Superheroes exist for a reason, if only as a substitute for what used to be our collective mythologies. Deepak Chopra, who's been spending a lot of time thinking about this, says that “the themes of the sinners and saints, good and evil, play out with these symbolic representations of what we call heroes and villains."
Without getting too literary-theory on us, Chopra breaks it down: “Batman represents our redemption, Superman our dormant potential that lies within all of us.”
Batman, he explained, is our collective shadow, and the villains he faces are but another side of himself, of ourselves. “You see what happens to Harvey Dent,” he said. “It goes beyond being dualistic. The Joker is us. Batman is us. And when we embrace them both as aspects of ourselves, we’re ready to be forgiven and ready to forgive.”
But just as we evolve, so must our superheroes, he said. “We need to create a new mythology for our superheroes,” Chopra said, “because they’re not parochial anymore. They’re cross-cultural. We’re in dire need of mythologies that go to the next level of consciousness.”
Chopra says that’s happening right now with the political process – with the emergence of Barack Obama – but that first and foremost, we need to re-imagine characters like Batman and Superman so that they address war, terrorism, racism, and poverty, he said.
“Batman needs to be concerned about not just Gotham, but a bigger arena,” Chopra said. “He needs to go to Darfur, or Somalia. Superman needs to have more paranormal abilities – like precognition, telepathy, the ability to see past lifetimes.”
Wouldn’t those changes make Batman or Superman (or any other hero, for that matter) someone other than who we know them to be? After all, his version of Wonder Woman is an Indian housewife whose policeman husband doesn’t realize she’s the superhero he’s been encountering. “We need to be more imaginative,” he said.
Do you think Batman, Superman, or any other heroes need to evolve? Or does that change who they are and what they represent? How would you change them?