Once upon a time, we told stories about gods and demi-gods overcoming seemingly impossible odds: Hercules, Cú Chulainn, Rama, Iktomi, Guan Yu, and countless others who stood up and shaped their world. Now we tell stories about movie stars, celebrities, Disney princesses, and superheroes. Hercules may not be much of a relateable character to a lot of kids, but Batman and Spider-Man are. These pop culture icons have become our modern mythology.
Heroes aren’t restricted to people in capes or Disney princesses who persevere for their happily ever after. They’re found in the real-world people who fight for justice, in the child going through chemotherapy, in the teen who’s seen terrible things but keeps going. League of Heroes Inspired aims to help these kids and adolescents find the motivation reach beyond the limitations of their circumstances.
Pop culture heroes live out real-world situations on a grand stage. Iron Man may be a technological super-genius, yet he’s also a recovering alcoholic. Captain Marvel can fly and wield the power of two binary suns, but she’s also a survivor of severe brain damage. Batman may be called the world’s greatest detective, but he also struggles with depression. There are characters who have survived substance abuse, visible and invisible disabilities, mental and physical illnesses, grief, and PTSD; others who have been abandoned, neglected, and abused; many have faced discrimination based on their religious creed, ethnicity, and physical appearance. These are human conditions, and the characters’ superhero status doesn’t hide these conditions so much as shine brighter for them.
The Risk of ‘Victim Blaming’
The most important principle to keep in mind when dealing with traumatic instances is encouraging a person’s growth and empowerment without turning it into victim blaming. “Victim blaming” is when most of the burden is placed on the victim rather than the perpetrator, whether human or institutional. This is what people do when they say things like, “What were you wearing?” or “Why can’t you just get over it?” Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time. No two situations are ever exactly alike, and only the person or people involved in a given situation can cast judgment. The rest of us can only listen and provide support when we can, which sometimes might mean putting on a costume and making a hero come to life.