I loved "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" last night.
And when I say "I loved it", I don't mean what you probably think I mean.
I don't mean loved it in a snarky post-modern ironic way: "titter titter, watching these prancing popinjays make me feel so superior in that I am a geek of taste and decorum!"
I mean "loved it" as in, "I am fighting back tears witnessing the sincerity of Fat Momma as she unhesitatingly abandons her own interests in order to help a crying child."
What can I say?
I'll admit there were some amusing "comic book ironies" that keep my snarkier self amused. For example, watching Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, home of Wolverine and the Punisher, lecture some poor meatslab schlub that "Heroes do not kill people, they help people!" Or the fact that none of the contestants knew what "excelsior" meant. Heh, that made me swirl my brandy a bit.
I hadn't planned on watching the show. I was busy doing something else and it just happened to be the next show that popped up on the telly. So I was quite shocked to find myself amused, engaged, and emotionally committed almost immediately. But why?
- The show cleverly focuses not on "power and abilities" of the heroes manques, but on their moral character. People may tune in to watch the geeks in shiny lycra, but to the degree the show helps viewers focus past that aspect of "superheroes" and look deeper toward the concept of being a hero, I applaud it.
- Lee is an uncompromising but reasonable critic of their moral fibre. Kind of like the Spectre in a golf sweater and overly-tinted trifocals. Dude basically calls one girl a tramp and tells one loser to "wipe that smile off your face"; righteous. I half expected a giant pair of scissors to appear out of nowhere and start cutting them into paper dolls.
- The cheesiness and faux competitive structure that is so grating on most "reality shows" actually rings weirdly true in the superheroic setting.
- It's teaching me respect for the crazy stuff our comic book heroes need to do just to do their "job". Phone booths notwithstanding, it really isn't easy to find a place to change into your costume quickly!
- You get to see real life metaphors of characters we read about finally getting their comeuppance. "Booster Gold" gets thrown out for being greedy, "Wolverine" gets told that what he does is neither pretty nor appropriate, "Impulse" gets told that life is not a game.
- Some contestants understand that being fun and campy are NOT incomparable with sincerity; in fact, it is merely its necessary flipside. "Jump into my arms, little girl, and I'll carry you there!" Major Victory, you are my hero!
- LOVE the "Lair"; must redo my house immediately to look JUST LIKE THE LAIR.