I was all set today to do some of my usual advice for graduating college seniors, the first of which being that the real world sucks, and you should probably just stay in college. But then I came across this story from Blastr.com about a school banning “Wrestling, Super Hero Play, and Monster Games”… you know, all those things that made pre-school (and some sections of High School) worth living. And here’s a good lesson for graduating seniors: if you’re passionate about something and you see wrong-doing, then do something to fix it.
Why the hell would we want to ban children from expressing creativity, passion, and sense of adventure. Let them be superheroes before they're too old to know better.
Let’s get the academic stuff out of the way first. Let’s not forget that all of the earliest stories are about Superheroes. That’s the first place the mind has gone. The earliest recorded stories are of fantastic men and women doing fantastic things usually against fantastic odds and fantastic creatures. One could even call it “fantastic.” Perhaps four fantastic individuals can form a team one day.
One of the first heroes, Hercules, was a dude who was half god and had to perform miraculous feats while battling a goddess. (And his evil mother. That also leads to mother-tropes in fantasy and early fiction, but that’s another post. Let’s focus out outrage on this Superhero thing for now.) One of the earliest and boringest things they make you read in school is Beowulf, a dude who fights an evil monster and dragon, a feat that no other hero could perform. It’s almost like it’s “superheroic.” And that’s one of the earliest recorded stories, ever. But I’ve discussed the early origins of Superheroes to death, and why you should love them and bring a Superman comic into class for your next book report.
I get, logically why some school administrators want to ban “Super Hero Play.” (Note how I spell it. I spell it the right way.) I get that ultimately, they want to stop 5 year olds from rough housing, which is sort of like asking the rain not to be wet, or Ben Affleck to stop Ben Afflecking. Kids are going to be kids, and they’re going to rough house. So, why are we stopping them from throwing on a towel, saying, “I’m Superman” and rushing to save the day?
Superheroes are an ingrained part of our culture. Of all cultures. Why can’t we use them to teach kids what Superhero play is all about? (I can’t keep spelling it their way, guys. Sorry.) Why can’t we use superheroes to teach responsible lessons? Superman protects the innocent because he can. He’s stronger than everyone else. Batman, despite the fact that can knock a man down with the wave of two fingers, resorts to violence as a last method. He dresses as a giant bat to scare people into submission. Spider-man is a kid trying to find his way. Green Lantern is an intergalactic space cop with a magic ring that can make anything he wants. (See. Now you know why the movie failed.) The list goes on and on.
Or why not use these lessons to start to get to stories about heroes from the past. Superman is a gateway to the Greek Myths and ancient gods that expected it’s heroes to be larger than life. Batman is a ripoff of countless heroes that came before him, not the least of which being the Scarlet Pimpernel. What about the superheroic team-up of Athos, Porthos, Aremis, and D’Artangan?
I remember when I was little, I created my own superhero. He was invincible. I remember making my mother carry around a cape and a mask that she made for me so I could become him at any time. And while I knew about Superman, Batman, and Spiderman, this was a superhero of my own creation. And that made it all the more special to me. I still remember that hero until this day. (If you’re nice to me, one day I’ll share his name.) And while I like to think I grew out of it, the Green Lantern Ring (or some variation) I wear every day is my little reminder that superheroes are always going to be a part of me. And sometimes, no matter how old I get, it’s just fun to pretend you are one.
I’d hate to think that there’s some kid out there who gets to be denied pretending he’s a superhero because someone is afraid he’ll get hurt. There’s plenty of time to get hurt out there, and putting on a fake cape really is the least of your concerns.
Just remember to teach them that no matter what they’re wearing, they can’t really fly.