I did not grow up with comic books or graphic novels – any pop culture, really. Those frivolities are of little notice when you’re sure the world is going to end by the time you’re 13.
So, in the last 10 years, any time I’ve watched a film that is based on a written material, I’m a clean slate. Unbiased. I see what I see, I make no comparisons, life is simple. If anything, reading the story after watching it only expands my universe, letting me enjoy it more, page by page.
When it comes to the Marvel/DC universe, people have a lot of feelings. This is their childhood come to life; don’t mess it up. Me? I’m just like “Holy shit! THAT’S his origin story and now he’s doing THIS?! SO BADASS!”
Notice that my automatic pronoun is male. Because that’s mostly what I’ve got to go on. (Get it? That’s what I’ve got? Male? I’ve got mail? Sorry. #Homeschooled)
Don’t get me wrong, I love Iron Man, Batman, Captain America. But I get really intrigued and excited when there’s a woman in the story. Not just the secretary to the eccentric billionaire or the damsel that must be loved and protected at all costs. Women like Elektra, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, WONDER FREAKING WOMAN. (That’s all my current pop culture archive holds; I’m sure there are more.)
Women that are born of tragedy, but aren’t content to lay in the fetal position hoping that someone will save them. Warriors in their own right.
It’s not that I disqualify the men. They’ve got the power and the money and they use it to do good in the world; I applaud that. But I don’t find myself in that narrative. And isn’t that why we embrace pop culture so wholeheartedly – because it reveals to us who we are, who we can become?
When my husband first learned about me, where I came from, what I’ve been through – my origin story, if you will – he, without any guile, said, “Wow. You are a superhero. I’m in awe.”
My strength did not threaten him. My courage did not offend him. My power did not oppose him. On the contrary, it drew this Protestant, white, straight, middle-class man in his mid-thirties even closer.
As each year passes, the world seems to get darker. We may not have aliens or infinity stones or angry gods, but they are our living metaphor. And each year, more superhero movies get made, making piles of cash even if they’re just okay because we want to escape to a place where being rescued at the last minute feels possible.
Bombs are going off in Syria and the UK? Don’t worry, Iron Man is coming.
A corrupt government has overtaken your city? Display the Bat signal.
Someone’s got a trigger-happy finger over a nuclear button? Send in the Avengers.
Kardashians Aliens are invading? Ring up the Justice League.
We’re going to be okay, guys! Hope has been restored!
And then we exit the theatre. We turn on our phones. Real life returns as each headline flashes by. Nothing has changed.
It can be depressing. The last number of months, in the fog of new motherhood, trying to keep up on world events, caring for my little corner of creation, having to make choice after choice, has left me exhausted. I don’t want to look at my phone anymore; I would like to spend some time in the fetal position. I’ve been searching the horizon for anything that gives me hope.
And I’ve realized…I’m surrounded by superheroes.
This is my son, Harrison. He’s 8.5 months old and he has Noonan’s syndrome. This affects his heart and some of his physical (and potentially mental) development.
Yet here he is, yesterday, sitting unassisted for 5 minutes, for the first time. He’s awesome and he KNOWS IT. He is a superhero, and I want to raise him up to be a superhero to others, from any and all walks of life. We need him.
Indigenous people and people of color – you are superheroes. You keep getting back up no matter how many times you’ve been beaten down. We need you.
Immigrants from anywhere, for whatever reason – you are superheroes. You have uprooted your whole life, culture, language, family, in search of something greater. We need you.
The LGBTQ community – you are superheroes. You have fought for your place, you have taken in children in need, you have shown Love can defy all odds. We need you.
Parents, including single mums or dads – you are superheroes. You show up for your family every day even though it would be so much easier to run away. You are ensuring our future by shaping future superheroes. We need you.
People with physical, mental, chemical disabilities + the people who care for them – you are superheroes. You carry so much more than the rest of us, and you are stronger for it. We need you.
The entire gender of women – you are superheroes. Every day you are told to be smaller, smoother, quieter, nicer, prettier, smilier – and you just straight up refuse. You hear the calling on your life, and you answer it without permission or scale. We need you.
So keep loving, keep fighting, keep moving, keep resisting, keep caring, keep asking, keep GOING. This world needs help, and while we have been the problem, we are also the solution. Yes, let the stories of Marvel and DC inspire you to rise up, but stop looking to the skies.
The superheroes are already here, and it’s time to assemble.
All we need is hope, and for that, we have each other. – Andra Day, Rise Up