I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises this past week. Without giving away any spoilers (Gotham stumbles, Bane mumbles, Batman grumbles), I, like many others, did not find it the best of the trilogy. Still, it was entertaining enough: crap got blown up, there was some heavy brooding, and I got to see Batman’s chest hair. Win.
Batman is my favorite of the comic book superheroes. He’s mysterious, handsome, and smart. He’s a trained ninja, resourceful and quick. He doesn’t use guns. He’s so dedicated to justice that he builds an entire empire around the pursuit of it. And unlike Superman (who’s an alien, people – c’mon) and Spiderman and all of the X-(Wo)Men, Batman has no superpowers aside from deep pockets. Plus, his costume is just indisputably* the greatest.
But Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and others were all created in another time, a time when Americans battled fears on a grander scale. It was all foreign threats and organized crime. If it wasn’t the Russians with nuke missiles, it was the Russian mob with machine guns and bent noses. Comic book threats were vague and anti-American. They seemed big and scary precisely because they were rather ill defined.
Modern life, on the other hand, has become fragmented and more precise. I’m not saying we don’t have threats on a grander scale (hello, terrorism), but my daily problems are more specific and far more immediate. And I may even be blind to them. Did you know, for example, that we have high levels of lead in lipstick – more lead than in candy? Yeah! There’s lead in candy, too! Gives new meaning to “Pop Rocks,” doesn’t it? Buyer beware. Or, caveat emptor, if you swing Latin. Hard to “beware” when there are forces intent on making you stay unaware.
Speaking of, take how often we’re lied to – by politicians (“death panels”), in advertising and media (ahem, Faux News), or even in our education system (see: the myth of Christopher Columbus).
So while the comic superheroes of yore can continue to fight the giant blob of crime that requires a quick change in a phone booth, I dare say that we modern citizens need someone or someones to take on the smaller, maybe even more nefarious evils. With all due respect to Tina Turner, we do need another hero. Several, even.
Since seeing Dark Knight Rises, I’ve been thinking about the types of superheroes we need – men and women – the way Gotham needs Batman. Clearly, we already have police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, ice cream truck drivers, and other caring individuals who do heroic things for strangers every day. I’d like to add to that list the following:
The Human Lie Detector. For any lie told by someone in power, a corporation in order to sell you something, or a media outlet supposed to report the truth, this superhero will swoop in and make a giant buzzer sound. Then, unlike Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, the Human Lie Detector will induce said entity to tell the truth by sheer force of shame power (represented by red squiggles coming out of his/her head). This also applies to corporate-speak; if a CEO/VP/President/AVP/MVP/BFD/LOL says something like, “We need to synergize our touch points to galvanize our ROI,” The Human Lie Detector will translate thusly: “We need to make money, plebes.”
Outfit: thick magnifier glasses, red pants, question mark on the chest.
The Nondenominominator. Without trying to sound too controversial: all religions everywhere are terrible, all the time. OK, maybe not. But the us vs. them mentality, the reliance upon sketchy ancient tomes for moral codes, and the love of chicken sandwiches means religions often hurt more than they help as the human race attempts to become more progressive. (Sh. I can dream.) Enter the Nondenominominator. This agnostic superhero will make sure that no religion will interfere with the pursuit of equal rights as they get applied fairly across this great nation. Just imagine a hippie-ish person who lives outside and believes in universal healthcare and shares food. Hm. And s/he will abolish all televangelists, except for this guy.
Outfit: some sort of Japanese kimono/Jedi/Buddhist monk hybrid, obviously. Think Liam Neeson in The Phantom Menace. Or Liam Neeson in Batman Begins. Or Liam Neeson in Clash of the Titans.
Madame Ovary. I guess with a name like that, this superhero has to be a woman or transwoman. If not, it can be Sir Brovary. Either way, this is a feminist superhero who takes on the full heap of misogyny, sexism, and inequalities that affect everyone living in the patriarchy. S/he might swoop in wherever a woman gets paid less than her male counterpart, whenever someone uses the term, “male nurse,” whenever a child is given a gendered toy, etc. The eventual goal is to not need Madame Bovary anymore.
Outfit: Polka dots, because: why not?
The Grub. This one is easy: we need a superhero to make sure that food and water is distributed equitably across the entire globe. Because this planet makes enough for everyone. Not only that, but The Grub will ensure that the food is high quality, not stuffed with preservatives and other poisons, and that the process of obtaining and distributing the food and water is environmentally sound and sustainable. And s/he will make everyone vegan. You’ve gone too far, Erin, I can hear you say as you bite into your chicken sandwich. You’re right. Baby steps.
Outfit: A bird-like cape spun from the gold fibers of non-Monsato corn silk. And a blue hat.
Star Destroyer. Listen, I love the stars, the moon, and the sun. They’re very necessary. But the universe is going to kill us one of these days. For real. The sun is going to supernova and this entire solar system will be destroyed (in about eleventy million years). At that point, I’ll just be a head in a glass jar hooked up to a supercomputer, but my head is going to be very frightened! We need someone who can take on the sun when that happens. Yeah, I don’t know; we just do.
Outfit: all black, a reflection of his/her anti-light philosophy.
Got any other superheroes you’d like to add to this list?
*In this context, “indisputably” means “don’t argue with me.”