So this post was going to happen eventually. Better get it all out before Civil War comes out.
1) They cause a surreal aura to permeate our culture.
Take this conversation between to superheroes, based on a role-play I did with Paul Gabel.
"Harry and Dig disagreed about whether or not we should stay in our world. Harry was convinced that the presence of superheroes was changing, for the worse, the way people viewed what science could and should do, while Digory argued that it was a necessary advancement towards super vigilantism that would help thousands of people. Harry won in the end and here we are."
Joshua took it in and thought for several seconds. "I suppose I wouldn't know what it's like to live in a world without superheroes. But it makes sense that if the only way for superheroes to be created is through "science," I suppose I would be concerned too."
2) They're unrealistic.
This one is like a "DUR! That's what makes them fun!"
But I'm not talking about their powers. These perfect pillars of justice come close to having no faults in the films and comic books they are immediately appearing in. They are only concerned with fighting evil. Now don’t try to argue about Black Widow’s past and all that stuff. It’s in the right now of the movie. In every human mind, not just the villains, is a selfish side that is concerned with its own interests. Why don't these appear in the movies? Showing that even the heroic are just as bad as the villains, the only difference being that they are concerned with also keeping the world the same, and not letting it be taken over by whatever villain the writers conjure up.
3) They are role models, but not very good ones.
This kind of ties in with 1). Superheroes have desirable qualities that many people would go to great pains, even do some very unheroic things to acquire. But the problem with all role models is that if what is good that they do is to be imitated, then the bad that they also do is allowable. People do this all the time, and they don't even realize it until it's too late.
4) The comic books they appear in have almost no plot.
I recently read five issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and enjoyed them to a very limited extent. The primary reason, I realized, was because they had very little plot. But what can you expect from a 24 page comic book issue? It takes a lot longer than 24 pages just to develop a decent plot. I thought that maybe there would be references to other issues in every issue, but instead it was a a simple, bad guy appears, and the good guy has to stop him routine, maybe spiced up with some personal dilemma of some kind, or a new development in the the protagonists character.
Which leads me to number
5) You can't find them in original works outside of comic books.
This is probably the most annoying thing about super heroes. No, I'm not interested in the ten pages of the hero and the villain battling it with witty taunts and comebacks. I'm interested in the difficulties that the hero faces in real life. The underlying thought process of him; what makes him tick. This is something that both comic books and movies are notoriously bad at doing, for some pretty obvious reasons. We can't have a narrator describing the inner feelings of the characters on the screen, and the yellow boxes in the comics just aren't really meant for the descriptions complex emotions. This is why I would much rather read a novel about a super hero than a comic book. The movies are okay to an extent, because they do sort of show the emotions better, but not like novel does. Oh well.
I might get avid comic book reader saying, “well, the heroes think to themselves sometimes in thought clouds, what about that?” True, there were several scenes in the comic books where I saw that Peter beat himself up mentally for not being good enough, but the problem there is that it simply doesn’t capture the full emotions of the character. There just isn’t enough space to allow the reader to fully appreciate what the character is going through.
6) They're (almost) a waste of time.
They are practically the epitome of idle thought, while at the same time being the center of the obsession of millions of teenagers (and adults) around the world. It is unfair, I admit, to say they're a waste of time. Perhaps it would better be put as a fruitless pastime. I guess that’s the same thing. They really don't teach any lessons that we don't already know. I'm working on a novel that teaches math and computer programming, but it will really take some creative juices to flow in order to insert a superhero into that. It would be like "And then Pineapples!"
And finally, saving the most important one for last. Perfect #7.
7) Superheroes are grooming us for the new age Transhumanism.
Transhumanism? Yes, transhumanism. The belief that humans can evolve themselves further through science and technology. Is that not the origin story of 90% of all superheroes and villains? I mean, take The Flash. He gains his powers through a bath of chemicals and a lightning bolt, but it also apparently had changed his genes enough so that he could have a superfamily. That’s mildly creepy to me.
You know that if you change your DNA you’ve lost a part of your humanness, yet in almost every superhero, there are mentions of their DNA being changed, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and, well, the Flash, along with hundreds of others. Like I said above in #3, there isn’t a normal person alive that wouldn’t mind having some cool superpower of some kind to maybe help people or show off with, whether it’s shooting bees out of your wrists, or being invisible, or maybe having X-Ray vision. The list goes on.
Superheroes are a fun thing to speculate about, and if we like to draw, they’re fun to draw in action, and if we like writing, we like writing about them, but in that speculation is something that people are attracted to, a fascination with the idea of coping with superpowers. I don’t want to completely be a Johnny Raincloud on your parade, I do, however want you to be aware of what organizations are trying to make people think is socially acceptable. Like I said in #1, they are changing the dynamic of our society, making transhumanism seem just beyond our grasp, and something that is needed and desirable.
I enjoy watching superhero films, and I also enjoy writing about them, but I do look out for symbolism, and the hidden messages. None of these are exactly hidden, but it’s good to know, if you’ve noticed them yourself, that you're not the only one who thinks this way.
My conclusion here is that you must always be careful about what is entertainment and what is just over the threshold. There are subliminal messages, and there are stupid things about them, and there are reasons why every superhero film ends up with well over a hundred sins on CinemaSins.
The world needs more wares. So be aware.
I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you remember it every time you see a superhero film, and be watchful, and careful to remember that it is for entertainment only, even though the creators might possibly think otherwise.