Summary: Women superheroes are moving to full equality with men. Yet they have very different stories. This is a clash of women’s dreams and their costs, the first of many more to come. The results will help shape America.
The paradigm for male superheroes is Christ. Suffering and sacrifice for humanity. The paradigm for women superheroes is Cinderella: a fairy godmother bestows gifts that makes her life wonderful. There are exceptions, of course. Bu the pattern is clear.
Men as superheroes
Male superheroes often pay a severe price for the responsibilities their bear.
- Superman lives a life pretending to be Clark Kent, a pitiful beta, without the benefits of his powers. It is like wearing a hair shirt.
- Bruce Wayne lives as Batman, without the benefits of his wealth. His vigilante work means endless suffering.
- Spiderman gets beaten up a lot, and cannot have a normal life.
- The Shadow lives a life seeking redemption, burned with memories of his sins as a criminal.
- Cyclops of the X-Man lives in fear that his uncontrollable eye beams will kill bystanders and who has (like Batman) trained himself to inhuman levels.
- Some men are transformed into monster-defenders, such as the Thing, the Hulk, and Swamp Thing.
- Some are broken. Iron Man became an alcoholic. Ant Man (Hank Pym) became a wife-beater.
James Bond suffers in most of the Ian Flemming’s books. He usually experiences some combination of being shot, tortured, and beaten up . This is in the tradition of the hardboiled detective stories, paying a personal price as they defend society in the dark.
- Casino Royale – Extensive torture.
- Live and Let Die – Dragged over a reef.
- Moonraker – Burned by rocket exhaust, resulting in extensive second-degree burns.
- The Man with the Golden Gun – Ends up in the hospital, as usual.
Women superheroes usually live like Cinderella. They have their bad days, but seldom the nightmarish troubles of male superheroes. Their powers might as well be gifts from their Fairy Godmothers. See Wonder Woman, Isis, Batwoman, Black Canary, Supergirl, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Storm, Kitty Pride, and the Wasp. Compare Rey in Star Wars with Luke. An orphan, he sees the burned bodies of his aunt and uncle, gets beaten up a lot, and has his hand cut off. Rey defeats foes effortlessly, without musing her hair – without receiving any training.
There are rare exceptions to this pattern. Some male superheroes have wonderful lives (e.g., the Human Torch). Some women are beaten, injured, or killed. Jean Grey dies in one of the best of the X-Men stories. Barbara Gordon is shot and crippled at Batgirl.
What does this mean?
Superhero stories reflected the dreams and aspirations of teen-age boys for manhood. This combined aspirations for power, accompanied by the taking on the burden of responsibility – along with the acceptance of suffering and the possibility of injury or death.
Now women are joining the game. But seeking the wish-fulfillment aspects of superheroes but not the burdens and costs. That is the pattern of feminism. The obvious example is marriage. In traditional marriages, a man supported his wife and children. Modern marriage is hypergamy in action: a women professional or executive marrying a man with higher income (if possible).
Another example is the work world. Women want their aggregate pay to be that of men, but do not do the physically demanding, dangerous, and sometimes hazardous jobs. For details see fake news about the “wage gap”, and the real gender gap.
The extreme clash for women between dreams and costs will be in the next shooting war, as the women in combat begin returning as cripples or in body bags. Of the 6,967 military deaths in OCO/GWOT operations (through 3/19), 149 have been women – mostly during the early years of the war. The lies told by the military about the injury and capture of Jessica Lynch show their concern about the public’s reaction (they described her as Rambo, she did not fire a shot).
We are in the midst of a giant experiment in social engineering. Gender roles are socially determined, complex, and change over time. How our society evolves will depend on how women resolve the inevitable contradictions. We are in unknown territory, with few precedents.
For More Information
- The philosophy behind the legend of Batman.
- “Mockingjay” shows us a Revolution in Gender Roles. What’s the next revolution?
- Captain America: the Winter Soldier – high-quality indoctrination for sheep.
- Review of Dr. Strange: a good film misunderstood by the critics.
- Jeff Beck reviews “Wonder Woman”, a contrary note amidst the ecstatic applause.
- “Black Panther” will be the most interesting film of 2018.
- Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.
- Alita, the Battle Angel, fights her feminist critics.
- Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.
- Captain Marvel – fun for kids, swill for adults.
One of the best books about heroes
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
by Joseph Campbell.
From the publisher …
“Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.
“This edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.
“As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists – including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers – and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.”