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  • John Edwards


Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Recently, Eric Kripke said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the abundance of superhero movies was sort of dangerous because of its potential to “train an entire generation to wait for someone strong to come in and save you.” The showrunner for Amazon’s The Boys then extrapolated that thought to the logical and timely conclusion that this opens the door for populists, fascists, authoritarians, whomever, to step in and present themselves as that hero or savior.

While I understand Kripke’s point, his premise is fundamentally flawed. People don’t rely on these super-powered protagonists; whether they’re Olympian Gods or caped avengers, they relate to them.

Put another way, when was the last time you saw a movie or read a book and imagined yourself as the innocent bystander clutching helplessly at your purse or briefcase? No one I know has ever once imagined themselves saying, “Thank you for saving the day.” Instead, they’re the ones saying, “You’re welcome, Citizen,” and then leaping a tall building in a single bound.

This perspective is grounded in the Bettelheim-ian thought that fiction has function. Bruno Betelheim, in his book, The Uses of Enchantment, discusses how fairy tales, like those told by the Brothers Grimm, are intentionally graphic, gory, and even unsettling by modern standards in order to expose us to the world’s horrors and cruelty, thereby helping to develop a mental schema and emotional framework for coping with life’s inevitable vagaries. But nowhere in this framework is there mention of waiting for help like a damsel in a tower.

Damsels in distress aren’t just annoying, like any character that’s reactive instead of proactive, they’re emblematic of poor writing. Sure, heroes and heroines get into tight spots, but you won’t find Indiana Jones or Sarah Connor just sitting around, resigned to their fate.

Stories about heroes inspire us. Even though we can’t fly or bench press a Toyota, we all have the power to make a difference in the world around us. All we may lack is an example to show us the way.

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