With the extreme popularity of super heroes and their summer big blockbuster hits raking in billions its sort of hard to think of a time where this at one point niche genre was this small but strong glimmer of hope. We didn’t watch superhero movies to watch Batman kick Superman’s ass or the extreme spectacle that comes with most superhero movies today. They’re less symbolic and more just.. fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I still love superhero movies, although with the over-saturation of them lately I feel people are at risk of getting tired/bored and see the death of the genre just as we had the Western genre. Which is pretty much the same genre, if we’re talking about the original.. glimmer of hope kind of superhero genre that I grew up with. Western genres display this lone ranger or this person who’s pretty much only driven on morals and we saw them defeat evil, whether that be “Indians” (yeah western genre’s often just antagonized a whole race, though we kind of still do that in today’s action movies with Russians or other Communist countries because apparently it’s okay when we’re fighting an idea that a whole race/nation gets attached the opposing idea and as long as we don’t humanize them in the media they’re portrayed than nobody cares… but I digress).. the western hero would always conquer evil despite all odds and we looked at these movies and thought, “Man would I love to be that guy” and it even inspired many people to actually try and be that guy. Live their life to a certain moral code and know that if you can help someone it often is your responsibility to help them. Then the Western genre died probably because of their being too many Western movies out in the market or maybe people just over time had a harder time relating to the tough, lone wolf who’s only friend is the code of which he lives by. I’m sure there are experts who can probably answer the why, so I’m not going to pretend like I know. Then a new genre arose in a new medium that I feel was the Western genre revived and done much better. Superhero comics became actually really popular and although I can’t say this is how I was introduced to the genre, this time was still important because the characters in the comic portrayed the same thing they did when super-hero movies first started beginning their transition to the film medium. Superheroes were often ordinary people who became extraordinary, who were in some means given the means the power and ability to help people and because there was something inherently good just as western heroes tried to do, but there weren’t many blindly optimistic people who didn’t hate working with other people and just wanted to help. Wanted to be a hero. And they wear masks, that’s the most important part. The western heroes had their cowboy hats and that kind of portrayed the symbol of a hero that we saw ourselves in, but masks completely hid the person underneath the mask (well.. sometimes depending on the hero) so we could place our own.
I got introduced to superheroes I feel like a lot of people around my age and that was with 2002’s Spider-man. God, what an incredible film and I think the perfect one to start off that early 2000’s superhero phase. And that’s not entirely nostalgia talking, it still holds up today as a good movie, not just a good superhero movie, I feel. Immediately I became obsessed. Even at 7, I related with Peter Parker. I wasn’t yet in high school so I don’t think I wouldn’t fully appreciate how relatable Peter Parker was yet. I didn’t truly understand just how important it would feel to want to not only be able defend yourself against people trying to hurt you either physically or emotionally but to also defend other people from the very same thing. I can’t tell you how much I surrounded myself with the merchandise and just general symbols of Spider-man because aside from looking up to this hero who if did exist, which as a kid I sure as hell fucking did want to be a real thing. How I had hoped there was a real red tight wearing “webcrawler” out in the city that can swing in and come and save me in case I was ever in such a situation that a hero’s intervention was necessary. Besides that, I wanted to be the hero in red tights. There are some people who just have that “hero” trait, not the one that makes them step up to the plate.. but at least makes them want to. Makes them want to be able to step out of their own skin, and do what ever it takes to help those in need. I had it really bad growing up. This is why I loved superhero movies and comics, because they were the story of ordinary people becoming amazing super heroes and who not only helped because they wanted to but because now that they had these powers and were now capable of helping people, that they had an almost moral responsibility to help people.
“…At last that in this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” – Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how look at it), as each sequel required more spectacle and something new to mix up the genre, the overall theme strayed away from less about these people who stepped up and did what’s right because of their moral codes, because they feel they have do what’s right. Captain America: The First Avenger and (maybe Ant-Man) are the last movies I remember fitting that theme of a normal person getting power and using it for good because that’s what was right. Thankfully Spider-man: Homecoming will be reintroducing a new generation to a new hero to look up to and to aspire to be with those morals, who’s entire superhero “career” is built around the belief that its his responsibility to help people because he’s been given the power to. When I was in middle school/high school, the old phase of superheroes I think was still a thing, with origin movie coming after origin movie, but then Kick-Ass came out. And for the first time I saw the story of a kid who put on a mask to help people, not because he was given super heroes by luck or by being chosen by celestial beings to defend their planet, but because he wanted to be a hero. It was stupid and dumb because becoming a masked vigilante in the real world where people often won’t hesitate hurting your or even killing you if you intervened in such a high risk situation, and this whole idea of it kind of glossed over me initially but I saw this movie and thought huh, Dave was right. Why hasn’t there been anyone who’s put on a mask and helped people. Super powers weren’t necessary to become heroes, but as even that movie showed that the powers is what makes it feasible. Being a super hero is dangerous and isn’t really at all practical. Embarrassingly enough, at that time I didn’t quite think about all of that before I thought what if I became a did the same thing. Like actually seriously thought about putting on a mask and fighting crime. I was naively optimistic. Had a name and a costume design and everything. Red Fist is the incredibly “creative” name I gave myself, just to top off this long list of embarrassing admissions . I even started taking martial arts lessons and all of this just by itself sounds hilariously dumb, anyone who knows me and knows of my physique knows just how awful of an idea that is. I wouldn’t have been able to defend myself from another kid my age let alone a grown adult probably with a weapon, much more lethal than whatever I chose to use if I ended up using any. I don’t know why I was so motivated to do this. Probably because I felt so weak and insignificant that I wanted to be able to put on a mask and be someone else, someone stronger and more capable of not just helping myself but others too. Fortunately, after a lesson or two of martial arts that even if I became a black belt and was capable of kicking ass, people have guns and knives. Bad guys don’t have as hard of a time aiming at you like they do the heroes in movies. I knew I would die day one. So, it became more of just a what if scenario I thought in my head. A continuing story of my crusades as the masked hero Red Fist that I kind of was excited to whenever I had some free time to just continue the narrative in my head and this almost soap opera like story of betrayal and responsibility and loss. And because I am a very dramatic person and I just always have a tendency to kill off any character that I have that are based on myself/my personality, it ended in my heroic sacrifice. I will admit that drive to help, to be a hero is still there although years of experiencing that drive have definitely decreased it just as a self defense mechanism. Anyway, Spider-man: Homecoming is coming out in a month and I’m pretty excited for that. As a fan of the masked web-crawler since the age of 7, I am looking forward to going in and getting that feeling again, of naive optimism about wanting to just do good. I also kind of hope the movie’s good. Even if it isn’t I’ll probably still end up going to see the sequel.