A few days ago, I wrote a piece about the death of Margot Kidder, America’s fiery sweetheart in the 1978 blockbuster Superman. That movie brought the caped character to life in an unprecedented way. From Richard Donner’s expert direction, to John Williams’s monumental score, to Christopher Reeve’s sensitive portrayal of the wholesome hero, the world of Metropolis — and the struggle of good against evil — lit up the big screen and gripped a generation.
Long before the hit film thrilled audiences, Superman graced the small screen as played by George Reeves. For little boys of the 1950’s, the slick-haired, spandex-wearing luminary was a mammoth reason to pretend they were faster than a speeding bullet.
In between black and white TV’s The Adventures of Superman and the big screen’s Warner Bros. Pictures extravaganza, other heroes made their mark. ‘Til 1957, ABC’s The Lone Ranger had youngsters wearing masks and transforming their bicycles into horses. The sixties’ Batman met great popularity, driving young lads to their imagined Batcaves and make-believe Batmobiles.
Like The Lone Ranger, Batman and Superman were, of course, products of comic books — hand-drawn, often supernatural stories of adventure, made to engage young boys — Superman arriving in 1938 and Batman #1 releasing in 1940. And on it went, for decades: young boys were galvanized by books and movies and television and toys, making their own capes of towels and pretending to be their favorite super-powered heroes who were all Appropriate for a General Audience.
Notably, one generation — those who came up in the 80’s and 90’s– never forgot the Rated-G defenders of justice they had idolized at a young age.
However, something happened on the way to their adulthood: the world grew more profane, as did they.
And amid that increasing vulgarity and a rising self-indulgence — in a universe where 30-year-olds bought game systems and hung Spiderman posters while slinging expletives like so many webs — there flourished a desire among young entertainment professionals to make what they had adored as kids. But updated, according to their newfound crudity.
And so, they did.
As a result, industries which had always focused on children became overrun with adults focusing on themselves. The outcome was R-rated videos games, explicit and profane comic books, and increasingly “adult” movies based on comics.
And that is how we arrive at Deadpool 2, which opened Friday: 2016’s raunchy superhero hit has spawned another. If this one succeeds, there will be more. And adults with vulgar sensibilities will continue to create that content for their own enjoyment.
Thus, we are left with a tremendous need and a pressing question: who is creating inspiring characters and making exciting, adventurous material anymore, for children? Who will be doing so in 20 years? Who is investing in the imagination of little boys and girls, while preserving their innocence? Where are the adults making fantastic content for the young and impressionable, who need inspiration much more than do their parents?
Our world has become selfish. Self-focused. Social media has given rise to the epidemic of narcissism, as we continue to deconstruct traditional values.
And for the next generations, we are failing. As a society, we are so obsessed with our own desires that we have forgotten our most instinctive of purposes: to give back to the world by giving to children, so they may do the same when they are us.
If only we will turn to them and give our best, we will become what our generation most wanted to grow up to be: heroes. Otherwise, our selfishness will leave their fertile and innocent imaginations in the dust, the ash of their loss — and ours, as well — disappearing into the ether, up, up and away.
Please check out the companion article to this piece — about Margot Kidder — here.
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