Olga Steblyk / Sputnik Photography
A society can be defined by how it shares stories of greatness, bravery and heroism. The stories we choose to champion as examples to aspire to, as a standard to live up to. These stories are the building blocks in shaping hearts and minds for not only future generations, but for every generation still breathing.
While it may be easy to dismiss tales of caped heroes leaping tall buildings in single bounds or radioactive bug bites as being children’s stories, I would ask that you look into the deeper meanings behind some of these narratives. You may be surprised by just how relevant stories of a Kansas-raised immigrant are to our modern world.
On a basic level, having a fictional everyman character that stands up for the most universal of virtues and ideals is a good idea. Irrespective of their story, the mere presence of a larger-than-life character is an excellent means for younger audiences to internalize messages of compassion, responsibility and perseverance against challenges. For older audiences, being able to see that even those with superpowers struggle and fall can be a nice reminder that it’s OK to fail, so long as you get back up and keep marching forward.
However, these platitudes may not cut it when justifying the importance of the superhero in our contemporary struggle. After all, what could an investigative reporter from another planet tell us about how we should live?
The hope for truth, justice and a better tomorrow is a sentiment frequently echoed in the Superman mythos. The running theme throughout all of his stories is that we are who we choose to be, that we can always choose to be better, to live with compassion, dignity and honesty in our day-to-day lives. It’s to believe that you can come from any background and still deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, simply because we are all more alike than we want to admit.
These are sentiments sorely lacking in many facets of our modern society. It has become acceptable to intentionally espouse false and harmful ideology even within our federal Parliament with Pierre Poilievre’s Progressive Conservative Party. It has become acceptable to wage digital campaigns of hate and bigotry on one another simply because they are different from yourself, as is most evident in the Make America Great Again movement.
It may be easy to choose to be cruel, vindictive, maybe even hateful, but the time to act a certain way because it is easy is over. We owe each other — if for no other reason than that we are fallible people who make mistakes — the benefit of the doubt. It is because of this that the story of the superhero has become even more important. To have a reminder that we can do better, that we can grow past the hate and violence of those who came before is what solidifies the superhero as a hero. Not their powers, but their character.
It is because of this that we should strive to be more like a superhero in our everyday lives. To stop and think, “What would Superman do?” before casting judgement on those we don’t know. If we want to build a better society for all, we must be the change we wish to see. It doesn’t take much at all to exchange a kind word with a stranger, to try and empathize with those we don’t know, to show those who live with hate that there is a better way, a better tomorrow, on the horizon for us. All it takes is for us to lead by example.