Why does Spider-Man do it for you when Superman doesn’t?
Spider-Man is amazing, while Superman is, well, an outsider. Disagree? Why do you think you prefer Superman over the webbed one?
While I was researching and writing a different article about Peter Parker, it dawned on me that I must have some latent emotional connection to Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man. And it’s not something I had ever thought about until now. When it comes to your favourite superheroes, maybe you could perhaps look a little more closely at why you choose them over others.
Spider-Man and Batman, please!
It was a lot more obvious to me why Batman is my favourite superhero, and that’s because of his darker side, which I’ve always been fascinated by. But it could also be that I feel a connection to Batman because he experienced so much loss when he was a child. Batman lost two parents, and I lost one. Immediately that connection to Batman made me feel like I truly understood this fictional character. Almost like we were connected by pain and loss.
Batman is conflicted and dealing with a lot of turmoil in his life. Batman is the loner (well, at least he was until he started hanging out with Robin). And even that relationship says something about connection and feelings and loss. Robin lost everyone he loved, and so did Bruce. There’s that connection again, bringing characters together. And we know that works in real-life situations. You’re a lover of music, so you join a music club. You love to swim, so you join a swimming team. You’re a recovering alcoholic, so you get a sponsor, and you join AA. These are real-world examples of people connecting over something in common with others, even if it’s something as difficult as addiction or grief.
Even if it is fictional, it probably goes a lot deeper if you look. I am not a psychologist, but I love to speculate about these things in life, our attraction and our connection to these fictional characters. How does it happen? Why does it happen? Why this one over that one? You get the picture – there are a lot of questions. I wonder if you, dear reader, have questions like this too?
Let’s burst that bubble, shall we?
I am sure there are many fans of superheroes and even villains that would debunk this. You like this superhero because you do; there’s no other connection to them other than you think they look pretty cool when they’re kicking ass. Okay, I accept that. Maybe I am the type of person that likes to think of the possibilities beyond the “wow, look, a superhero!” Maybe I like to look a little deeper. I am sure I am not the only one.
It seems like too much of a coincidence for me to like Batman and Spider-Man over Superman and Wonder Woman. I have absolutely no connection to either of these characters. There must be a reason for that. Superman comes from another planet. The only reason why he is a superhero is that the sun that warms his skin also makes him almost invincible. But he’s not from earth. To me, he is an outsider, not someone I could ever connect to. The same thing goes for Wonder Woman. I am sure these characters have many great reasons to love them; I don’t see that or, importantly, feel that on any level.
What about the science behind it?
While reading about the reasons why people love superheroes and heroism, I came across an interesting article on Bustle, which states:
Much has been written about the appeal of superheroes in regards to children and adults. In Smithsonian, clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg wrote that origin stories help us cope with adversity in our own lives, allowing us to find “finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose.” Some have compared superheroes to modern, secular Greek deities — possessed of fantastical abilities, but still imperfect (except for Superman, who remains #flawless to this day) and relatable. There’s something comforting about seeing characters with extraordinary powers struggle with ordinary problems — not to mention the knowledge that no matter how “flawed” they might be, they’ll do the right thing in the end. Most of the time.
There are countless articles online trying to answer why we like superheroes and why we relate to certain superheroes over others. This article, written by Heather Ness, a clinical psychologist, says that there are underlying reasons why certain people find connections with specific superheroes. She explains that some of us are looking to make sense of the things we are feeling. Loss is a huge motivator for this, as is acceptance and guilt. We are looking for ways to work through the feelings we cannot resolve within ourselves; we are looking to make sense of the world and our place in it.
And in conclusion…
It’s just a feeling I get when I think about why I like a thing. Maybe there is a direct connection on some other level, or maybe it’s just that I like these things. But I would like to believe it goes a little deeper than that. I think Heather Ness is onto something with her analysis. And maybe Superman really is worth looking up to and admiring. But I’m pretty happy where I am, so I’m still rooting for Batman to find peace within himself and for Peter Parker to finally connect with a mentor worthy of his devotion and admiration (like Doctor Strange).
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Freelance entertainment writer and reviewer. Visit my blog on https://thebrokenquill.com.