Holy Superego, Batman: The Psychology of Comic Books.

Posted: October 23, 2015 in Spotlight
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Sadly I applied to Marvel Comics for an internship multiple times, and I never was quite let in.  I constantly debated including my Psychology degree on my resume.  Little did I know the person who created Wonder Woman, was, in fact, a psychologist, and psychology plays a huge role in comic books and how we relate to them.  I was never quite let in to Marvel’s writing areas of the internship (or like, five other areas)… which sucked greatly, since I live in New York City and busted my fucking bum to get it in early.  But, now I can safely say I will include it if I ever apply again (sidenote: I don’t know.)

Holy Sigmund Freud, Batman.

A little story for you first, as I always did:  Psychologically analyzing people is fun.  It’s slightly addictive for the psychology nerds of the world, in my humble opinion.  Psychologically analyzing fictional people is probably even more fun. 

But in all seriousness, there is now a legitimate psychologically therapy called comic book therapy.  I am not lying.  Go to Wikipedia, type it in, and read it.  There are mounds of books published on this.  Literally everyone takes these things seriously.

Now, I’m sorry, S type fans (Superman type), I’m focusing on B-type heroes (which, if you don’t know what that is, it’s heroes without a super-power).  S-types are very much defined by their ability, not what they’ve been through.  Yes, what they’ve been through can be shaped by their circumstances, but I mean purely being affected by something that might have happened to them without a power inducing that situation.

Firstly, and this is pretty cool: They make us comfortable with uncomfortable topics.  They talk about all the taboo shit society avoids.  Death, mass killings, murders, sexual assault, disability (as a technically disabled person I can say society hates talking about it).  And it’s cool, because comic books/comic movies shove it in your face and you’re cool with it.  They shove so much uncomfortable shit at you.  Everything from discrimination to death to disability is in a comic book.  But it makes you wonder why we’re cool with, like, seeing Barbara Gordon be disabled by the Joker and not an actual physically disabled person.  I wouldn’t call it empowering, but I’d say once it seeps into a comic book it’s a step in the right direction.  It’s a way of talking about things we don’t want to talk about, and it’s a way of simply opening up dialogue about things we don’t want to talk about.  Hell, this is so true, that it can be used in therapy sessions to portray something that happened to someone.  If someone doesn’t want to talk about a particular traumatic event, according to Wikipedia, “Comic book therapy is a form of art therapy in which those undergoing rehabilitation express their experiences through personal narratives in a graphic novel/sequential art format that enables them to process their memories and emotions.”  It’s still a form of communication, and it’s still a form of talking about things.  According to another article (cited below), a psychologist used superheroes as a means of therapy for kids who had gone through traumatic events.  It got them to talk about things they didn’t want to talk about.  They are literally used to analyze their deepest fears and traumas – and I can’t help but get the feeling every time you watch a movie or pick up a book you are doing the same to yourself for free because that is what these things feature.  We face fears without talking about it.

Only furthering this, I see a lot of people who were relentlessly bullied who take to the haven of comic books. They usually feature a classic underdog story.  It’s like everyone and their mother has been in some situation that they can relate to because of these things.  Like, some guy’s parents did actually die and that’s why Batman is their go-to.  I always find people explaining why a superhero is their favorite is a major league, deeply personal question.  I’m not asking for your social security number, I’m asking why Superman is your man.  It’s almost as if they become woven into the cores of us much like they become woven into the core of pop culture (and as such, that’s why comic con is so fucking crowded).  And maybe our parents didn’t die in an alley because of a guy named Joe Chill, but, maybe they were absent for things.  Maybe they missed your graduation, shit, I don’t know.  We can relate to the psychology of superheroes.  We can relate to their psyche… and maybe that’s why we all have our personal favorites.  We’re emotionally similar to them.  I find The Flash annoying because he’s hyperactive – which I am not.

Now the really morbid part comes.

You know, almost all of them have some kind of thing they want to fix or escape.  And if you tell me you have no regrets in your life, tell me your secrets.

Oh, please.

We all regret something.  And most of the time, a superhero is working off of a regret, an event, or something they wish they could’ve changed.  Isn’t that like, half of the population’s motivation?  Make something better?  Improve something?  Like, people pick certain careers because they want to be better than their experience sometimes.  Sometimes they like what they see and want to make it better.  And we can feel an undying pain of guilt for things we might regret.  They’re super, sure, but they have regrets just like the rest of us.  And we want to run from them, but we’re not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.  Maybe we want to fix something that happened to us.  And you know what?  You’re completely fucking powerless to fix it most the time.  The guy who sexually harassed you is somewhere in the world, the dying 6 year old is still dying, you still suck at math (I needed to lighten this mood).  Sometimes you can fix it, but sometimes you can’t.  Things stay with us – and things stay with them.  It’s okay to be a little fucked up (coming from someone who is, decidedly, fucked up a little bit).  It’s taboo to admit these things, but in this world?  It’s all good.

And wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where fixing the wrongs of the world was as simple as putting on a suit and knocking out a few teeth.

Citation:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/17/the-rise-of-superhero-therapy-comic-books-as-psychological-treatment.html

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