real life can be disappointing for many people, and reading the news every day can be discouraging. Superhero movies give people the chance to feel optimistic about life. The day can be saved and the villain can be conquered; that promotion can be acquired and that bully can be put in his place. But then they go to work the next day and remember that superheroes aren’t real and that if they want the day saved, they have to do it themselves.
The obsession with superheroes has only increased over the years as more and more people want to have something, or someone, to put their hope in as they live in this selfish and sad world. Each new day seems to bring a new tragedy – school shootings, terrorism, shipwrecks, car accidents – or just the everyday heartache – insufferable bosses, unattainable goals, lost love, too many bills. No one swoops in to carry them away and solve all of their problems. Yet they don’t want to lose hope that that could happen. What they don’t realize is that they do have a hero they can put their hope in, and while he may not be the typical superhero in a flashy suit and  cape, he is very real and most definitely will save the day. Of course, I’m talking about Jesus Christ.
I know it may sound cheesy to you, but think about it. All of these superheroes are based on Christ. He fought the first villain and has already won – we just haven’t seen the fruits of it yet. Satan invented bad guys; he challenged the King’s authority and desired world dominion and power for himself – the first to ever do so. Every villain since then has only been an imitation of Satan. Aliens trying to destroy the human race? Satan wanted humans to die, too. Evil genius trying to sneak unnoticed into a position of the upmost power? Yeah, Satan tried that one, too. Powerful manipulator attempting to rule by force? Satan used his legion of fallen angels to try that one. Villains always fail because Satan failed. They can’t win. What makes a villain interesting in the story is the fact that he is human and thus has a chance for redemption, whereas Satan has already sealed his fate.
Likewise, the superheroes are modeled after Christ, though not as perfect. Jesus did not make mistakes, but the superheroes usually do. However, they learn from those mistakes, and, in that knowledge, they become more like Christ, learning to sacrifice and use their gifts for the good of mankind. Superman is perhaps the most obvious hero that is like Christ – not being raised by his real father but still speaking to him, being superior to the human race, always stepping in to save the humans. Thor, too, is seen as a god with superior abilities yet does whatever he can to save the human world. Even those without superpowers eventually take the weight of the world and put it on their own shoulders, promising to do whatever is necessary to save humanity. Sometimes these heroes are even able to come back from death, just like Jesus did, or seeming death (though none are ever dead for three days).
So why do we obsess over superheroes? Perhaps these stories are more realistic than they at first seem; they remind us of our need for a Savior – Jesus Christ. Every human being was created to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and have him be our Savior. When we don’t feel the effects of that, we turn to the next best thing – superheroes. They remind us that good will always defeat evil by doing what we forget Christ has already done. The victory has been won; the enemy has been conquered. Though we don’t know how the day will end or in what ways the villain will attack us, we know that good will prevail over evil in the long run. So when you go to see the new Thor movie or tune in to the new episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and you find yourself wishing you lived in a superhero story, remember that you already do. Christ is the ultimate hero, and he will swoop in and save the day – all you have to do is let him.

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