Superheroes were once plentiful. We had fictional superheroes who could fly and shoot lasers, like Superman. We had real-life citizens who could charm the world’s political leaders with just one smile, like John F. Kennedy. We had sports players who could fly, like Michael Jordan, and sports players who could lead their city to two consecutive championships, like Hakeem Olajuwon. We had characters from books and movies who embarked on great journeys and accomplished the impossible in spite of their completely ordinary upbringings, like Harry Potter.
The question is, why don’t we have superheroes anymore? We certainly have exceptional people out there. Some prime examples are Steve Rogers, Barack Obama, James Harden, Lebron James, and Percy Jackson. Shouldn't it be these same people who take their rightful place on the solid-goal pedestal?
No, because we tear them down in the same instant that we build them up. This is a phenomenon that has always been around, but with the rise of technology, there has been a rise in social media platforms, through which word gets around much faster than it used to.You can go see “The Greatest Showman” and decide that P.T. Barnum is your role-model, someone you look up to and someone you strive to be. After all, he did build a circus out of nothing. Didn’t he bring joy and a sense of belonging to the outcasts who had otherwise been shunned from society? So you go home and post about it. You evaluate your choices and decide to be more compassionate, more accepting, and more positive about life in general.
A while later, you start hearing whispers. The original PT Barnum was not an exceptional performer, but a terrible man who presented the death of a black woman as a spectacle to watch, and dropped his own daughter from his will for committing adultery.
Your image of him has now been shattered, and the role-model you once looked up to so adoringly no longer exists. You take it to social media yet again, lamenting that there’s no one good left to admire. You vow not to look up to anyone again, because everyone is selfish and mean. What you fail to realize is: nobody is perfect, not even you.
The fact is, there are plenty good people left in this world. We tend to zero in on the bad, whether it surfaces in a series of tweets, or a long-winded Facebook post. We view our heroes in black and white, instead of accepting them for the mistakes they made.
In fact, PT Barnum went on to become the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut and fight against union discrimination towards the black population. You don’t find out about that part until much later when all the hate directed towards him has died. You lost your role-model because you failed to understand that the best superheroes have flaws, but it is how they face them that makes them who they are.
So yes, Steve Rogers might be too boring. Harry Potter might be too white, and James Harden might draw way too many fouls. Still, they possess all the best qualities that we can only hope to have.
America needs a superhero. Be critical, but be understanding. Be critical, but be hopeful. Be critical, but recognize greatness. Be critical, but give credit where credit is due. America needs a superhero. It could even be you.