You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Heroes.

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superheroes 534104 960 720 300x225 You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Heroes.

(Reposted from Steve at Nerdfitness.com)

My friend Mike was orphaned before he really got to know his parents.

Fortunately, he was was adopted and raised by a loving family. They didn’t have much, but they did whatever they could to provide for him. Despite growing up with these amazing people, Mike always felt like he didn’t belong.

He did what he could to hide his real feelings: that he’d never belong, that he’d always BE on the outside looking in, that nobody really appreciated him.

You see, the real version of Mike, the part he locked away inside, would terrify others. So he kept it bottled up and put on this act that everything is cool when inside he was deeply conflicted. I was fortunate enough to get to spend quality time with Mike, get to know him for who he really was, and I learned to accept all parts of him.

My other friend Jimmy is also an orphan surprisingly, though his path has been drastically different from Mike’s.

You see, Jimmy was born rich. Like, Scrooge McDuck rich. He WAS old enough to remember his parent’s accidental deaths, and it crushed him.  Although all of Jimmy’s needs were taken care of (thank you, life insurance policy), this environment and upbringing created some challenges.

I’ve known Jimmy for years, and it’s been tough to watch him work through layer up on layer of destructive, obsessive, rageaholic behavior.

Like many of us, Jimmy’s been searching for meaning his entire life – everything else has been handed to him, and it’s left him unfulfilled. Who could blame him? So he needs more, thinking this will fill the hole in his heart, at all times.

Despite all the money, and toys, and attractive women, and success, there’s one thing he’ll never have:

Enough.

He is hurting internally, and yet he feels like he can’t share this with anybody. After all, nobody wants to hear about the problems a very wealthy, good looking person has, right? “Those problems aren’t real! Try not being able to put food on the table for your family!”

I’ve known both Mike and Jimmy since I was a little kid, and have grown up with them.

Two orphans with tragic lives, two very different upbringings, and real internal pain and shame that they feel they can’t share with anybody.

These tales might sound vaguely familiar to you.

You see, Mike’s real name is Clark. Clark Kent. Better known as Superman.

And Jimmy? That’s Bruce Wayne. Better known as Batman.

Superheroes are flawed. That’s what makes them interesting.

We all have superheroes that we love and relate closely to.

Have you noticed something about the best characters? The ones that are written so convincingly that we can’t help to become deeply invested in them as people?

They have critical flaws and tons of baggage that often sabotage their own efforts. Although they are superhuman, they are – with the exception of Superman – human.

And that’s what makes them interesting.

Every superhero that’s worth a damn has a strong character flaw or weakness. Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, sure. But really it’s that he will always feel like an outsider and feels an overwhelming obsession to save people who don’t appreciate or understand him. Batman’s weakness is the fact that he’ll never be good enough, never sacrifice enough, and never save enough people. Enough is never enough.

Let’s go across the aisle to Marvel, and we’ll find similarly flawed characters in Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Tony Stark’s Iron Man. These guys’ flaws are very plain to see, and it’s what makes us love them. Hell, even squeaky clean Captain America only really became interesting when he was rewritten with some edge and… gasp… flaws!

How about female heroes like Black Widow? Natasha Romanoff was raised and trained as a freaking assassin and will spend the rest of her existence trying to right the wrongs of her past.

We love these flawed superheroes, because it makes them relatable, vulnerable, and REAL. It gives them an identity; as readers of comics or viewers of a movie, we get to look inside these people and know that they feel real pain too, and we see parts of ourselves in them.

We accept two things:

  • These superheroes are fictional characters.
  • There are parts of them I can relate to and learn from.

We accept these characters for who they are, and know that their flaws don’t define them but in fact, have shaped them into who they are.

Why, then, don’t we do this with our real-life heroes and ourselves?
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