Marvel’s comic book extravaganza Avengers: Infinity War recently opened in over 4,000 theaters to approximately $258 million, claiming the biggest three-day opening of all time. The sequel, 10 years in the making, takes all of Marvel’s superheroes and puts them together to save the universe from the evil mastermind Thanos. For the past decade superhero films have been all the rage. In a post 9/11, recession-based economy, Americans have been starving for heroes, yet none come to save the day. With the state of Arizona school system’s shut-down due to a strike, Bill Cosby being convicted of sexual assault, and with our current president having scandals and investigations reported daily, the real world is resembling the films that we hold so dear, and it is in the films that we see the idealism we so want to experience.
In the film about our struggling public-school system Waiting for ‘Superman,’ education reformer Geoffrey Canada explains why the love of superheroes is so bittersweet: “One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me Superman did not exist. I was like, what do you mean he’s not real? And she thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real, and I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” Our obsession with finding heroes from the sky to come and rescue us isn’t healthy, but it is a template of what to aspire to. Instead of looking to the sky, let’s look at ourselves. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Recently, public-school teachers in Arizona went on strike for six days, with only a few weeks left in the semester. By holding the students’ educations hostage, the men and women so often called “heroes” were anything but that. I taught for almost a decade. To leave my students during the middle of AP testing, a few weeks before finals, and with just a few weeks left wouldn’t have crossed my mind. But they “won.” The Arizona governor signed a plan to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise, ending the walkout, sending 1 million students back to school.
Could you imagine a comic book hero demanding pay before saving the day? The Guardians of the Galaxy these teachers are not.
In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent’s prophetic words parallel the life of Bill Cosby, who, had he died in early ’70s, might never have seen his actions fully come to light. “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” the Gotham District Attorney stated before watching himself fall to these same words.
Cosby’s recent conviction proves this point. After being found guilty of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, the formerly beloved actor and comedian swore at the district attorney and accused Constand of lying. Cosby’s influence on television, cinema, stand-up comedy, education, etc., is nearly unmatched; and now, the hero has become the villain of the story.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continues to battle bad press and worse accusations, turning into a modern Lex Luther, with henchmen and all. With his recently added lawyer Rudy Giuliani coming to his defense over the Stormy Daniels case, who needs enemies when you have such loose-lip friends? Giuliani tried to explain how Trump did and didn’t pay off Daniels, and that it’s only confusing because Trump is so rich. Plus, there are inept henchmen like Michael Cohen dishing out bags of money, and henchmen threatening the damsel in distress with her child by her side.
These Marvel and DC films have struck a chord in the world’s soul because life has become a living comic book, minus the heroes. As we try to make sense of life, let’s learn this lesson: We shouldn’t try to make heroes as much as we should make ourselves into heroes. As Jesus said, “Do unto others ….” Not, “Ask others to do unto you.”
Our teachers, celebrities and presidents won’t save us. And Superman isn’t coming. That should not discourage us. It should encourage us to be the heroes we love on the screen. Self-sacrificing and noble. So go be the Superman you want to see in the world.