I’m sure many of you have by now heard of the Real Life Superhero phenomenon, or seen Kick Ass, or can otherwise deduct from the noun what is in question. Real Life Superheroes (RLSH) are ordinary (and I’m somewhat going on the limits of the term here) men and women who dress up like superheroes – tights, cape, mask, PVC and all – and go fight crime in their neighborhood. Fighting cime apparently being mostly walking the elderly over the street, giving money to the poor, rescuing cats, or destructing clamps.
So getting to the core of this idea, let us consult Chaim Lazaros, or “Life”, through the Independent
“By becoming a Real Life Superhero, I can no longer fall to the weakness or the laziness Chaim might have. I live for a higher, stronger, ideal. I have to live up to what Life is.”
Branding and the utility of a cape
Superhero is a brand, a piece of mythology revisited. Superheroes are cool, they are in almost every aspect superior, nearly übermenschean. No, they are de übermensch. Especially before, but also after, this whole humanification of superheroes (Batman Begins etc.).
Where as before superheroes wore costumes, a modern superhero would be something along the lines of Neo, who does not need an explicit validation for his awesomeness. He does not need to transform into something, he is something in himself. A hyperhero, a narcissistic dream. Jesus. He is his costume.
But sadly, being yourself does not work if you’re not one of the Chosen Ones. So let’s revert back to capes and spandex; go the top-down rather than a bottom-up route. The RLSH community (yes, there is one.) claim that they wear a costume to attract attention to good causes, to remind people about blahblah, and, I think most importantly, to attract attention to their deeds. Did I say deeds? I meant them. To attract attention to them. You all know where this train is headed.
So, to recap: we have a bunch of people, wanting to do good deeds and to gain attention. To try and reach these goals they wear superhero costumes. Or do we have a group of people who really really want to be superheroes? Or to be perceived as ones? This latter view would diminish the good deeds into a sort of necessary action withdrawn from the superhero-brand.
So the question becomes: do they use the brand as a device for their humanitarian cause or for narcissistic utility. The more I dwelve into this, the more I believe the latter. Actually I never believed the former.
See, there are already people who wear costumes or uniforms and do good deeds, people like (arguably) the police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, santa clauses. What differs here are mostly two things: first, you need an education (as santa isn’t really a part of this, stop believing everything I write), secondly the are not about you, indvidually, you know, you-you. They are acquired, not innate.
To be frank neither is the innate ability to wear a cape, but that’s beside the point, the point is in the perception. Not even the perception of others, but, to make a nice re-tour into Robert’s previous PO-post “Meaning Beyond Question”, the perception of the Other. It is the Lacanian objet petit-a, a morphed illusion of the true self being portrayed into the nonexistent observer. I am not just a plumber, I’m a superhero. It is like a child bringing home a false report card. Keeping up appearances.
Where this of course fails is that there is no Other to perceive the objet petit-a proper, the way it is meant to be seen by the subject, but only others, you and me for example, who mostly appear to find this ridiculous, pathethic, jejune or narcissistic.
The Parallax View
The basic point of the parallax view in my quick preliminary reading is that the perceivable phenomenon changes when the viewpoint changes. We have the viewpoint A, where we see a superhero, a benevolent do-gooder, an übermensch at heart though not of posture. Then we have viewpoint B, where we see for example a middle-aged unemployed man dressed in tights, underwear above pants, in facepaint rescuing cats from trees. Same thing observed on two different backdrops.
Now, I would suggest that viewpoint A is the one preferred by the RLSH’s, and not only that, but moving the mirror into viewpoint B would be unbearable. The phantasy would shatter. The sudden invasion of the Real would constitute a narcissistic wound extraordinaire.
And that is how Real Life Supervillains are born.
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