When my son was small I remember being a bit appalled at the dolls — err — action figures marketed as toys for boys.
The bodies were grotesque exaggerations of the male form. Actually, very few did represent the human form. Many of the action figures were cyborgs –men melded with machines. The rest were simply monsters. It was almost as if all their humanity had to be melted away as they were shaped into plastic.
What messages do boys receive about who they are and what it means to be a man or a hero when they play with these kinds of toys? Seems to me the primary message is that a person’s problems are best solved with violence and oppression.
Too many super heroes are just fascists/authoritarians wearing tights and a curtain. I am looking at you, Batman. Ironman is pretty much the representation of capitalism. Power and control in a variety of form. Spider-Man is one of the few super heroes able to retain a shred of decency but a lot of the problems they give him to solve just aren’t worthy.
I had to turn to older stories for my son.
When I think of a hero, I think of someone like Sam Gamgee: an ordinary person coping with an extraordinary situation or problem. He doesn’t solve his problems with violence but through the strength of his character.
Jim Butcher explains it better than I can in Changes:
“… he faced far greater and more terrible foes than he ever should have had to face, and he did so with courage. That he went alone into a black and terrible land, stormed a dark fortress, and resisted a most terrible temptation of his world for the sake of the friend he loved. That in the end, it was his actions alone that made it possible for light to overcome darkness.”
That was my Hope for my son and all the little boys of the world: that they would want to grow up to be as Honorable as Hobbits.