Heroes fight privilege (including their own)

The Indian comic book industry is full of people who write about virtue and morality on a regular basis. And yet, many of the writers and artists who tell us stories about good and evil have a somewhat skewed moral compass. This bothers me.

So when I see a certain writer advocate persecution of marginalised communities in thinly-veiled language, I ask myself: Where is their heroism?

Where is the impulse to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves? Where is their willingness to speak up for those who cannot speak? Where is the defender in them? Where is the Superman and the Batman and the Spider-Man I know they all read while growing up?

Because there is a kind of choice that marks the difference between one super-powered person and another. And that choice is responsibility. When something bad happens to you, you can do one of two things. You can allow yourself to be consumed by revenge and do the thing to someone else. Or you can promise yourself that what happened to you will never happen to anyone else. These choices create heroes and villains.

Superman for example, could be an absolute villain. He could kill and destroy without suffering the consequences of his actions. Batman, given his fortune, could pretty much just enjoy life to the fullest extent possible. Spider-Man could come to the conclusion that he was better than everyone else because he has what others don’t because he was more deserving then everyone else.

Imagine Superman being asked why he isn’t doing anything to help people and him responding that he doesn’t have to and that it’s not his job to care. Or Batman saying that his father wasn’t helped by anyone so why should he help anyone. Or Spider-Man saying people who fall off tall buildings should never have climbed them in the first place.

At the end of the day, heroes are only about responsibility. And though that bit is sometimes overshadowed by muscles, capes, and special abilities, it shouldn’t be too hard to see for anyone who has grown up reading comic books. When we defend our privilege to justify the oppression of others, we are acting in ways that are the exact obvious of heroic. And cliché as it may sound, asking “what would Superman do?” is actually a thing worth doing.

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