A while back, right after Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, I saw a lot of people going on and on about how much Batman sucks, especially in contrast with Cap. (That debate may still be raging somewhere on Tumblr and I just don’t see it because I unfollowed people, because life’s too short to pit the characters I love against each other.) Blah blah grimdark blah blah rich asshole blah blah brooding blah blah etc.
But the way I see it, both Bruce Wayne — and the rest of the Batfamily — and Steve Rogers are the kind of people who, upon seeing an injustice, upon seeing people hurt, throw themselves into the fight fists swinging. Doesn’t matter if they havetheir suits and their weapons: they keep going until either the perpetrator is out of commission or they can’t fight themselves anymore. And even once they’re down and out, they try to get back up for one more blow.
Take away all of the Bat’s gadgets and money, take away Cap’s serum and shield, and what do you have left?
Well — someone with the same powers as me, plus the tenacity and the determination to help people be safe.
Maybe that’s my power fantasy.
A while back my roommate and I intervened in a situation in which a woman was being harassed by a guy, who ended up getting physically intimidating. I remember it was an unthinking, snap decision to go help, and I got scared right in the middle of it because I was so not prepared for how aggressive he became, and I hope that I would do it again anyway, because there were people who saw this woman fighting with this guy and walked right past and Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers would never do that.
My favorite superheroes are not very super when you come right down to it. They have no advantages of super strength or invulnerability or psychic powers. Fundamentally, they’re just the kind of people who reject the bystander effect whether or not that’s the smart thing to do, because it’s the right thing to do. Clint Barton, Barbara Gordon, Clarice Starling, Peggy Carter, Frodo and Sam. I mean, clearly, that rejection of the bystander effect applies to pretty much every superhero you care to name (except maybe Guy Gardner? That guy’s kind of a jerk). That’s why they’re heroes. But I like best the ones who do it even when they’re at a disadvantage.
The show I’m working on right now, Little Bee, has a lot to say about being the person who steps forward when no one else will. There are times when asking a stranger if they’re okay seems as unthinkable as standing in front of a bullet for them — and just as heroic.
This show also has Batman in it. Not a coincidence, I think.
The difference between me and Steve Rogers is that I frequently fail to extend that hand, to call out of he injustices I see. Because damn, that stuff is hard. Because I’m running late. Because I’m uncertain. Because I’m embarrassed. Because I’m scared.
But that’s what superheroes do for us, right? They give us something to aim for.
And what Steve and Bruce tell me is that we don’t need utility belts. We don’t have to wait for an origin story to find us. We’ll be enough.