• March 31, 2015

Iowa State Daily

Brown: Comic book heroes can be real-world role models

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Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:14 pm, Mon Jun 18, 2012.

In today’s world, celebrities have replaced heroes and heroines as society’s role models. No longer does the average American look up to people because those people did something to truly set themselves apart from and above the rest of us. Instead, we look at people because they are on our TV screen. Heroes, not celebrities, are the role models we should imitate to make our actions ring out with greatness.

For example, I am sure Kate Middleton is a fine person, but if little girls want to be like her, what exactly should they be doing? Celebrities like her cannot act as role models for being a better person because they have no role other than being just another person. It is only when we try to emulate the great deeds of heroes that we end up bettering ourselves and the world. That greatness will be something like the inventiveness of the Wright Brothers or the courage and leadership of George Washington.

In a world that cannot find its heroes, we are without our guiding stars. We have no more shining beacons of men and women that show each of us the path to greatness. We still can find such illuminated heroes, however, if we simply pick up a comic book.

Comic book heroes are probably best known for their boy scout attitudes and spandex outfits, but in a world lacking in real-life heroes, comic books do offer promising stand-in exemplars. All we need to do is look at these illustrated actors as models — who we can emulate like a real person.

Before anyone starts jumping in front of bullets or taking on whole buildings of bad guys, though, it is important to realize comic book heroes as models are just that: models. Being inspired by Superman defeating Lex Luthor doesn’t mean we all need to go find a rich bald guy and harass him; it means we need to look at our lives and find similar ways to make ourselves closer to being “great.”

Spider-Man may be able to save a runaway train from crashing into a stranded van, but at the heart of that act, he is taking an inherently risk-filled action to help others. We do not have the web-slinging abilities of Spidey, but we can still act. We cannot all patrol New York City every day, but when even a small opportunity to act presents itself, we can seize it. The important thing to think about when trying to emulate heroes is not the scale on which we act but the action itself.

One specific way comic book heroes show us how we can act is their penchant for sticking up for others. Not to say we can all defend the world like Captain America by kicking Nazi tail across Europe, but we can stick up for others around us. When we see someone being bullied or harassed, we do not have to stand there and pretend to not see it, we can speak up and put a stop to it.

Leading by example, not by word or donation, is an important distinction we can see comic book heroes exemplify. Bruce Wayne does not hire himself out to speak about making Gotham City a better place, just as he does not give piles of money to Gotham police. He actually goes out as Batman and punches bad guys like the Joker in the face. He shows everyone else what can be done. He does not just tell them or give them money with the expectation they will do something about it.

A man who gives his neighbor a power drill to build a birdhouse does not feel pride for having built a birdhouse, just as a donation of money should not make someone feel like they have taken an action to be proud of.

We all have our own unique talents and skills that truly can be used to make a difference in the world, if we can only see greatness where it lies and attempt to create it in ourselves for the world by acting, like our comic book heroes do.

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