Who's Your Favorite Superhero?

By Manal Almahanna

“Who’s your favorite superhero?” Is probably one of the most common questions asked these days given the amount of superhero movies and TV shows out there. And based on this question, you can tell a lot about a person and how they see themselves and the world around them. Reality can interfere with the way we see ourselves. However, the stories of superheroes allow us to study the human condition and be free from the political and societal biases of real life. It allows us to explore and understand ourselves in a relatable way. Dr. Langley explained, “Using a character from superhero fiction is very different from using an actual case study of a client who is unrelatable”. What he means by this is that we can use comics as a metaphor for our own lives. Comics give us the opportunity to project our own personalities and struggles onto superheroes. And therefore learn to grow and overcome our obstacles alongside our favorite hero. For example, we can look to the superhero’s origin story as a tool to cope with adversity. Markovitz suggested superheroes undergo three types of life-altering experiences that we can relate to. The first is trauma. An example of this is Batman, in which Bruce Wayne undertakes a life of fighting crime after seeing his parents murdered. In real life, many people experience stress-induced growth after a trauma and decide to dedicate themselves to helping others. The second life-altering force is destiny. Take Supergirl. She was sent to Earth to protect her cousin Superman. She is reluctant to accept her destiny at first; however, she ends up throwing herself into her job. Many of us can identify with Supergirl’s challenge of assuming a great responsibility that forces her to grow up sooner than she wants to. Lastly, there’s sheer chance. By chance a young Peter Parker was transformed into the friendly neighborhood Spider Man we all love and know today. Spider Man’s story is an example of how random events can cause many of us to reevaluate our lives and choose a different path. In all three cases stated above, superheroes must find a way to cope with adversity; they must deal with the moral, emotional, and even physical challenges presented to them in their new situations. It makes us feel encouraged to see someone we admire overcome his or her own challenges, because it gives us a better chance at overcoming ours. Superhero origin stories inspire us to find meaning in loss and trauma, discover our strengths and use them for good. In the end, it is safe to say that superheroes are our modern-day mythological figures. These larger-than-life characters give us a culture of stories that tie us together and provide us with a moral blueprint. “Like any good fiction, the sagas of superheroes bring us out of ourselves and connect us with something larger than ourselves, something more universal. Moreover, in our superheroes’ foibles, struggles, and triumphs, we can see elements of our own foibles and struggles, and hope for our triumphs” (Rosenberg, 2008). Superheroes reflect our reality. We integrate their characteristics into our personalities, ethics and morals. They are based on us. They are us.

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