Why Superheroes Matter

I love big stories.

If you what you’re selling has heroes, villains, moments of greatness, triumph or tragedy, then I’m there.  I’m in.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the Bible, pro-wrestling, comic books, Shakespeare, or video games.

The simplest answer as to why I love the big stories is, “I just like them.”  They’re fun and entertaining.  If I were to sit down and think about it, say at 8am on a Saturday morning, I’d say there’s more inside of my answer.

First, big stories are a philosophical tool to help me think about my own world.  When given the chance to do something good, even at a personal cost, should I do it?  What makes a person good or bad?  Is it that simple? Is violence acceptable? Is exclusion from society ever acceptable?  How far should we take human genetic engineering?  Are we all truly created equal?  As someone with background in law and politics, I think of all of these things are important to think about, especially in a democracy.  We have sway in what our culture decides is important and appropriate.

Second, big stories remind me that we all have the potential to become great or horrible and we just take the choices that we make seriously.  We may not be fighting destructive mutants or organic machines trying the destroy Earth, but as C.S. Lewis explains, we are fighting for our souls:

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.

Third, big stories encourage me to contribute whatever meager efforts I can to try and serve.  There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus feeds thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  He gets the meager amount of food, blesses it, and BAM! Food for everyone.  Not only is that thrifty, it’s also a miracle.  I think Jesus doing something miraculous is obviously a focal point of the story, but more interesting to me is that Jesus got the foosd that he started with (five loaves, two fish) from a kid.  In the story, a young boy is willing to give his meal to Jesus to help.  It may not have seemed like much, but now that kid is immortalized as helping Jesus perform a miracle.  What can he do with us?

So that’s why big stories matter to me.  That’s why I learn about redemption from a video game about cowboys, or the value of life from a game with space lasers, or humility from a comic about a blind guy who does flips in tights.

In the upcoming week, Nathan, David and I will be talking through an issue of interest to all of us – should superheroes kill?  We’ll get into that later.

For now, if you’re interested in critically thinking through video games, check out Reclaimer 105, the blog of our very own David.  He’s going through the morality of Mass Effect right now.  You might also look into a book called Superheroes and Philosophy.

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One thought on “Why Superheroes Matter

  1. Great thoughts. I love superhero movies too. Or really, superheroes in any setting. I hadn’t thought as much about why I like them, but your reasoning resonates with me. I think part of what I love is the good triumphing over evil aspect. Susie often tells Nash, “Sometimes good people do bad things and even a bad person can choose to do good.”

    Cheers,
    John

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