Superheroes: Our New Pantheon

For what seems like forever, superheroes have always been ingrained into our pop culture. From the pages of books to the silver screen, one thing has become apparent, maybe even obvious when it comes to the modern day hero. They are our idols. But what if this isn’t only a modern day thing, or for that matter, only a superhero thing. Perhaps Superheroes are literally our idols. Our gods who we worship. Hard to believe? Well how about we start with the obvious stuff.

If you were to go up to any fan of many superheroes and ask them why they love the hero they love, you might get  a wide variety of answers. Interesting powers, cool suits or maybe even how they relate to them- but we’ll get to that later. For now, we should observe one thing that is consistent across the board when it comes to asking this question about Superheroes. The fact that they almost always teach us something.

 Now, it’s obvious that when it comes to fictional characters that we are bound to learn something from them. Jean-Luc Picard may teach us the value in empathy, almost in the same way that Tyler Durden may teach the value in the lack of it. But never before has there been a more shining example of this than when it comes to superheroes.

 Let’s take the most obvious of examples here. Superman. When you think of Superman, you are unquestionably thinking of the most iconic Superhero in all of history. Here is a being who represents absolute, lawful, good. He stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way in the face of all evil and has become the perfect archetype of that.

So it’s no question that eventually someone like Superman would teach those kinds of values, not only to the people he saves, but to the audience he is in front of. It’s easy to see the parallels here between Superman and our perception of a god in this sense, how we would be inspired to uphold the values of this character.

But it’s easy to look at Superman and see a god in him. If I were to go over the religious symbolism on Superman Returns, that alone would be its own article. So let’s look at many more heroes.  Like, say, the Justice League.

Composed of an entire collection of Superheroes (members and numbers vary, depending on the story arc), the Justice League is what can only be considered a Pantheon. No matter who is in the Justice League at any time, the one thing that always holds true is that no two members are ever exactly the same. Different powers, very different personalities, and most importantly, different values, are always held between the members. While Superman may choose to bring justice through lawful rule, promoting the value of trust in the law, his teammate Batman, would choose to use fear, instead inspiring a healthy distrust of it. Wonder Woman might simply be in it for a fight and whoever knows what flash is up to?

Now look at Pantheon of Greek Gods. Zeus, Hades, Athena, Poseidon. Different people or different personalities with different values with different goals. All of them ruling over the everyday man and inspiring entire ideologies to them, and the people who read about them. If you are a Spartan warrior from ancient Greece (well first off, congrats on the Time Travel), then chances are that you worshipped Ares more than Athena,

The same way how if you value willpower in the face of struggle, you might just be wearing a Green Lantern ring.

 In mainstream pop culture, the line between Superhero and Greek God has blurred to the point where it’s hard to distinguish between the two. Is this a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so. Good? Well that’s for you to decide.

But in the end, what we have are extraordinary heroes in an ordinary world, put into amazing adventures. And along the way, we realize that we not only have a lot to learn about these beings, but also about ourselves. It’s a common thought to say that there is a bit of God in all of us. So who says that it is so crazy that we may also have a bit of Superman as well?

Contributor: David Eli Voltaire

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