A theory from Profiles of Popular Culture that applies to my topic of Marvel characters is that myths are used to create a false sense of superiority (Profiles of popular culture). Marvel characters may not be myths in the typical sense of the word (I’m sure the majority of society does not believe that they truly exist), but the same idea can be applied to them. They are an ideal person who can handle things in ideal ways—not always in the “good” way, but a better way than we may have thought possible.
Super heroes give us a character to emulate, a person to look up to, but someone who experiences some of the same problems that we do. Iron Man may be able to defeat gods and aliens, but he still has to maneuver the rocky slopes of romance and personal relationships. He has a terrible personality but he shows us how to handle issues with humor, rather than letting us beat ourselves up about it. Seeing him have to handle harder situations (self-sacrifice is a pretty big decision to make) and show bravery while still taking the time to show that he cares about Pepper in the last Avengers movie makes him more human (Avengers). We look at a person who is giving up everything but still cares about others and that gives us something to strive for.
Super villains also have role in emulation—they give us something not to emulate. Loki has been featured in a couple of the new Marvel movies like Thor and all of the Avenger movies and he is a trickster, a coward, someone who seeks power but runs away when he fight comes to him, even severing family ties in search of power (Avengers). He is a prime example of someone you do not want to emulate. It helps that usually Marvel villains lose. Or else they join the “good” side and forever work to change themselves to gain the trust of other heroes.
With this in mind, it’s clear that Marvel characters are created not just for entertainment, but to give us something to strive toward. We may not be able to swing on webs across the city like Spider Man, but we can always hope to be like Peter Parker—go from a nerd that no one noticed to having a successful career and eventually settling down with that girl-next-door (The Amazing Spider-Man). But even Peter Parker experiences hardship and loss and we can see how he handles it throughout different comics and films. When he makes a poor decision, we can see how that hurts someone and choose to handle a similar situation more tactfully. Or if something goes swimmingly, we can try to emulate his choice or reaction and hope it goes the same way.
Browne, R. B. (2005). Profiles of popular culture: A reader. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Lee, S. et al. (Mar. 1963 –Nov. 1998), The Amazing Spider-Man Vol #1, Issues #1-292. Marvel Comics.
Whedon, J. (Director). (2015). Avengers: Age of Ultron [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.