The World Wants Heroes

I went to see The Amazing Spider-man on Saturday night and even though I was expecting it I had mixed feelings when I saw the extra police presence in the movie theater. On the one hand, I was relieved to know that there was added security to combat any copycat violence after the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, but on the other hand it was another reminder of the dangerous world we live in, when we need to take extra precautions even in places of respite.

I go to movies to escape, and it was difficult to be reminded about the senseless deaths at Friday's midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. I'm struggling with thoughts about the glorification of violence and with the access to deadly weapons by those with unstable minds. I fear knee-jerk reactions that will lead to censorship and restrictions on civil liberties. We've seen these debates rage after 9/11 and after the Columbine and Virginia Tech attacks. 

In the comics and in the movies, we project our hopes and fears. As Alfred Hitchcock used to say, cinema offers a way to exorcise our own emotional baggage in a safe manner.  Metaphoric attacks by aliens, monsters, and supervillains in fiction are a way for us to laugh, cheer, or unleash our innermost demons, then go off and face the challenges of the real world.

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have dreamed of gods, guardian angels, and spirit guides to protect us from the onslaught of the dangerous forces of nature and our fellow man. The Modern Age has give us superheroes. 

Our pseudo-heroes, whether entertainment celebrities or sports stars, are often flawed and imperfect, we also look for true heroes around us, who sacrifice themselves for others. They are not bulletproof or gifted with superstrength or the power of flight, but they still inspire us and motivate us, whether they want to or not.  We each have someone like that in our lives, and maybe some of us are viewed as heroes by others.

The good thing about comicbook heroes is what drew me to them in the first place when I was a kid -- like the fairytales of ages gone by, their adventures serve as morality tales. Superman's code not to kill, Batman's choice not to use a gun, Spider-man's heartbreaking lesson that with great power comes great responsibility -- all are simple yet attractive notions that on the surface can help us deliniate good from evil, guidelines to make the world a better place. 

Of course, the real world isn't so simple. Even the comic book stories and movies have progressed and started to explore those ideas, uncovering the shades of gray that lurk between the black and white extremes.

While we continue to search for answers and find ways to salve the wounds that continue to open, the one lesson we should definitely take to heart is to never surrender. The empathy we feel for others should not be diminished. Even though a perfect world may not be plausibly achievable, the greatest tragedy would be if we all give up trying.