Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why Are There No Real Superheroes? [The "Kick-Ass" Question]

Within the first narration of the new film Kick-Ass, we hear the title character ponder the question as to why there are no superheroes in real life. Although throughout the film we see many of the reasons as to why a regular-joe doesn't pursue a life as a vigilante, some aspects are not addressed. Personally, I really enjoy the idea of superheroes, and obviously enjoy a good comic book every now and again, so why not? Why WOULDN'T someone take the chance and become a superhero? Let's examine the reasons here, shall we?

Lack of Powers:
It seems obvious, doesn't it? How can a man be expected to fight strong adversaries and hardened criminals within their city if they have no special abilities to fight or stop them? The fact of the matter is, superheroes are called such because they generally have "super" powers. This is what sets them apart and makes them want to use this power for good.
Of course, exceptions may come in the form of someone who was trained from a young age to fight crime, and have essentially been bred into killing machines with morals, but less-than childlike experiences. An example of this would typically be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass, as her father trained her, and caused a well... let's say "interesting" mindset for her in the world. Other exceptions would come in the form of the super-wealthy or geniuses that have the resources to make gadgets that essentially become their powers. Of course, these types of heroes must have a "moment of clarity" or tragic moment that cause them to want to use their wealth or mind for the greater good, such as Tony Stark and his time being held hostage in IronMan.

But What About People who DO have Special Powers?
Now, I know many people don't believe in superpowers, but what is to say that they don't exist? Let's think about this theoretically: If someone was to have a super power, why wouldn't they use it to become a vigilante?
This question makes me think back to X-Men; there were many "mutants" around the world with different powers, but many of them were afraid of reaction from the public, and so hid their abilities. This could be a reason as to why many would not become a vigilante, as they are afraid of being considered a freak, or worse, being found and examined scientifically by the government and scientists as to why they posses these abilities (granted the hero could be located and detained, of course). In addition, if someone were to have a power, that does not necessarily mean they are ambitious or righteous enough to use their abilities for "the greater good". They could always use it for less-than moral activity, or even more likely,
just for their own personal use at home.

Copycat Heroes:
As soon as one person decides to become a hero, it's only a matter of time before someone else thinks "why can't I do that?" It is only human nature to want the glory that someone else has, and of course, to overstep them in terms of power. This is, in fact, the reasoning that Red Mist claims he became a superhero in Kick-Ass-- though we know differently-- and of course everyone thinks this makes a lot of sense.
The problem of copycats is inherently the fact that many people will become lulled under a false sense of security in their abilities, likely causing many people to become hurt or killed, simply because they think they can be a hero when they really don't have the skill to become one.

The Surfacing of Villains:
Ah yes, the problem of the corrupt. You see, not everyone wants to act morally in society, and it's not just a problem of copycat heroes, but also others that want to use the same sort of status to act as a villain. With good, there is evil, as it is inherent in the world. How we wish it wasn't so, but alas, this is the problem with putting yourself out there as a hero: someone will disagree with your points of view, and act differently, or want to be known as the force that took you down.

Specific Hero Impersonators:
This aspect was somewhat addressed within Kick-Ass, as a boy dressed up as Kick-Ass for a party, and was killed under the impression that he was the real hero. Although not ALL hero costumes are easy to reproduce, many of them might be easy to recreate given time and energy.
So what is the big deal with people dressing up like their heroes? Well, for children or those attending a party it might not be so bad, but what about those who intend to use the image of the hero for their own gain? Someone could use their identity as a means of getting someone to wrongfully trust them, or to get away with certain situations under the impression that they are in fact the hero acting for the greater good. All in all, the fact that people might be inclined to impersonate a well-known symbol of righteousness can be considered both a positive, and potentially negative thing.

Double-Lives:
An essential if you don't want to be found, or possibly caught off-guard when you are acting as just a normal person. Also essential if you do not want people from your personal life to be harmed, captured, or held ransom. Sometimes these people in a hero's life is aware of their other identity, but sometimes they are not.
As a matter of protecting them, it might seem like a good idea to not inform them; at the same time, however, this could create a lot of secrecy and questions. Even further, sometimes personal ties that know of your secret identity can become helpful to the progress of the vigilante work; the question now becomes whether or not to remain completely secretive of a superhero identity, or to indulge in a few personal relations being in the loop.
One of the other major problems with double-lives is that they are very taxing on a person, especially if that person does most of their vigilante work at nighttime, in addition to maintaining a job during the day (ie, Superman or Spiderman). Of course, the incredibly wealthy do not need to worry about that fact; they do, however, often need to keep up a certain appearance in the public eye, such as Batman. Batman takes on a persona so different from his superhero image, as a means of hiding his true identity, and therefore safe-guarding his life and those within it.
Then again, sometimes superheroes don't see the necessity in hiding who they are, and want to expose themselves such to improve their personal image. An obvious example of this would be Tony Stark boldly claiming "I Am Iron Man". His intentions were obviously to seem like a strong, noble force in the world after being slandered for making destructive weapons that could destroy in fact destroy it. Also, it is in his somewhat arrogant nature to want to be seen as amazing by the general public. Another example would be Adrien Veidt in The Watchmen, as he exposes his identity in order to create a "brand" around his name, and gain even more wealth and resources than his mind has already created (albeit, he turns out to be a "hero" of a conflicting nature). Of course, allowing the public to know of your personal identity creates the problem of villains being able to locate you easier, but this is the price one pays for a bit of pride, glory, and resources; plus, these men are usually quite intelligent (not always), and can think of ways to deflect the largest, most obvious threats to themselves.

Let's face it, even if being a hero is not exactly a common ambition for people, it does not in any way demean the literature surrounding the idea, nor will it stop people from believing that one day there may be a symbol for them to put their faith in.
Those are just some of the major aspects of the superhero persona that I have established as being turn-offs for becoming one. Are there any more that I missed or someone else could think of?