Batman v/s Superman. Captain America: A Civil War? REALLY? These are all supposed to be the good guys people! IF comic book characters were not so heavily marketed towards young children, I’d say, “Go for it”, “What evs…it’s just a movie.” In real life, the lines between the good and the bad are often blurry. Just look at our nation’s 2016 political primaries. It is dark gray; the world media and the campaigns themselves have been dead set on polarizing these candidates hoping to lead our great country. We want a Superhero to guide our people and defeat the enemies of the world. As adults, we know that Superhero is just a relative term, BUT kids…Kids believe in Superheroes!
Kids believe in Superheroes because they have always embodied good choices. A child’s world is largely Good Choice versus Bad Choice. Will I share? Or will I make a Bad Choice and not share? Will I do what Mom asks or will I whine and cry about it? These choices aren’t easy for anyone, but in the idealistic world of a child, knowing what is right or wrong is NOT the hard part. At least it shouldn’t be. It is our job as parents and caregivers to set up clear choices for children so they learn how to deal with more complex issues as life evolves.
I would argue that the Superhero genre has evolved with society it was created for, not with today’s kids. The Golden Age of Comic Books began in around 1940 and it created the superhero archetype. Subsequently, our most prolific men and women of wonder were born; Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman to name a few. Baby Boomers lifted the genre to its massive success as postwar America fought against communist enemies of the Cold War. Society was looking for little windows of time where good could defeat evil in one sitting AGAIN and AGAIN. It seems the whole comic book enterprise is still catering to these Baby Boomers as our heroes now begin fighting each other in search of justice in a terribly dark world. The problem for me lies in that while they cater and write for Baby Boomers, Superhero franchises market to children.
With terrorism rearing its ugly head throughout the world, society doesn’t feel safe. Many would say, we don’t know who to trust. Who’s gonna save us when political unrest seems to dominate most arenas? That’s a question for Mom and Dad! Each of us will come to our own conclusions…or not, but one thing is certain in my mind. We need to create a feeling of security in our children’s world. We need to make sure they understand the Good is out there and Good will protect.
As I sat through the Batman v/s Superman movie, I was often confused with what was going on. I am an adult. The dozen or so young children I saw in the theater could not have possibly had a clearer view of the storyline. I saw a lot of fighting…a lot of killing. I know neither a convoluted storyline nor superfluous violence is new to today’s superhero franchise. What is new is pitting the emblems we see on the chest of our kids’ t-shirts against each other. Aren’t there enough school yard issues? I would venture that most kids don’t even see the movie. But I will guarantee they all know that Batman and Superman now fight each other and there are fewer Good Guys to count on.