What our superheroes say about us

Superheroes "save the day" and bring things back to "normal". But we don't often stop to consider what normal means. Sure, a giant monster rampaging through a city is not normal. But before the monster was even on the horizon, the city was in a state that the superheroes were apparently okay with. In fact, some of them actually benefited from it.

Before the monster came, and after it was vanquished, the city was home to inequality and oppressive practices. The rich superhero, who spent billions building tech that helps him fight monsters was okay with it. The mystic with the power to alter reality never tried to alter social realities and give minimum wage to those who are supposed to look skywards and cheer for flying men when they punch rampaging monsters in the face and cause them to tumble backwards and fall.

Why is this? It's because we, as readers of this superheroic literature, are okay with this "normal" as well. It's because we, with all our privilege, either relate with the privileged superhero or aspire to be them. We are okay with some definitions of reality being stretched but not with others.

We will suspend disbelief when we are told that dragons exist, but we won't do it for stories where female dragon-slayers exist. We will accept stories about men with the strength to move mountains, but not extend the same courtesy to similar characters with darker skin tones. The "normal" that the world returns to after the superhero has "saved" it is usually one where we are comfortable. Anyone who isn't comfortable in our normal gets judged for not being grateful. Stories are often reflections of the reader's privilege.

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