The Spiritual Reason for the Popularity of Superhero Movies
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of all the new super hero movies that have come out lately.
Seeing these movies hasn’t gotten old for me and it probably won’t. I’m definitely not alone in this, considering the box office scores. All the hype over superhero movies got me wondering…why is there such a fascination with the idea of superheroes?
I’ve read some articles online accrediting it to the technology that is now available. It makes it more entertaining to watch with all the CGI and explosions and stunts. This is true but not enough to explain the rise in popularity specifically in superhero movies, especially when that technology is available to other types of movies as well.
Another theory, which makes sense, is that it mirrors the craziness going on throughout the planet and offers a sense of hope, as if there are super heroes out there who are going to save us. In this way it offers a form of escapism and false hope.
While I do think the popularity of superhero movies comes down to a matter of mirroring, I don't think it’s in the way stated above; where we pretend a superhero comes along to save the day and we get some great entertainment value and distraction for a couple hours.
I think these movies are so popular because this is a time where we need to become real life superheroes. Not for someone to come save us, but for each and every one of us to be the hero of our own journey.
We love superhero movies because we see parts of ourselves in the heroes. Everything that we admire about them we have somewhere within us.
Each us are on a journey of empowerment, faith, and listening to our hearts. A journey towards learning to do what we feel intuitively to be right, regardless of what the outside pressures say.
When we watch a superhero movie, we get to watch these characters on their own hero’s journey right before our eyes. You can see the various phases and archetypes that exist within us all.
In her book, The Hero Within, author Carol S. Pearson describes the hero’s journey through 6 main archetypes; the orphan, the innocent, the magician, the wanderer, the warrior, and the altruist.
Lets look at Wonder Woman as an example of these archetypes that Pearson describes:
Diana starts as an Innocent, born in a stable community, feeling safe and protected. This state of grace falls and comes crashing down after the battle on the beach where she has to fight for the first time outside of training and watch the death of her aunt who is the greatest warrior among them (except Diana). As her world comes crashing down she flows into the Orphan which is the archetype of surviving difficulty where we learn realism from pain and disappointment.
Diana realizes how confining and even oppressive her life is so she steps into the Wanderer to find herself and figure out who she is. She leaves the Amazons with Steve to embark on her quest. This is seen as acting defiantly to her mother, although she ends up with her blessing. To Diana, however, it is not defiance but the simple act of following her heart.
Then she transcends from Wanderer to Warrior where she puts her courage to the test and faces her demons. She fights her enemies while on her quest. In doing so she steps into the role of the Altruist. When everyone else is pinned down in the trenches, she gets up and pushes forward in spite of the danger ahead. The carnage around her gives her the strength to do so, because we embody the Altruist when we realize our existence is more meaningful if we commit to something greater than ourselves. She commits to the lives of others, she dedicates her life and hers skills because she can and she knows it’s the right thing to do.
From there is her return to the role of the Innocent, where Diana can find a sense of happiness and peace knowing she is living her Truth even though there is still plenty of turmoil. At the end she becomes the Magician where one is capable of transforming lives and kingdoms.
Of course, these archetypes don’t move in one linear pattern, they are all always present and we act out certain roles more than others based on where we are in our lives. For Diana you can see the ebb and flow of these archetypes throughout the movie and into her role in Justice League.
Not all of us have a dramatic “save the world” story, but there are plenty of examples in everyday life. I can use myself as an example of a hero’s journey. There are multiple examples throughout my timeline so I am just going to pick one that is the most simple to get across.
First, I was born as an Innocent then fallen into Orphan because of a society and culture that didn’t allow for my own self expression in a way that would have been nurturing for me. Therefore I develop a rebel personality while feeling limited and confused.
Join Army and deploy to Afghanistan which catapults me into the Wanderer archetype, setting out on my own adventure and the obvious Warrior archetype in a more literal form.
This leads to a further experience of Orphan and shadow Warrior
As the Wanderer, I continue to search for meaning through reading, learning, business and traveling
I begin performing healing work while traveling and step into the Altruist role by helping others and connecting with people and God
Healing continues and I flow back to an Innocent with a sense of deep underlying happiness and peace in this life
I eventually embody the Magician archetype by having changed my life so dramatically and knowing how to continue to do so
We all have a journey and it doesn’t necessarily need to look heroic on the outside. Odds are that it won’t.
The journey is to authentically be yourself. With that as the intent the path will unfold all by itself and you will become the hero of your own story.
Watching these movies and paying attention to the characters can inspire you to take your own journey. We need you to. The Earth needs you to.
Stand up for what you believe in, face adversity with a smile, be of service to others. Express your own individuality, and you are already a hero.