Check out HBO’s quirky documentary Superheroes to premiere August 8, 2011, at 9PM. The film, which has already won acclaim at several film festivals this year, including Slamdance, introduces us to several real-life, well, superheroes—from Brooklyn
hipsters crime-fighters to not-so-in-shape middle aged men. We are introduced to colorful characters such as “Mr. Xtreme”, “Master Legend”, and “Thanatos.” These people, sometimes termed RLSH for “real-life-superhero”, are among hundreds of men and women who patrol the streets under the guise of a costumed alter-ego. Here’s a peek beneath the capes:
There are many reasons why someone would become a superhero, and some have chosen missions as down-to-earth as helping people avoid parking tickets or passing out supplies to the homeless. Perhaps others do it out of a sense of righteous indignation at the helplessness of crime victims—some have even identified the Kitty Genovese case and “bystander effect” as a formative cause. Perhaps some do it out of distrust, disappointment, and disillusionment with both government and police. Perhaps, for some, it comes from sheer boredom and vanity. Whatever the reason, crime-fighting is no joke! Stan Lee, former-executive of Marvel Comics and superhero comic legend who created memorable crime-fighting personas including Captain America and Spiderman, seemed quite concerned about the safety of these real-life superheroes. After all, it seems unlikely these people have extraordinary abilities that could save them from a fatal gunshot wound. Check out a clip from interview with Team Justice. I hope ‘delusion of grandeur’ and ‘beer belly’ are both bullet-stopping superpowers.
I applaud these superheroes’
stupidity valiant efforts but what I’m starting to worry about is not their safety but our safety. Imagine a common robbery situation in, say, Williamsburg with hostages. The criminal, desperate and paranoid, doesn’t necessarily want to hurt anyone and just wants a quick getaway with the cash. Enter stage left, a fabulously dressed “sonic grenade”-tossing, Taser-wielding assailant. Suddenly the risk factor for injury just increased exponentially for everyone at the scene. Uh oh. Let’s just hope this superhero can really put the moves on.
One last point to think about is this—if superheroes are out there, with a fondness for the spectacular, then why not supervillains? I’ll end on a conversation between Jim Gordon and Batman in the film Batman Begins.
Gordon: And what about escalation?
Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar… they buy armor-piercing rounds.
Gordon: And you’re wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops. Now, take this new guy [referring to the Joker.] Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical. Like you. Leaves a calling card.
Cathy Chen now lives in Brooklyn, dresses as ridiculously as a superhero, but never answers distress signals.