Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heartbroken Homeless Heroes

Ladies and Gentlemen, the movie Hancock made me realize something. Our superhero population is destined to suffer in our society. Granted, the plot of the movie did nothing to bring me to this realization. I'm not talking about murdered loved ones or the inevitable betrayal by the best friend who secretly turns out to be your arch-nemesis kind of suffering. I'm talking about being socially dysfunctional. I'm talking about a string of break-ups and pink slips. A superhero must keep his identity secret for the safety of his loved ones. After all, if every villain in the phone book knows who a hero is and where they live, it's only a matter of time before the significant other is thrown over one side of the bridge and a bus full of orphans over the other. The superhero will ultimately save the orphans, because deep down, all superheroes are utilitarians. They all believe that the action that produces the most good must be the best action. I suspect utilitarianism is, in fact, a prerequisite to gaining superpowers. But are we as citizens of the world the protect mandated to be utilitarian as well> After all, superheroes are forced to suffer in their own personal lives for our own well-being. Think about that. Every time you let Superman or the Green Lantern save you, you are essentially saying, "My happiness is more important than yours."

Alright, I've dwelled on this point for a while. I should explain. Superheroes must drop what they are doing and act at a moment's notice to save the world in times of crisis. How many dates, anniversaries, and school plays do you think these guys miss> And it isn't like they can say, "I'm off to save the world." They have secret identities. They have to say instead, "Honey, I'm sorry to rush off and miss the entire first act of our child's first play, but the boss really needs me to get that paperwork filed. You know, the paperwork I said I finished at the office today>" They get labeled by their loved ones as dead beats, workaholics, or even adulterers. Superheroism is a divorce mill. And while we're at it, how is a hero supposed to maintain a steady job if he's secretly skipping out of work for an hour or two at a time to go save the world or stop a robbery> Do you think any employer will allow that sort of absenteeism to go unpunished> I don't. What about the sheer number of "family emergencies" they have to attend to> What boss will believe your same child gets sick five times a week. But our heroes can't exactly give an honest explanation. Once again, they're bound by the secret identity, and they let the break-ups and the firings continue because, once more, their utilitarian needs are superseded by the needs of the many. Further, their alter egos gain reputations. He's an unreliable boyfriend. He's an irresponsible flake. He can't hold a down a job, so don't even bother hiring him. "Have you seen the resume of this guy> Twenty jobs in a year. We don't want to take that kind of risk."

The result is a batch of resentful, heartbroken heroes unable to afford a place to live, let alone eat. They suffer. Constantly. They become bitter alcoholics. Then, they realize that they're loaded with powers enough to gain everything they need and want, if they can just get past those ethics. Thus, another supervillain is born. Secret identities create villains. Or at least, secret identities left unchecked can create villains. 

We need to socialize superheroes. We already socialize our police force, and superheroes are like police, only with earth shaking powers and fewer restrictions (go illegal vigilanteism!). Sure, giving them a by-the-book, cigar smoking chief who will strip them of their badge right as they're about to solve the case will limit them with the handcuffs of red-tape bureaucracy, but it also provides them with reliable lifestyle. There's no worry about being fired for disappearing constantly for "family emergencies." (Unless of course, they're still faking family emergencies, in which case they were going to end up as super villains eventually anyway.) With reliable food and lodging (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), the hero is much less likely to go rogue. Sure, they may still have many short-term relationships, but at least they'll have their own bed to sleep in when they get kicked out for missing another date. Voila. Our heroes don't have to suffer as much and we still get our day saved. Call your congressman (202-224-3121) and demand state sanctioned heroes to prevent villainy from becoming a growth industry.

You have been informed.

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