I have a hugely unpopular opinion…. I don’t really like superhero stories.
I recently discovered this about myself as I watched three separate superhero television shows in one week and then started to think about all the other superhero movies, shows, books, etc. that I’ve seen/read. They were reruns, so it wasn’t like I was basing this off fresh emotional responses.
The main character/ hero/heroine is typically pretty cool. I like that. I don’t like stories with annoying main characters. I’m not the type who wants to follow someone around in their head for 80,000 words while hoping they get demolished by the bad guy.
So a cool hero or heroine isn’t the issue.
It seems to me, that writers tend to have a problem with main characters who are close to being “all powerful”. You see, if you write a character who has a lot of strength – you have a problem.
What drives a story?
Conflict. Someone or something being bigger, badder, stronger, smarter, and better equipped than the main character (the “good guy”). Otherwise, it’s boring. No struggle. No fight.
If there’s no bad guy that actually poses a threat, there’s no story.
I feel like those who write superhero stories overcompensate.
By making everything else in the story absolutely SUCK.
- Friend group? They’re not actual friends.
- They’re going to hold the hero/heroine to a gold standard, A creature mind controls the hero? Totally the hero’s fault. Absolute betrayal. But the “friends” tell every other character in the story (good guys, bad guys, even other characters with powers) that mistakes happen. And the friends forgive them unhealthily fast.
- They’re going to betray the hero/heroine and act like its no big deal. But if the hero/heroine doesn’t jump on board with every little bad idea or petty opinion of the friend, then the hero/heroine is terrible.
- Said “friends” go against the hero/heroine all the time. They never believe in the hero/heroine and always think he/she is in the wrong. They back bite, second guess, sit on their high horse, and act like the hero/heroine is terrible and they themselves are perfect.
- They treat all the other friends in the friend group like actual friends. But not the hero/heroine.
- I’m going to stop this list here before I set someone on fire.
- Romantic relationships?
- ha ha
- ha ha
- ha ha
- yeah, no
- The hero/heroine is going to lie to the one person they “love” for the purpose of keeping them safe. Because leaving someone in the dark and unprepared for all the mayhem that will ensue will totally keep them safe.
- Not to mention the hero/heroine will disrespect their so called friends and love interest by telling everyone in the bloody story their secret except their friends and love interest.
- But if they do end up together, the love interest is going to die. Immediately.
- Unsatisfying bad guy redemption arcs.
- Why are they unsatisfying? Because the big bad from a previous part of the story suddenly becomes a good guy. And then dies saving the main character/ good guy. There are so many reasons that this is terrible that I want to blow something up.
- Strong main character?
- Yeah, no. The super hero doesn’t make their own decisions, speak up for themselves, or have a spine of any sort.
- And they probably have a nauseatingly self-deprecating disguise that’s pretty much a loser – telling everyone that in order to have any real strength, you have to be pathetic and hate your life.
- Heroes can save the world but not their own personal world.
- Then what’s the point? Stories (especially super hero stories) are supposed to give hope to the normal every day human being. Instead, they’re telling us that we need to be a 1950’s housewife and give up having a life, boundaries, joy, or any point for living and instead fix everyone else’s life, even though they treat us like their personal toy that doesn’t actually matter.
- Heroes fight other heroes. Which causes a whole bunch of stupid issues.
- Good guys fighting good guys just totally inspires hope (sarcasm – that’s sarcasm) while talking about how humans divide each other into groups… without ever talking about how it’s wrong, causes more issues, and that, um, it’s wrong. Division is how we fall. We don’t need more division. And when our stories glorify division, glorify taking sides, they’re adding to the problem.
- The important things aren’t being dealt with because the good guys are all too busy being petty and fighting with each other.
- Edmund Burke is rolling in his grave. Because good people fighting good people is just as bad as good people doing nothing.
- Kind heroes get treated like trash. If the hero/heroine is a genuinely good person (not perfect, because that’s not possible) then people always treat them like scum. Without fail. It perpetuates the whole, “good guy/gal get’s the short of end the stick/ never gets the guy/gal” shtick.
- When the hero/heroine wins, they don’t actually win. Either time is reversed, erasing all their personal and public wins. Or they achieve superhero-ish success by sacrificing their personal happiness/life/identity. Again, telling us that we cannot help others AND have our own identity/life/self-respect.
- The hero’s parents. They always have control over the hero/heroine.
- They can control the hero/heroine.
- They can control the hero/heroine’s romantic life, work life, friendships.
- Jeez, they can control their dieting life.
- The hero/heroine is not a real adult. They let parental figures jerk them around, control them, manipulate them. And not just once. Forever.
I could keep going. I could. But I’m going to stop now. If you haven’t noticed, I have some strong feelings on the subject.
I take storytelling seriously. We’re saying things with the stories we tell.
What do you love or hate about superhero movies/books/television shows??? Why?
Know of any superhero stories that don’t have all these terrible overcompensations?