Can We Be Our Own Heroes?

By: Chris Johnson

In 2002, Chad Kroger of the then wildly popular band Nickelback recorded a song for the first installment of the live action Spiderman movie franchise.

Hollywood didn’t have a clue yet how big the superhero genre would turn out to be, as such characters belonged still to nerds who collected comic books and kids watching Saturday morning cartoons.

The hype that built up around that first Spider-Man movie was the first inkling of how profitable these characters could be. And as kids heard Chad Kroger sing, “they say that a hero could save us, I’m not gonna stand here and wait…” a generation of kids began to sing along.

As the Spider-man toys, clothing, and paraphernalia flew off the shelves, two sequels to Spider-man were produced, along with sequels to a preceding X-Men movie and several consequent spin-offs, several Hulk movies, an unfortunate attempt at a Green Lantern movie, and some similarly-cringe worthy Fantastic 4 movies, and then came Iron Man, the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and D.C.‘s partnership with the C.W. Network to bring several of their heroes to the small screen, not to mention a new round of Superman movies, TWO more reboots of Spider-man and three iterations of Batman.

Marvel Comics, in particular, with the success of Iron Man, announced shortly after a decade long plan to flood society with Marvel characters by way of both television programs and different film franchises, with all of their stories happening in the same timeline and occasionally coming together to save the world as a team as the Avengers.

Knowing obscure superhero facts is no longer the realm of nerds and collectors, it’s more like a cultural lore to a generation immersed in it. In fact, superheroes themselves are no longer confined to an artist or actor’s rendering. As the movies gained popularity, there even began to be stories about people making their own costumes and patrolling their streets to stop crimes and help the homeless.

But, it’s been Marvel’s slow development of their “cinematic universe” that has kept a concurrently developing population engaged. Marvel’s strategy has kept them hooked from Iron Man in their childhood through the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever today, all individual pieces of one developing story.

Meanwhile, the paraphernalia has grown along with them. In any shopping center, or some such public place, you’re just as likely to see an adult wearing a superhero logo on their clothing as you are a little kid.

Grown Men are even appealed to by The Vitamin Shoppe to buy their Superhero themed workout supplements, as Albert Mohler recently opined on his “Briefing” podcast, “’Another man owns a company based in Florida that ‘publishes superhero-themed workout plans.’ He said, ‘You are training like the heroes you knew growing up, so it’s fun and it gives you more motivation. At the end of the day,’ he said, ‘Everybody is just trying to unleash their own inner hero.’

“Well, whether or not you, dear listener to The Briefing, are just trying to unleash your own inner hero, I hope at least you are troubled by a society that is infantalizing adults into becoming children. Any society that ends up talking even sideways about an adult Happy Meal toy is a society that is deciding it’s going to abandon grownup concerns for the concerns of children.”

Here Dr. Mohler refers to McDonald’s recent temporary offering of adult Happy Meals, complete with a toy. Many restaurants sold out on the first day they were available.

Dr. Mohler’s concerns about “infantilizing adults,” gain credence from evidence like Disney’s visitor statistics – 42% are adults visiting the theme park without children – and the existence of “Bronies” – a surprisingly large adult male fan base of the little girls’ show My Little Pony.

Consider also the entrance into our vocabulary of the word “adulting,” which one essayist describes thus: “adulthood as a performative state—a thing to do rather than be, but never for long before boomeranging back to suspended adolescence—[it] has been read as a device for millennials to laud their status as adults while simultaneously distancing themselves from it.”

Frustration with all of this could be chalked up to a clash of cultures and generational differences… if it weren’t for the Bible’s naming this as a method of God’s judgment on a culture.

“For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms. And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.  And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable…”

This, as Isaiah reveals in earlier chapters, is the judgment for Israel’s pride and idolatry.

Mature men qualified to be soldiers, judges, prophets, elders, even wicked occupations like diviner and magician would be nowhere to be found. Israel would be left with only immature boys and infants to lead them.

As we think of the results of the recent election, and even more so as we consider the kind of culture that today’s younger generation will build when they come of age, we ought to recognize this growing rejection of maturity, not only as a product of our sick culture, but as a judgment.

The way out of judgment is not tweaking a government program or electing new leaders, it’s repentance. What do God’s people have to repent of?

The charges that Isaiah brings against Israel – pride and idolatry – are certainly a good place to start.

May God use our travails to open our eyes to His way, and He grant us that we would walk in it.

 

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