David Hines
Superpsyche me
By David Hines
June 5, 2014

Superheroes have become ubiquitous in film recently. Since the federal government dispenses grants even for the study of turtles' sex lives, some enterprising researcher might strike it rich by proposing a study of the modern psyche as reflected in choice of superheroes.

Superman is the illegal alien who represents truth, justice, and the American way. The irony was not so apparent when he first appeared several decades ago. The guy with the eternally good attitude appeals to those who enjoy the simplistic appeal to patriotism, the fact that Kal-El is an undocumented immigrant notwithstanding.

Batman has been through so many film interpretations as to be a peripatetic Rorschach test. The black attire suggests a critical need for psychoanalysis, and scriptwriters have been happy to oblige.

Iron Man is the technological approach to dealing with bad guys. Viewers enjoy Tony Stark's flippant attitude as portrayed in the films. Iron Man might appeal to those who believe the public-private partnership to be a wonderful concept. It suits them that technocrats can thumb their noses at authority.

Thor is part primal force, part patronizing alien. Yet he is somewhat accessible to Earthling women who find him hunky. One might suspect that the big hammer that gives him power comes from the communist banner of hammer and sickle and represents the working man, but that doesn't sound quite right. He's a prince, an aristocrat in his home territory – not at all the communist sort of hero. There might be some mixed messages here.

The impulsive person has to love the Hulk. The madder he gets the more powerful he is. His alter ego Bruce Banner is a wimp, a superego restraining Hulk's power when he can. Banner's science got him into a situation he fears – turning into a big green monster – but Hulk has no corresponding moral qualms. Got a problem? Smash something.

Spiderman has a biological infection. Far from threatening his health, it permits him to swing high above the traffic jams and mundane rat race. If he has a problem with somebody he shoots goo from his hands, mightily confounding them. Spidey fans may be the most interesting psychological profile of all.

Wolverine would seem to be the perfect match for those who find the ad hominem to be the most convincing of arguments. He doesn't like something? Slash at it with his adamantine claws. He's virtually indestructible. While he can slash, slashing back is unlikely to have any effect.

The other X-Men are the nerds who couldn't get dates for the prom. As their maladjustments play out on-screen we begin to understand why.

Our hypothetical researcher may arrive at different conclusions from my off-the-cuff speculations. If he gets the government grant he will express himself in a great many more multisyllabic words as is appropriate to the genre – whether or not the study has any real relevance. Maybe he could increase his chances of getting the funding by including a study of the sex lives of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

© David Hines


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David Hines

Note: David Hines passed away on April 1, 2017.

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)


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