Superhero and American Myth

Just got out of Spiderman II movie with my husband.  Superhero movies are really not my thing.  Nothing bores me faster than things blowing up and people jumping around.  Modern movies have made an industry of getting action scenes to last far too long.

Spiderman II was a copy of every Spiderman movie I've seen before.  In fact, it is the same plot as almost every American superhero movie.

Hero - bullied, put-upon, not appreciated, very valuable skill no one knows about, and no one can ever know about.  Except the Pretty Girl.  She knows.  But don't worry, they'll get rid of her by the next movie.  Sometimes the Hero is very wealthy, like Batman and Thor.  In Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America and Superman, he is not. 

Captain America didn't have superpowers, per se.  He just was a perfect specimen of a man: bench pressing 1200 pounds, for instance.  His powers came from a serum to make him a great soldier.  Given that the comic Captain America started in 1942, it's not too hard to see the propaganda purpose there. 

The Avengers is a collection of superheroes, including Thor, which I always found really funny.  Seriously?  A German god?  Who teams up with Captain America, who exists only because we were at war with Germany?  A lot of my "everyman as hero" theme goes out the window with Thor.  But we Americans have always had a thing for royalty, and as Thor is the son of Odin, we include him in our myths.  Love the hammer thing, though.

The Incredible Hulk is the ultimate "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" hero.  I think at some point they put him on antidepressants.  Although he could make a pretty penny doing bachelorette parties with his getting big, turning green and ripping-off-his-clothes thing.

Villain - corporate America, evil scientists, human experimenters.  Something to note, however.  The villain and the hero have almost identical formative experiences, to include the "accident" that led them to have special powers to begin with.  "Captain America Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo is a member of both "The Avengers" and Occupy Wall Street, and as he told the Wall Street Journal, he sees major parallels between his upcoming Marvel film and the economic protests that have swept the world."  See Huffington Post.

So is "hero" is a choice.  You could just as easily be a villain.  You have the tragic experience.  You have the "accident" that gives you special powers.  Evil is simply a choice.  You could have easily chosen to do something constructive and heroic.  Anger and vengeance outweigh other feelings, and evil is chosen.  That makes it a character issue.  Anybody can be a hero, then.  You have only to decide.

Pretty Girl - the obligatory Pretty Girl is also smart and talented.  She is scientific, but more importantly, she is an emotional anchor for the Hero, who often has to choose between his fight against evil and her.  She is strong and brave, and never lasts more than one movie.  I guess women come and go, but the fight for truth, justice and the American way continues.  Comic books are a little kinder to Pretty Girls, and don't write them out of the story line as often.

The American myth, in the form of Superheroes, is glorification of the American everyman.  Not everyperson.  Everyman.  The exploited, overworked, lonely, and critically important guy.  He is angry, justifiably so.  Others take his glory, often while wearing expensive suits.  His is a grinding life of little pleasure, except to serve others. There is very little separating him from Villain status. 

But what does this all mean?  What does it say about the United States now, in light of the popularity of these movies? 

Spiderman II spoke of hope.  Spiderman himself said his role was to give people hope.

That may be it.  Our country needs hope and the only way to get it is to imagine the existence of people with super powers, to hold our own against evil men in well-tailored suits.

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