Since immemorial times the human being has needed heroes to understand his society. Ceaseless economic crises and a collective feeling of insecurity drives us to seek explanation and find refuge in imaginary characters.
But why do we need to create those characters ? Do they have a positive influence on our society or are they simply a reflection of our sense of powerlessness? Are myths a consequence of economy? Or can they shape reality and open new possibilities for mankind?
Robin Hood : Hero of the people
Robin Hood is a good example of hero determined by the social and economical needs of the time. Basically, he’s an antihero and his character has evolved over time, era and thus morals. First off-the-law and wrestler, then bloodthirsty bandit, dispossessed knight or vigilante …. The economic situation of this time shaped Robin Hood.
Here vigilante Robin would be a noble dispossessed of his land and fighting for a just cause, steal from the rich and give to the poor. This is a lament against the imposition of the kingdom of England, the first class struggle. In other words Robin Hood is a superman, his true identity remains unclear, sometimes noble, sometimes bandit but it is mostly a reflection of a precarious economic situation that has made him a legendary hero.
From the stock market crash of 1929 to the attacks of world Trade Center
-The 30s: The Birth of superheroes –
The 1929 stock market crash gives another example of how myths answer to economy.
The black years are a real driving force for the creation of superheroes as they are defined today. Thus the title of the first superhero returns to Superman that appears in June 1938 in the first issue of “Action Comics” for DC.
In 1939 Batman follows, also published by DC comics just before “the justice league of America”.
People collect and exchange comics book because they are affordable and a way to escape from the reality in a really dark time.
9.11 the World Trade Center –
The attacks of World Trade Center will reinvigorate the world of superheroes. The feeling of constant insecurity of the population will push them back in the New York of Stan Lee, infested by the mob and ultra-violent but certainly protected by a growing number of super heroes.
It is also the first stock exchange crash since 1930 and the birth of the genre and this economic crisis is indeed a vehicle for change in our society as well as superheroes one. They are suffering (yes still now) of the crisis the same way as our society because. Even if they live in an alternative world, they share all our daily issues.
The situation is the one we know: falling purchasing power, constant feeling of insecurity, recession and rising unemployment, all this pushing society to aspire to a little getaway, and comics reborn.
And superheroes, as a mirror of our society have also our problems. The employment problems force spider-Man, a freelance photographer, to take picture of his character under his secret identity to interest the press and to earn an income.
Besides the young man in a precarious situation still lives with his uncle and aunt, the couple also have to count every penny from their retirement to live.
Same for Superman: more interested by Lois than his work, he was forced to produce content to avoid dismissal and suffered bullying by his superiors and colleagues. In Gotham Batman, has to face with the stock hazards suffered by his company and the significant loss of revenue that entails.
The super-heroic world follows the evolution of our society the characters are affected by the crisis, less full of themselves and their powers, closer to the man than God, it’s the humanizing of superheroes.
When heroes change the reality
Superheroes crystallize the fears and ideals of an America in search of remedies to the dark reality, they are a reflection of the society whether in times of peace and in times of crisis. More often in times of crisis, as we have seen. All its developments will influence the market, the genre, the key players and even on our society.
But the fact is that economy itself is now becoming something completely new. Sharing economy, crowdfunding, MOOCS: we are shifting into a new paradigm when all classical concepts of economy are no longer available, as Jeremy Rifkin explained in his most recent book Zero Marginal Cost Society.
What new kind of hero will arise from this emerging reality? Maybe the answer is that this will bring down the separation between the hero and the ordinary man.
Who are Batman and Iron Man both favorites of the public except men ready to fight for justice? Do you not see a cause and effect? And if we all aspired to become Batman rather than identifying us with fictional characters, isn’t justice everyone’s business as well as society. Justice, protection, and honor the myth of the super-hero like the devil of Cathars should it continue?
Can’t we replace them and become the defender of our society, stop believing that only a handful of men have the power to decide our fate, are we not the first to be affected by this situation? If the fate of a tortured cat affects us and exceeds the limits of the cyberspace to become reality why are we leaving the fate of human being to other men, why do not we do it by ourselves, all together?
May the era of sharing economy and collective intelligence bring the rise of the collective hero!