Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12.2
A Word of Hope
From what base do you operate?
I go see a lot of comic book movies. In the latest entry from the Marvel universe, I was thrilled to see the new Captain Marvel movie. This is not the DC comics version of the character Billy Batson who shouts Shazam!” No. This character is pronounced ‘Mar-Vell’ and this time Marvel studios gives us a female hero, who, in this case, must outthink her own origin and decide who is she is going to represent and ultimately save. Without revealing spoilers, I was first interested in seeing how the writing team developed a character that originally appeared in comics as a male. The world of superhero comics was predominantly white and male when I grew up. Usually only boys read them. I was “conformed to this world.” But, finally, the studios have realized that the current audience for these movies is everybody. I’ve been thrilled to see characters reworked to fit our current world in which heroes truly do come from a big melting pot. Black or white, male or female, our heroes come to us from all kinds of backgrounds and from varied circumstances.
I’m thankful for this approach in storytelling. It took a long time for me to embrace the idea that our world shouldn’t be structured just to serve the privileged white male. I am the product of mid century thinking, from the era that was realistically portrayed in the TV series called Mad Men. I enjoyed that series not only because it was my era from the 1960s, but also that it represented a society in which the everyday heroes were female, the people never given the highest ranking in my boy-centric universe. Yet, looking back on my real life growing up, my actual favorite heroes then were my grade school teachers, most of which were very strong women, standout survivors of that era.
I remember that about 20 years ago I was casually sharing my experiences about the many strong women in my life who were true leaders. I was speaking with a person I considered to be a friend. The man to whom I stated my obviously feminist viewpoint did not care for my opinion in the least. I told him that the strong women should be applauded for their tenacity, but he was stuck in an earlier time, the Mad Men era when men ruled on all fronts. I concluded that women should be running for the highest of offices including the presidency and he looked at me as if I had gone crazy. So many frightened men still look at me the same way 20 years later. Seeing my old friend’s extreme reaction, I began questioning myself, at that time, and why I was feeling so strongly about women in leadership roles.
My attitude was the opposite of my upbringing and my experiences. Was I led by the Spirit; the will of God? Transformed? I can’t say for sure. I do know I had simply found that those old misogynist teachings were dead to me because so many of my personal heroes for so long had been the women of my life. I had witnessed them continually working harder than any man for that honor. Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Even though he had portrayed the first male superhero from which all the others grew, he was referring to anybody and everybody, regardless of gender or ethnic origin. These women had endured in spite of the most overwhelming of obstacles.
So from which base will you operate in this world? Who are the people that you call your heroes? Do they match your race and gender? Are they those certain heroic ordinary people who usually go unnoticed? I, myself, want to complete the unlearning of the message I grew up with, when all my favorite comic book superheroes were white and male. I want a hero to be everybody’s hero, but more specifically I want to be sure to never overlook those ordinary people who do extraordinary things in extraordinary times; the real heroes without credit or awards or a picture in the news.
I hope some of my original women heroes are still around to see Captain Marvel as the representative of the credit they are long overdue in receiving. I’m certainly not paid by the Disney company or Marvel Studios, but I would urge you to see Captain Marvel, a woman of ordinary beginnings who re-defines true heroism. So far, I’ve seen it three times.
Send us a hero for these extraordinary times. May she show us how to save us from ourselves and be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare