As the pandemic wears on and on, I’ve been doing something I’ve never done before. What is that? I’m binge watching Netflix series. Superhero stories are the latest to have caught my attention. As a result, I’ve been thinking about being a superhero. (Note I use superhero as a non-gendered term) If you were a superhero how would you handle the many situations and questions related to being super?
Who Do You Save
No matter what super power you have, you’ll can save people in dire circumstances (at least according to the stories). But with billions of people in the world, there will be multiple people in similar situations who need a rescue. Who do you choose? Do you choose the ones who look like you (skin color)? Or do you choose locals (your neighborhood or city)? Do you save family over strangers or vice versa? Perhaps you choose people who speak the same language. Life isn’t like stories, there are no clear or easy choices. So how do you choose?
What About Collateral Damage
In Black Lightning, the subject of collateral damage comes up multiple times. Okay, you saved ten people, but injured five people? Maybe someone died. Superheroes often cause collateral damages to property. Buildings suffer cosmetic or structural damages. Do you hesitate to help until you can see no chance of collateral damage? Wait, you say, collateral damage is inevitable. Okay. Does that make collateral damage acceptable? Would you feel differently f you were the owner of the building that needs repairs or if your income stopped because of the damage?
What if the collateral damage the evil villain seeking to stop or destroy you causes death and destruction? Are you responsible? After all, the damage wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t used your super powers.
Doing Wrong to do Right
Black Lightning also brings up the idea of doing wrong to do greater good. The police can’t search the murderer’s house because they can’t get a warrant, but your super power allows you to search it. You find incriminating evidence that can put the criminal in jail for life. But if you break into the house—you’re breaking the law. Does bringing the murderer to justice justify breaking the law? What if it’s a petty thief’s house? Or the home of a drug lord? Or what if you enter the wrong house accidentally? Does law and order only apply if you can’t get away with breaking the law?
The Addiction of Being Super
In The Umbrella Academy, Allison’s power is in her voice. She can whisper a command to you and you’ll do it. Her knowledge that she could do that and her frustration with her young daughter combined, and she used her power on her own daughter for her personal advantage.
Bewitched, a television series from the 60s, featured the witch Samantha. She used her magic to clean the house and help her human husband. Consequences were funny or nonexistent. In Charmed, (both the 1998 version and the 2018 one ), the witches suffer magical consequences if they use their power for personal gain.
If you were a superhero in today’s world, there’d be no magical consequences. Would you use your powers to make your life easier? Would you be able to resist using your powers for personal riches or to show off or gain an Instagram following?
Would You Cross the Line
When do you cross the line from superhero to super villain? If you’ve allowed yourself to break “minor” laws, would you know when your super-powered self crossed the line? If you’ve justified all the other things, it might be easy to justify crossing the line once, then twice, then whenever…
If You Were a Superhero
Yes, with great power comes great responsibility. When I watch those stories, I’m rooting for the good superhero. But I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were one. How would I deal with the situations above and many more? For example, is killing the dead (zombies or vampires) against the law?
The main character in my WIP, Paladina, has superpowers. I hadn’t thought about the ethics of superpowers much before this year. Now, I realize I’ve written some of those ethical questions into the story already. I can’t wait to delve into it deeper. Unfortunately, it’s not the next book I’ll be writing, so it’ll be awhile before Paladina comes out. (Sorry!)
Have you watched or read superhero stories? Which ones do you recommend? And please tell me, what you would do if you were a superhero?