We Could (All) Be Heroes

Learn to draw your own wings and fly

My part time job at my university involves me doing writing consultations. The other day, I was helping a student who was trying to come up with a topic for a personal essay- he could choose absolutely any topic. I told him that if I had to do that, the topic of my essay would be superheroes.

S u p e r h e r o is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a fictional hero who has extraordinary powers, and also, an exceptionally skillful or successful person.

My educational experience this summer has involved a lot of time for binge-watching shows on Netflix, and my latest binge has been Supergirl. A year back from today, I would have never thought that I would find myself watching Supergirl or the Flash, my other current favorite. I’m not big enough of a nerd to be dressing up as either of those characters next Halloween, but when you watch someone who has the ability to run really fast, to fly, or melt metal with laser vision, it’s impossible not to wonder what it would be like to have superhuman abilities. I’m sure anyone would love to know what it would be like to be a superhero for a day, and while it’s slightly annoying to know that we most likely won’t be seeing flying, super-strong individuals in real life anytime soon, what annoys me a little more is the way these shows portray the other characters- the ones without power. Why aren’t they the stars of this show? Is it really wrong to consider them superheroes too?

An obvious answer to this question is that people often watch shows about individuals with supernatural abilities to escape reality- not to live it again through a screen. But people also are attracted to shows about concepts they can relate to. And that includes things like working as IT, or as a journalist, or as a medical doctor- even as a garbage truck driver. All of these professions are places where people can make a difference, yet the whole time we are paying attention to the white male or female flying, running or riding a badass motorcycle around town in a weird suit.

Of course, every superhero’s story is more complex than fighting bad guys; they are individuals, with individual, weird, complicated lives. And though I know that these heroes are in fact just television characters, it boggles my mind how one person could possibly have time to go to college, found a significant other, run for a political position or work for a demanding corporation, get drinks with friends on the weekends and party away their 20s all while chasing down the bad guys during the day. I barely have time to sit down for coffee during the day during the rest of the year.

If I’m tearing apart one of your favorite shows and ruining it for you, I do apologize. But the part that I want to come back to here is that in the end, superheroes do bring hope- something that everyone needs to survive. Maybe you could even consider this a universal human right. We all need superheroes in our darkest days, but more importantly, we all need to find ways that we can be our own superheroes for ourselves and others.

Everyone is exceptionally skilled at something, and no matter what this is, I do believe that any and every skill could be put to good use. We all need the people around us, and if everyone is able to find their exceptional ability, we can all fit the definition of a superhero. While we wait around for the invention of a suit that can fly or a pill that can give you heat vision, we need to draw own wings and fly.

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