Author: Michael Darling
I was talking to a friend of mine about modern life when she mentioned that now is not the time for heroes. I was at once shocked and unsurprised by this claim. The world is in the midst of a food crisis, economic recession and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq get worse day by day. It’s easy to see how this ball of confusion could get someone down. We cannot, however, let ourselves believe in the “no more heroes” philosophy.
On a recent episode of The Daily Show, the author Sarah Vowell half-jokingly said that the present state of affairs has got her so down that she’s started listening to recordings of President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats. We’re living in a technocentric, unromantic and unheroic age. Even the superheroes are growing darker.
Another friend of mine is a big fan of Batman, but thinks of Superman as too perfect, too powerful and too good. Batman is a great character, but he and Superman represent different things. Batman is very much a creature of the dark, whereas Superman is a savior figure with powers beyond those of a normal human. The Batman is a symbol of fear designed to strike terror into the hearts of evil-doers. Superman is beloved by Metropolis and is an image of hope. When people see Superman, there’s a sense that everything’s going to be alright. Comic book artist Alex Ross created a t-shirt image of Barack Obama ripping open his shirt Superman style to reveal a Superman-like costume with a big O on the chest. This work fit in quite well with most of the pro-Obama imagery put out over the campaign. The Obama campaign recognized the tough times we were in and successfully spun their candidate as someone who had come to help.
Think about the words Obama used: Change and Hope. Whereas candidates will often use fear-mongering tactics, Obama used the exact opposite. Oftentimes candidates will say they will protect the nation. Obama’s hope mongering was similar, but instead of playing to fears of terrorism or other threats, his campaign painted him as a uniting figure who shall make things better and make you feel better with a little bit of hope. The Democrats were able to use the “hope” brand to win the White House.
It’s hope and heroes that we need right now. These have been dark days and rather than lie down and let the darkness take us, we must look for something good. This is not a time of “no more heroes,” this is a time to find and know more heroes. Despite all his over-perfection, a Superman is needed. The big blue Boy Scout was born out of the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism. In fact, an episode of the 1940s Superman radio program featured the Man of Steel taking on a version of the KKK. In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne looks to a day when Gotham City will not need Batman.
Superman will always be needed, as he is a symbol of all the good we can possibly achieve. And although it would be presumptuous to call Obama a hero, the image of Obama as a hero helped propel him to victory. We need our heroes, both real and fictional, so we can beat away the darkness and see the dawn.
Michael Darling is a junior history major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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