I got involved in a conversation with some young and not-so-young people the other day. We discussed heroes and role models. I was amazed by their choices, but not too surprised that not one had picked a politician.
I heard the names of their superheroes, many of them recreations of our own bida, back in the day. We had Superman, Batman and Robin, Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern and Captain America. We even had the Black Terror, who represented “the poison to evil.”
Some of today’s favorite characters got their start when our favorite pastime was reading comic books. We bought the latest issue and passed it on, vowing not to be a spoiler. Through the years and despite the villains they fought, some survived and have since become million-dollar earners for movies and computer games.
In those days, we also idolized movie stars. In my early teens, I collected everything that had anything to do with Esther Williams. Remember her?
She was a champion at a young age and just missed being an Olympic swimmer when World War II caused the cancellation of the games. Instead, she became the reigning queen of MGM’s romantic “aqua-musicals.” She was tall, athletic, lithe and built like a swimmer. I don’t know if she would have made it in the era of voluptuous babes and skimpy bikinis.
I cannot explain my admiration for her, but I collected her pictures and read up on her life, like a real Williams fan.
It did nothing, however, for my swimming abilities. To this day I doubt that I could stay afloat to save my life.
In fact, let me digress here a while. Just standing near a pool or by the ocean overwhelms me these days. I walk to the edge of the water on the beach, and I feel as if I am in over my head.
It must be another “age-related” malady.
I have a small pool outside my casita, but have never been in it. My friends tell me I could be doing water aerobics which would be good for me.
But besides my unexplained phobia, it does not help that pool builders today consider handrails unattractive and won’t install them. That’s one more good reason (excuse?) for me to stay away and out of the water.
Today’s superhero culture has come under harsh scrutiny from psychologists who argue that these characters send a wrong message—that they promote violence and use revenge as a way of life. Young kids imitate their actions and very often, their outlandish and outrageous appearance. Some could even develop unrealistic expectations.
Professor Sharon Lamb from the University of Massachusetts in Boston has accused the new generation of superheroes of being bad role models for young boys.
“Unlike conventional superheroes such as Superman, who stood for justice, fairness and decency, the modern macho superheroes portray a negative masculinity, characterized by mindless aggression and rampant sexism,” she said.
“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday.
“Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in nonstop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. These men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.”
Lamb said that boys could look up to old-style heroes like Superman, “because outside of their costumes they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities.” She contends that “adolescent boys are being sold a narrow version of masculinity just when they are most vulnerable and trying to forge an identity for themselves.”
Perhaps young parents should take heed and examine who their children are looking up to. Are their “heroes” worth emulating?
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many left in the world today. There used to be. Where have they all gone?
I waited for the second Duterte Sona with conflicting emotions. I had questions. Do I really want to know the true state of the nation?
The plenary hall was bustling with senators and congressmen, ex-presidents, foreign dignitaries and their ladies dressed to the nines. When the president made his entrance, and again when he left the dais, there was the usual mad scramble to shake his hand or beso-beso, to pose for a photo-op or take a hurried selfie.
The Sona was as I expected. No eloquent oratory. No goose-bumps. When you stray from the prepared text there can be none. This is a speechwriter’s nightmare.
It was storytelling time, almost too informal; like having a no-holds-barred, over a couple of beers at a bar, one-way conversation. Rambling. Irreverent. At times incoherent, coarse and often offensive.
We live in troubled times. I heard that. We know. But threats and cussing won’t make it better.
Perhaps it’s time to pause and ask how much of today’s trouble is our fault. Where did we fail? Did we suddenly stop caring? Where did we go wrong?
How can we be so desperately concerned and yet so sadly disconnected?