By JESSICA FRANCIS, sophomore
A few days ago, I asked my 5-year-old cousin what he wanted to be when he grew up. He responded with a smile, “Hawkeye!” No, not this publication, but the popular Avenger with superhuman archery abilities. We all know those friends of ours who “fanboy” or “fangirl” over Iron Man or rave over the epic cinematography of the Dark Knight series. The comic book worlds of these champions and their constant fight against all forces of evil have seen a recent revival, as new movies add modern perspective to these classic characters. These movies have sparked an interest for the genre, building vastly renowned franchises that appeal to practically all audiences. From Comic-Con to the toy industry, it is not hard to see that superheroes are once again a sensation.
We all know the stereotypic formula for a superhero movie: start with an endearing, lovable male lead — then throw in some superhuman abilities, a female love interest, an eccentric villain, humor, and action — and finally, connect them all under a clichéd thematic message. Time and time again this standard has proven to be simple, yet effective. It has managed to churn out countless unforgettable heroes from Superman to Spider-man. The generic path that these superhumans follow is rarely strayed from; it lies at the core of every one of these stories. So the question must be asked: why do we never stop falling in love with these formulaic plot lines?
Answers often include the usual theories, primarily the human need for an archetype. Most people attribute our love of superheroes to our natural instinct of looking up to an ideal, extraordinary leader and protector. Our need for someone who can look out for us results in an admiration of these exceptionally unique individuals who surpass human standards and save the world from imminent danger. Each of us wants a personal hero, a savior, or a knight in shining armor. Or, in this case, Tony Stark in shining armor. We find our heroes in these impossible, imaginary worlds of fiction because they stand apart from the everyday heroes we are accustomed to seeing.
Another reason behind our adoration of all things “superhero” is our own desire to become incredible. Whether acknowledged or not, we all have an undeniable aspiration for greatness. Of course, some of us don’t settle for President of the United States or a Nobel Prize winner, but rather aspire to be superhuman guardians of the entire human race. We want to not only be good at what we can do, but be great at what we can’t do, and hope to (more or less) fly, be incredibly strong, or stop armies of menacing evil-doers.
Lately, the evolution of this genre has made the title of “Super” more attainable for you and me. Not only do we want to look up to these heroes, but we also believe that we can be like them. For example, characters such as Superman or the X-men, who have mind-blowing abilities because of alien descent or accidental exposure to toxic waste, are fading out and being replaced by those such as Batman or Iron Man, who have strength because they worked and trained hard and are only “super” because they created the power for themselves. In other words, we are becoming disillusioned with heroes who simply happen to be blessed with the impossible and moving towards heroes who were just like us but became something special. That is not to say we do not still appreciate the former kind, but the latter simply holds more appeal to the masses. The possibility of becoming a hero is something that we all secretly hope for; that’s why we love to see that unfold before our eyes, at least on the big screen.
These so-called “generic” superheroes are clearly much more than simply the results of a clichéd, overused blueprint. These movies have spurred some of the most influential quotes that we all know, such as the legendary “With great power comes great responsibility,” from Spider, or the unforgettable “Why do we fall? To rise,” line resounding through the Dark Knight trilogy. The ideals we learn from these unlikely places undoubtedly go far deeper than what you expect from your average “superhero movie.” They are not just movies; they are sources of motivation and life lessons that speak to us all.
And yet, beyond all these psychological theories, there must be something more to the fact that six of the top twelve highest opening-weekend box office grosses in history are held by superhero movies. Clearly, we don’t find these movies “gross” at all. Perhaps the ultimate reason we are so enamored by superheroes is that they are entertaining. I personally love to watch these movies; the humor, wit, and action, coupled with dramatic cinematography, and great acting, produce a breathtaking one-and-a-half to two hours that leave me, as well as countless other fans wanting more. After all, who doesn’t enjoy watching a thrilling superhero movie?