Before university, my love for all things of interest to this blog was somewhat unfocused and random. Whilst I studied (or procrastinated rather), I developed a knowledge and understanding of the elements and aspects of these things that I enjoyed. One of the biggest was the growth of the superhero genre. In fact, I took so much of an interest that it was the topic of my dissertation.
What I discovered was quite interesting, hence my obsession with superheroes. It has helped inform my Top 10 Superhero Films and my Top 10 Superheroes that I want to See in Films. So, if you have an interest in a bit of history, a bit of philosophy, and a spattering of feminism, psychology, and sociology, then carry on reading.
Superhero films have been around for many, many years now. The comic book characters themselves exploding onto the scene during WWII as beacons of hope, inspiration and at times, propaganda. This was originally in comic books, obviously, however they eventually took to film, as well. For the sake of this article, I will look, mainly, at their impact in films. There is a whole other discussion to be had about the prominence of superheroes in comic books but we would be here for days comparing the two mediums.
In recent years, the trend has been spurred on by the war on terrorism. This constant, foreign, and elusive threat has regrettably, albeit successfully, scared the world into a sense of overly cautious alertness. The nature of this threat, however, is not one that you can easily define or ‘rage at’ as an ordinary citizen – even the Governments of the world and all their military power struggle to contain the misguided extremism that inhabits our world in the modern day. Therefore, one of the beauties of a superhero concept is that they can counter any threat, anywhere, with a brave face and emerge victorious.
You could say that this escapism gives hope and safety to the young generation in this global conflict. At their heart, humans want safety and will actively invest in it which means that, subconsciously, we have given birth to the superhero filmic-genre through our want and need to feel protected by these icons, or at least pretend that they’re at work.
The real superheroes are the brave men and women that take the fight to these people in the real world and so the secondary factor that makes these characters so appealing is their moral compass. For the most part, they are the epitome of ‘Right’ and will risk everything to conquer the ‘Wrong’ in the world. You could argue the everyday man and woman does the same but they have jobs, lives, politics and all the rest of everything to worry about. Our heroes transcend the parameters of our authorities and limitations which brings us onto the tertiary aspect of these people - they’re, usually, equipped with something ‘more than human’ that has taken many forms over the years (an iron suit, superpowers, experimentation, you name it). Combined with a drive to do good, this provides a way for people to conquer their own demons. We may not be able to quell the alien army invading our city, but a super being can.