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“I just want a normal life!

August 17, 2010

So superhero stories are the new black, apparently. It seems like you can’t turn around without tripping over some network’s drama series about people developing surprising powers. And they all have one thing in common:

Almost everybody in the show is upset about these powers.

Look, I didn’t fit in as a kid. If it weren’t for a serious cultural revolution that has made it genuinely hip to be square, I wouldn’t fit in as an adult. Are you kidding me? I’m gay, I don’t believe in God, and I know way too fucking much about Star Wars. I know what it is to occasionally wish I weren’t different. But I also know what it is to accept and embrace what makes me different.

And you know what kind of being different I wouldn’t have minded for one second? Fucking superpowers.

FFS. Do you have any idea how often I’ve daydreamed about superpowers? I bet you do, because I bet you have too. Man, what I wouldn’t give for the ability to read people’s thoughts, teleport, or for the love of shit soar through the air faster than a speeding bullet.[1]

But no. The people in these shows and movies crave the mundane. Who the fuck is like that?

Hey look. I get it. It’s a metaphor for not fitting in. Being a mutant = being a queer, alright, that version of the symbolism is valid but it has been done. Can’t we just get characters acting like some goddamn human beings and being fucking thrilled to be special?

At least make other characters call them freaks and give them a complex about it, don’t start them off insecure about their awesomeness from square one. I promise you, no teenager wants to have a normal, cliched shitty high school experience. They would not rather do the tux-limo-prom Norman Rockwell thing than be able to melt things with their eyes.

They would not. This goes double for adults. Human beings are fucking crazy and you knock the balance of power out of whack for so much as a second, most people are not going to crawl back into their cages and wait for it to be over. They’re going to grab it with both hands and ride it out.

I know, I know. The refusal of the call is part of the archetypal hero’s journey. But eventually they ought to accept. Otherwise there’s no journey. I’m sick of characters too angsty to do anything. Make them do something they learn to regret. That’s much more interesting.


  1. Not to mention looking that good in spandex tights, but I digress.

From → rants, writing

3 Comments
  1. Jeremy permalink

    Abuse of power, especially by a “hero” or an otherwise save-the-cat-kind-of-character seems a much more human, vulnerable, believable and interesting ordeal than wishing to be rid of said power. The refusal of the call could come in so many other forms like being scared of the powers, reprogramming survival instincts, etc. during the discovery phase or even just the reluctance to be unselfish with the powers.

    Certainly all of these ideas have been done, but I agree that exploring those ideas seem more compatible with our sense of wonder and imagination than the character essentially saying, “Man, I really wish I couldn’t fly anymore.”

    Cypher’s story from The Matrix deals with this a bit, but A) he’s not a hero or likable character, and B) his arc is fairly shallow from a character depth and emotional perspective, which leads us back to A).

    Then again, maybe those stories are just a way to make the masses feel better about being “normal.”

    • I agree, though Cypher does not have “superpowers” but puts forward a real interesting philosophical issue that your reality is defined in part by what you know but largely but what you do not know. (“Ignorance is bliss”, according to him).(What he craves is fame, money and comfort)

      “Then again, maybe those stories are just a way to make the masses feel better about being “normal.””
      Indeed.

  2. Quote:
    “I promise you, no teenager wants to have a normal, cliched shitty high school experience. They would not rather do the tux-limo-prom Norman Rockwell thing than be able to melt things with their eyes.
    They would not. This goes double for adults. Human beings are fucking crazy and you knock the balance of power out of whack for so much as a second, most people are not going to crawl back into their cages and wait for it to be over. They’re going to grab it with both hands and ride it out.” Unquote
    In all fairness those two paragraph sound true but then you might be describing a superVILLAIN and not a superHERO.
    And indeed on this subject I find Superman II to be one of the best ever (with the super-bad guys embracing all their powers and creating havoc and Superman giving up his ,in order to get a normal human life, hats off to Christopher Reeve the true man of Steele).
    I agree most of us had at one point fantasized about superpowers. The dilemma comes about when you start thinking what would their use be.
    See, the worst problem for an individual with superpowers might not be the bad guys but his/her own sense of morality since problems that were outside their reach and scope now become all too real.
    Now there is not much you can do to stop wars but if you could fly and stop bullets shouldn’t you try to?.
    How about the environment, world hunger, human pain, overpopulation, diseases even death. You cease to have a life.
    What is someone to do ? And do not forget in real life every time you solve a problem you might create one worst in the process.
    And hope you succeed, if there is something worst than failure it may be a SUPER-failure. Imagine having super powers and screwing up, if you want to talk about a pseudo real setting, I can envision someone getting superpowers and unintentionally killing some other , heck ! people do that when they get a drivers license, why would they not screw up bad with newly minted superpowers?
    It took me several years to become an accomplished martial artist (good enough to capture several tournament titles and teach to kids) and that is more valuable value to me than getting any superpowers. Or what I am trying to say is that something EARNED is much more satisfying for me than something GIVEN or accidentally FOUND. (Of course take this as the opinion of guy in his early 30’s, in my teenage years I might have said something different, it seems with age you become a bit philosophical and deluded.
    The mundane is another great topic. Imagine a guy extracted from the medieval times to be shown your life, he would not believe how awesome it is!, you can communicate with people on the other side of the globe, and have: computers, cars , planes, refrigerators, I-pad, and of course the best human invention :Toilet paper !!. That medieval guy would love to trade places with you in a heartbeat, to get to live your life and do cool 3D conversions and films. Yet we think of it as mundane. A matter of perspective may be.
    I bet that after 30 years of flying and getting cats down from trees ,even Superman would think of his life as mundane (He might be craving teleportation at this point or to be blond like Brad Pitt, who knows).
    So we need even more powers to escape the routine but what is the price? Dr Manhattan anyone?
    Lets take it to the extreme and we end up with the most powerful being of all: the omnipotent God.
    How boring would be to have all that infinite time in your hands, and all that limitless power and no one to relate to? Would you like to be God? Guess not, so at that point someone may say “I just want a normal life”.

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