Why The World Needs Heroes

July 2012

By Michael Gwilliam

No one would disagree that it is hard to do the right thing, quite often it's much easier to just keep walking rather than help someone in need and sometimes what is the right thing isn't even clear. Sadly the world we live in isn't in black and white.

Around the world we see evil, pain and sadness and not just in developing countries, we see it in our own backyards. we also see the opposite, tales of triumph over adversity and people standing together and fighting off the darkness, that those who are oppressed find the strength to believe in something, to cling to hope even in the most dire of times and break free the bonds that hold them, these stories fill us with hope, for both a better tomorrow and that there is good out there even in the darkest of places.

History is filled with tales of mythic heroes, whether they are gods or mere mortals. Most created to explain why things are the way they are, others created to give us ideals to aspire to in our own lives, bravery, loyalty, compassion and hope, leadership, love, honor, morality and duty are all qualities that should define what it is to be human.

We seem to have moved on from those heroes, and in modern times we seem to believe that things have changed, that the world has moved on from living for ideals and that hope is a luxury that society can ill afford. Yes the current state of the world is a dark unforgiving place and in real life things are rarely fair, but there is a famous saying that the night is darkest before the dawn, and that is something I believe in.

Human culture will always be about the telling of stories, today we have so much technology and yet we are still drawing pictures on cave walls... except the cave wall costs $400 and fits into your pocket nowadays and we write about how smashed we got last night or our opinions on a show we watched. And the heroes of old, who would swing a sword or wear suits of armor and fight dragons, now wear tights and capes, and fight off alien invasions or crazed clowns, that's right Superheroes are our version of the gods of yesteryear.

Superheroes give us as a society, something to symbolize all the ideals that we as humans want ourselves to be, to have power and to use that power to fight evil, when in our own lives we feel powerless to stop the darkness, or the suffering that we see.

When I was a kid growing up in the 90s , I can still remember when I was little running around my house with a towel tied around my neck jumping off the furniture while watching Christopher Reeve make me believe a man could fly, I used to watch the Dean Cain Superman TV series with my grandmother when I was a little older and I remember sitting about 2 inches away from the screen when that glittering red and yellow "S" appeared on the screen in front of a star filled sky and I got butterflies because I knew that Superman was on his way. 2001 came along, I was a 12 year old when "Smallville" hit the screen for the first time, telling the story of a young Clark Kent not much older than myself. The show told the tale of his journey from awkward farm boy to the world's greatest superhero as I myself was growing into a man. When the show finished I (like Clark) had finished my journey and became a man, and in that famous scene where he takes off from the Fortress into the sky I had shivers, and I teared up. A grown man with tears in his eyes over something so "silly" as a comic book character. The character I had grown up alongside had finally become the hero I had idolized since I was a small boy.

The thing that always stuck with me was that no matter what Superman was up against, the kind of evil that he faced on a nearly daily basis, and he constantly saw how evil and dark humanity could be, he still stood for all the goodness in the world, he used the "S" symbol to inspire the downtrodden and oppressed. He represented that part inside all of us that wanted to do the right thing and stand up to those who would take away our hope, and he stood up for those who couldn't stand up for themselves.

Here was someone who himself was an alien and had all these insane powers and yet he represented the best in humanity and did so just because it was right and to inspire others to find the hero in themselves. Some people say that the ideals that Big Blue stands for no longer exist in today's world and say, "He's just a made up character, he isn't real". That's true, the man himself doesn't truly exist, he is a comic book character, but what he stands for does exist and as a 23 year old man who grew up with Superman in his life I honestly believe I'm better for it. I want to be more like Superman to make the hard choices and do what is right, not for a reward or recognition, but simply because it's right and that I can help someone else just because they need it. That I have the bravery in myself to stand up to injustice and fight off the darkness in my life. Some may call me idealistic and foolish, but isn't that in itself a sad thing to say? Is it idealistic and now ridiculous to believe in humanity and goodness in the world? To always look for the good in people and try to be a leader and set an example for others?

I still believe in humanity, and I believe in Superman and THAT is what makes him and those other characters real. That these characters on the pages of a comic books can inspire so many and make them want to be good and to help others is what's real about them. So in the end they really do exist, they are in each of us and that makes us all heroes and keeps us looking up in the sky.