Writer’s Notes: Superheroes & Confidence (or lack thereof)

I like a good superhero movie just as much as the next person. I’ve
never really gotten into comic books themselves, mainly because I’ve
just never gotten into the format. So the likelihood that I’ll ever
*read* the comic books these movies are based on is slim to none…and
I’m grateful for the chance to get the story in a different format.

Recently my husband and I watched two superhero movies: Thor, and Captain America.
And after being left in a rather tragic Shakespearean frame of mind
after them both, I started wondering – why does the guy *never* get the
girl in the end?

If you think
about it, all the superheroes suffer this plight. Superman never really
gets Lois Lane. Batman never gets…oh, what’s her name? Dang…it’s
been awhile. Spiderman screws up his relationship just about every way imaginable. Thor got stuck back up in his home world, and Captain
America slept through his first real date. By a lot of years.

In
all fairness, I haven’t seen the “green” movies yet – does Green
Lantern get his lady-love (surely there must be one)? Does the Green
Hornet fly off into the sunset with Ms. Right-for-Him? Does anyone know
of a superhero who manages to live “happily ever after”?

Somehow, I doubt it. But why?

When
I asked on twitter, I got crickets. On Facebook, there were a few
theories: one that it’s honorable for the hero to sacrifice everything
in order to make the world a better place, another that to protect those
he loves, he has to remain separate from them. Yet another theory
brings in ninjas (ninjas are sneaky devils – ever notice how they always
seem to pop up when you least expect them to?).

But
I have a different theory.

Deep down, the type of people who are normally elevated to superhero
status seem to be those people who never actually believe that they are
worthy of winning in the end. They’re humble to a fault – and it’s
normally both their greatest asset as well as their biggest weakness. When it comes down to it, they have low self-esteem, and while
they will use whatever power they get for as much good as they can
possibly do, they never *quite* believe that they deserve that power, or
that it won’t disappear as quickly as it came.

Because of that, they are also the type of people who never quite believe
that they deserve to get the girl (or guy). So I think in the case of a
lot of comic book heroes, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – they
can’t believe that they will ever be worthy of true love, so they walk
away under the guise of “protecting” their loved one or some other
honorable-sounding excuse. Because that’s actually easier than daring to
stay, and risking whatever might come (including happiness and a
lasting relationship – neither of which they “deserve”, or so they feel deep inside).Naturally, this dooms them to a life of unrequited love. They are ultimately protecting themselves more than anyone else.

It’s romantic and annoying all at the same time, in my opinion. And I think it happens all too often in real life – more than any of us care to admit, and that’s why we relate to stories like this on such a basic level. Some people manage to take the risk and reap the rewards or pay the price, and others never do. And the fact is, the superhero archetype is highly unlikely to ever change on that point because it’s what distinguishes them from the villains they fight, who are confident to the extreme.

Interesting I think, in any case. Although I
suppose it *could* just be a case of writers reading too many Shakespearean or Greek tragedies…but somehow, I think not…


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2 comments on “Writer’s Notes: Superheroes & Confidence (or lack thereof)

  1. Paul Carroll

    I really like this theory! I’m a fan of comics (and I believe the Green Lantern got with the girl, can’t remember now), and I like writing about superheroes, but I never quite thought about how unlikely just about every one of them is. Okay, maybe honourable is the word I ought to use, but you get the point: I never looked at them as losing the guy/girl every time.

    I’m tempted to try change that (writing a superhero story at the moment) but I don’t think it would work with everyone, unless they were more morally ambiguous than most heroes are. And I don’t mean anti-hero, or even on-the-verge-of-evil like Batman (sometimes), but just unable to be classed as “good” or “bad”.

    Very interesting stuff. That’s too much to think about at this hour! (Gone past midnight where I am!)

  2. Jamie D.

    See, now I’ll have to go watch the Green Lantern. LOL

    I’ve noticed before, but never really “noticed” like I have recently, I guess. I’m not sure why it hit me just now…possibly because I’m writing in several genres where the relationships all deal with these kinds of issues on some level, so I’m sensitive to it at the moment. Not that I don’t love a good tragedy occasionally…

    You’ll have to let me know when your superhero story is done, so I can read it. I promise not to over-analyze (at least not publically)…

    Glad you found it interesting, and thanks for stopping in! (Now it’s past midnight here as well…)