The world is in need of heroes.
History is far from over, as modern society is facing unparalleled and unpredictable challenges never before encountered. From ISIS to LGBTQ+ rights to cyber warfare, the 21st century is rife with brand new dilemmas which have no concrete histories to compare our trials to, and no frames of reference which which we could learn how to overcome them. In these uncertain times, as Western civilization copes with an ever-evolving sense of priority in the world, and as the line between what is right and wrong blurs more with each passing day, people now, more than ever before, need something to believe in and give them hope. And even that foundation is proving to be unstable.
For many people, myself included, superheroes are beacons of hope, sources of inspiration, and definitive examples of what is good and right. Although fictional in media, the lessons they teach and the motivation they instill are very real and personal to many. Superheroes are the ideal we strive to be—they are selfless, they lead by example, they put others before themselves, they refrain from a bad lifestyle, they do what is right as opposed to what is easy, and they do whatever they can to stop violence, hate, and evil. Generations of people worldwide have looked up to superheroes as role models. But new generations potentially stand to have these icons of righteousness turn foul.
The two biggest superhero movies of 2016 (and possibly the two biggest movies ever) are Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" and DC's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." The titles alone should have you worried. Civil War, as the name implies, is about The Avengers breaking apart into warring factions and fighting each other. BvS centers on a jaded and cynical Batman yearning to destroy Superman, whom he regards as a menacing threat to Earth. Both movies have the same troubling story line—superhero-on-superhero violence.
In this time of social strife, our heroes need to stay together and stand for what is right. Instead, they are putting gas on the fire and making things worse. Who will children look up to in 2016 when heroes become villains and protagonists turn into antagonists? What kind of mental image are we projecting into future generations when Superman goes from standing for truth, justice, and the American Way to being seen as a callous, genocidal wrecking ball? How is the youth going to have a relevant demonstration of teamwork, unity, and overcoming differences when The Avengers themselves are falling apart and turning on one another?
The significance of superheroes, and the way their personas manifest within our lives, cannot be understated. From Batdad to Batkid, people emulate themselves and act as forces for good based on the image superheroes display in comic books, movies, and other media. Batman himself says it perfectly in "The Dark Knight Rises:" "The idea was to be a symbol. Batman could be anybody. A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know the world hadn't ended."
The world needs reassurance that things will be okay, and that there will always be people who will rise to the occasion and stand for what is right when things go wrong. Superheroes, who have for so long been a bastion of benevolence, are having this creed diminished. We live in a time when the members of our own law enforcement, intended to be the "good guys" we ought to revere, are slaying us, and when we are in the midst of what may very well be the most divisive presidential election in decades. In this time of schism and despair, we need superheroes to stay heroic. As Agent Coulson puts it in "The Avengers:" "With everything that's happening, with the things that are about to come light, people might just need a little 'old-fashioned'."