You can’t go to the theater these days without stumbling upon a superhero. Captain America, Thor, the Green Lantern, and numerous other heroes have adorned the screen within the last year, and many of these will make a return appearance in the upcoming Avengers.
Most of these films made it onto the top-grossing lists this year (further evidence of the interest of our culture in all things speculative), and they’ve lent a surge in popularity to the superhero genre. So what intrigues people about stories featuring superheroes?
- They appeal to a desire to be a unique individual capable of offering something significant to the world. For the time that you experience the story, you get to cheer on someone gifted with special abilities–whether inherent, genetically added, given by a special device, or acquired by some other means–and watch them change their world. In reality, as believers, we are ordinary individuals infused with the extraordinary…and superhero tales offer a glimpse into what that might mean on an epic scale.
- They provide a happy ending, at least in the sense that the good guys always win. Sometimes this comes at great cost (losing the one you love, giving your own life), but in the end, evil is defeated and good wins out. That’s innately satisfying to most people.
- They’re just plain fun. While the superhero genre often deals with life-or-death situations and grievous wrongs perpetrated by black-hearted villains, it also offers a host of thrilling adventures and derring-do on the part of the heroes. Gadgets, devices, and powers add to the cool factor.
I’m sure there are more reasons for the popular appeal, but I think these are some of the big ones. Of course, there are good and bad films/books in this genre as in any other, but superheroes easily spring from the pages of comic books to reach a wider audience on screen because they connect with desires most people experience.
Have you seen any of the recently released films? What about them appealed (or didn’t appeal) to you? Is there a superhero book/film that you would particularly recommend?