Over the past few years, I’ve made a pretty solid brand for myself as an enormous Marvel fan. My love for superheroes — even DC ones — came from a young age.
As a little girl, I always wanted to be someone important. A simple astronaut didn’t cut it for me. I wanted to be something bigger, something, someone who made a difference for millions of people. I came to the simple conclusion, I wanted to be a superhero.
So, like any little girl with too much time on her hands, I became obsessed. I did my research, granted unlike typical research, this was actually enjoyable. I watched every superhero movie out there. From the James Bond series, Fast and Furious, Marvel and many more. I deeply fell in love with the idea that I would someday be like the characters I saw on screen.
Obviously, younger me’s hopes and aspirations were not crushed by society yet. The older I grew, the more ridiculous I knew my dream sounded, yet a small part of me couldn’t help but hold on to it.
Holding on to that dream allowed me to have an excuse to rewatch my favorite superheroes and destroy the villains over and over again until I had practically memorized these scenes. All this “research” has led me to one generic pattern — a superhero isn’t a superhero because of their powers or their cool gadgets. What makes a superhero has everything to do with their mentality and nothing to do with their physical abilities (though super strength does tend to help).
A superhero is someone who, usually is at an advantage in life and uses this advantage to help others. The most basic on-screen example of this is Captain America. Captain America’s entire character arc is his growth from someone who doesn’t want to help S.H.I.E.L.D. to arguably one of the strongest avengers.
For my non-Marvel junkies, I’ll try to keep this plot summary as basic as I can. When Steve Rogers wakes up from being frozen (he was flung into the arctic, where he stayed for 70 years), Nick Fury approaches him in modern-day New York, asking him to help with “a mission with worldwide ramifications,” according to Marvel. At first, he’s reluctant. He left his family and friends behind in time and is upset and alone.
However, with some convincing, he realizes that the powers he achieved when he took the super-soldier serum, can help the present reality. That was the first sign of him being a superhero. He wanted to use his powers to make an impact, according to Marvel. If you stripped away the shield and the muscles, you’d get left with an extremely scrawny Steve Rogers, yet still ready to jump into battle.
A great real-life example is Robert Downey Jr. Ironman himself is a strong character, but looking at RDJ’s actions is a telltale sign that he was perfect for the role.
Close to when he was rocketed into stardom, Downey made some serious life-changing decisions. He quit substance abuse, cleaned up his act and soon became the lovable and charismatic man we know as the face of Marvel. However, his actions after Endgame helped the world see his true characteristics.
Rather than enjoying his time, finally out of a ten-year contract, he wasted no time to launch a climate change coalition with technology, earning him the label as a “real-life iron man,” according to Good Morning America.
Side-note, while RDJ is not technically in retirement, he has retired from playing Ironman, one of his biggest roles, so I consider him retired (since I have marvel-centric standards). With his net worth, close to half a billion, most people would sit back and enjoy retirement, sipping on cocktails on the beach. Instead, he used his platform to initiate change.
These two simple examples show a different approach to achieve the same thing: a change for the better.
Steve Rogers, though he’s fictional, was ready to make the change when he had nothing. Robert Downey Jr has everything but wants to continue to positively impact future generations. The commonality — they’re willing to give everything to push humanity towards better (though Steve Rogers enlisted to help a fictional timeline).
This mentality is what makes people superheroes. That’s the trait every activist has. They want to change our society for the better. They’re the real-life superheroes.