Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Superheroes in Real Life

I found this fantastic documentary about real-life superheroes. It features a variety of people in cities across America who dress up in costumes and work on making the world a better place. They're a very diverse group.

There are also excerpts from police, politicians, citizens, and others with various opinions. Some of them were very supportive. Others, not so much, especially the police. Which is understandable because cities with a terrific police force rarely attract superheroes. It's when the police are corrupt and/or ineffective that people start trying to solve problems themselves. A couple of points in particular snagged my interest.

"We don't want them to get hurt."

Sure, and they don't want to get hurt, but this is mortality -- nobody gets out alive. It's what you do while you're here that matters, and if you spend all your energy trying to be safe from everything, it'll be a pretty dull trip. Some people have a high tolerance for danger. Some of those folks join the police, military, fire department, etc. Others choose a different method, and that's okay. You have a right to decide your own risks.

"They don't have training."

All the one in this documentary were, in fact, training. One's an EMT. Another is a martial arts teacher. Others are very dedicated amateurs. It's not hard to get training as a citizen responder or a superhero. There are classes in first aid, de-escalation skills, self-defense, and many other valuable skills. Some are harder to find -- I'd recommend emotional first aid, and knowing your local laws which nobody seems to give a fuck about teaching except for driver's ed. You want to be a hero? Fantastic. Decide what you want to do, identify what skills you need to do it effectively, and learn them.

"People trust the police, they know that uniform. They don't know these people in costumes."

Spoken like someone who's led a very privileged life. How nice for her. But who's actually out there walking on streets and talking to people who need help? Usually not the cops, they're in cars. Being "safe." This makes a difference in how patrollers are perceived: the cities with the best police-community interface are the ones with a serious beatwalking program. If you don't make that investment, you don't get citizens who work with you, instead you get people who didn't see anything and want you to go away. This is true whether you are a cop or a superhero or a party monitor. You have to make sure people know you and establish trust before they will do more than tell you to fuck off and mind your own business.

Also, look at the examples of superheroes in action. They're posting flyers about a sex criminal, helping someone who got his foot run over, shooing away drug dealers, handing out survival supplies, making sure someone doesn't drive drunk, helping get a stroller down stairs. A majority of that is everyday stuff that anyone could do, or learn to do. There are far more everyday issues than major crimes. A big part of being a superhero is plain old situational awareness: being alert for opportunities to help people, and asking if you can lend a hand. If you're not in it for the glory, opportunities are everywhere. If you don't think that's heroic, well, try looking at it from the perspective of the people they saved. When you're at a party in a white dress and Aunt Flo comes a few days early, anyone willing to give you a tampon is a freaking superhera. Being heroic doesn't have to involve fighting crime, hitting people, or even dressing up. Much of heroism goes unnoticed because it is prosaic, not conspicuous. Except to the person whose day you just saved.

One of the things that has fascinated me the most about writing superheroes is realizing how much of this stuff we have in our world and simply do not notice. It's here. It's real. We're just mostly ignoring it.

There's something I've been saying for years in the Pagan community, and activism, which applies to this context also. "You know how people are always saying, 'Somebody ought to do something about that' ...? Well, I'm Somebody."

That's all it is, really. Superheroes are people who decided to be Somebody.
Tags: activism, fantasy, networking, reading, video, writing
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