“I need a hero!”: Superheroes and Protest

The 40th anniversary cover of Ms. Magazine shows Wonder Woman swooping in to help protesters stop the “war on women.” This cover resembles their original cover in ’72 when the Amazon “warrior princess” was rushing to bring peace and justice to the world[i], but this time there are mortals (albeit all women) who are standing up and taking action, too. Then, as now, Diana’s powers as well as her lasso of truth[ii] could come in handy in the movement for equality.

This cover reveals the importance of imagination and the desire for a powerful and (politically) attractive leader in protest movements. Activists have called upon the superhero imagination when dancing in Chile for educational reform or when Occupy Wall Street protestors created “Unemployment Man.” As Peter Drier pointed out in his essay on teaching about social movements, activism requires a bit of dreaming. If activists couldn’t imagine a better future, there would be no goals to strive for except policies and cultural aspects we’ve seen before. If only we had a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi endowed with magical abilities to help us accomplish those dreams.

I’d love to hear about the role of other superheroes in protest or see fan fiction in which superheroes interact with movements, so join Ms. and share others or your own lofty dreams to magically get success for a movement.

[i] It is notable that the Ms. cover of 2012 focuses narrowly on feminist causes, despite the U.S. entering its eleventh year of war in Afghanistan and continuing economic and racial inequality.


Filed under Daily Disruption

2 responses to ““I need a hero!”: Superheroes and Protest

  1. DC Comics published a short-lived series meant to capture the urgency of campus protest during the Vietnam War era. Hawk and Dove told the story of two brothers who magically acquired superpowers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawk_and_Dove
    It’s been relaunched at least once.
    And the producers of the Superman movies lured the late Christopher Reeve back to the tights by producing a film (Superman IV) that posed the superhero against nuclear weapons. Released in 1987, the movie was poorly reviewed, and clearly reflected the influence of the nuclear freeze movement just a few years earlier.


  2. Betsy Leondar-Wright

    My favorite activist superhero is Super Pasajera, the LA Bus Riders Union’s “Super Passenger,” who would board buses dressed as a Mexican wrestling character and urge riders not to pay if they didn’t get a seat. To see her epic battle with the transit authority, search for video on Youtube or check this link out: http://www.thestrategycenter.org/blog/2008/02/27/superpasajera-battles-mta-grim-reaper


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