Superheroes are often symbols of American ideology – defining what America considers good and what good should look like. At the time of their conception, each superhero embodies the current cultural and social values and become characters children can pretend to be in mock battles, rescue missions, and etc. In valuing these characters, it then becomes important to consider how much society has or hasn’t changed.
Consider this small anecdote by Djimon Hounsou who played a minor role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: “One day [my son] looks at me and says, ‘Dad, I want to be light-skinned so I could be Spider-Man. Spider-Man has light skin.’ That was sort of a shock.” As shocking as this is, it really makes me consider how important it is to have a greater diversity of superheroes for children to connect with and relate to.
Some of the most iconic superheroes are: Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Captain America. While many characters have been left out, the general stereotypes still follow: white and male. As a result, white and male superheroes embody American ideology and sense of ‘good’ — which is why it is important to prove that you don’t have to be white and/or male in order to become a superhero especially when these characters are capable of becoming positive role models for children. This is why characters like Cindy Moon (Silk), Sam Wilson (Falcon), John Stewart and Simon Baz (Green Lanterns) are significant. However, embracing this new diversity is still a work in progress.
Take Simon Baz, for example. Simon Baz is a Muslim-American and DC’s latest human to join the Green Lantern Corp. Initially he is introduced as a car thief who picks up a van filled with explosives during a job. In an attempt to save lives, he ditches the car at an abandoned construction site. Unfortunately, he is labeled a terrorist and is captured and interrogated by the FBI. As Shoshana Kessock points out in her article: “Introducing Simon Baz, the First Muslim-American Green Lantern”, Simon Baz’s introduction is far from perfect. Kessock raises questions concerning Geoff John’s method of introducing Simon Baz and choice of giving him a criminal background. Furthermore, she felt that Baz’s backstory of intolerance and discrimination was stereotypical and failed to battle the negative stereotypes towards Muslims despite Simon Baz ultimately becoming a superhero.
Although I agree with Kessock’s questions, I find Simon Baz’s introduction to be refreshing. It is great to see a new wave of superheroes that are joining other main cast superheroes. Though Baz’s introduction did seem to use already existing stereotypes about Muslims, allowing Simon Baz as a superhero is already a step forward. It shows that anyone can become a superhero, enables children to find a character they can better relate to, and will hopefully improve public opinions towards minority groups as well.
After all, isn’t it only right that superheroes of color also embody American ideology and sense of ‘good’ too and for superheroes to become a better reflection of modern day society?