For many parents, the movie-led resurgence of Marvel’s super heroes has been hard to deal with. We’ve been saying violence will get you nowhere, there’s a better way to solve problems, it’s wrong to divide people up between goodies and baddies, then along comes Iron Man (aka notorious chick-magnet, Tony Stark) and blows the bad guys away with super-smart technology and a bottomless bank account.
Too many bad lessons, too little time.
My approach (the ManHood approach) is to not over-think it. Super heroes are cool. And their super powers are even cooler. So come on kids, let’s watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier again, and I’ll point out all the good lessons we can take from it.
Captain America. The ultimate good guy. Too busy saving the world to flirt with pretty girls. But strangely, all the really cute girls are keen on him. Lesson #1 for boys: don’t try and impress girls with smooth talk. You want to get their attention, save the world. Lesson #1 for girls: Look for shy boys who are good at their job.
Black Widow. No lessons for girls there, but for boys – if you meet a really attractive girl who is also a deadly assassin, try and keep it platonic.
Look, there’s Robert Redford. Not a super hero, but the message is clear – if someone looks too good to be true, take a good long second look (especially if they’re a really famous actor working in a new genre).
And of course, The Winter Soldier. The bad guy. The remorseless killer. Cold, emotionless, but wait, what’s that flicker of hesitation. That nano-second of doubt. Captain America saw it. And we should too. It’s the slim but tantalising hope of redemption. There’s always hope.
The thing is, we don’t have to convince kids to love super heroes. They’re already sold. And what they love most of all, is their superpowers. They imagine they have Wolverine’s healing power, if they get knocked down, they get back up good as new. They dream of having the strength of Thor, Superman’s ability to fly and see through walls, or materialize anything on the spot, like the Green Lantern. And hey kids, how cool is that flashing light thing the Men in Black dudes have that makes everybody forget everything they just saw? Maybe when you’re older.
Most super-powers are super-obvious. But does this latest re-invented crew from Marvel have some less-obvious human values you and the kids can relate to?
Tony Stark must have worked really hard at school to become the tech-whiz behind Stark Enterprises. Of course, mentioning this will only bring on a screaming-kid-chorus of, “Shut up Dad!”, to which you could reply, “have you heard of Elon Musk, a real-world Tony Stark and the guy behind the Tesla & SpaceX?” Now he’s a super role model.
And what about The Incredible Hulk? Before a dose of radiation gave him big green muscles, he was a Doctor and a brilliant scientist…which is not such a bad thing to be, right kids? Perhaps you’d like to be Tim Berners-Lee, who created the internet, or that guy who developed string theory? Admittedly, neither of them can punch a hole in a wall, but they don’t wake up naked and bruised every time they lose their temper, and that’s a good life skill. And not for the first time, your kids go “Shut up Dad!”, but I think we all learnt something here.
I know it’s a very blokey thing, but I’m super glad super heroes are back and I can’t wait for my next super parenting cinematic experience.
Lesson #1 (for boys): Want to impress girls? Save the world.
Lesson #2 (for girls): Look for boys who are good at their job. Or at least, have a job.
Lesson #3 (for boys): if you meet a really attractive girl who is also a deadly assassin, keep it platonic.
Lesson #4 (for boys & girls): if someone looks too good to be true, take a good long second look. Same goes for bad boys. You’ve got to look beneath the surface.
Lesson #5 (for anyone): Super heroes are just for fun. Don’t overthink it.