CEO: The Rise of the Superhero and the Death of the American Hero

Aug 30, 2018, 14:55 PM by Chris Coker

Why do we love Wonder Woman, the Avengers, Star Wars and Star Trek? What is it about the fabricated universes that hit home for so many people? What is the psychology behind it? Hero worship is not new, but it is a reality that is being turbocharged right now.

In the age of being politically correct and with our ready access to historical documents, many of our “heroes” have become tarnished. We discover more and more about the founding fathers. We discover more about famous writers or politicians or frontiersmen, and then we react. We have vilified many of the founding fathers for their acceptance of slavery, we have stripped the name Laura Ingalls Wilder from a prestigious literary award, Daniel Boone is no longer the mascot at the University of Denver, and JFK is now mostly famous for dating Marilyn Monroe and being assassinated. 

Now, let me be clear, I am not espousing that any of this vilification is bad or inappropriate. I do think we are a country that can be overly sensitive and entitled, but we are also the thought leaders in the world on diversity and inclusion (Just an aside: Before you point out other countries that “are soooo much better” than us, please look at population size and all the points of diversity. We hit that mark harder than most countries, and in my opinion, we have come much further). Let's be real, our grandparents and parents were not open to the diversity that is commonplace now in our country. Our generation had to move that bar, and our kids will hopefully move that bar even further. 

I do mourn the loss of my childhood heroes, but I welcome the knowledge of why they are not acceptable role models for today. They should be honored for having done something that furthered our country to this point, but we should know them for who they really are. 

If all people are flawed, who do our kids look up to? Who do we build a statue of, name schools after, and get a day off from school in their honor? 

This is why we have come to spend billions of dollars on our fake heroes. They will not let us down. There is no way we will ever see Wonder Woman drunkenly make-out with Aquaman while Batman weeps into his diamond encrusted Bat-Beer mug. Superman will never date Lois Lane's best friend after they fight over the fact that he didn’t clean the apartment, and we will never see Samwise betray Frodo. He will always be loyal to Frodo until the end of days.

These are absolute and constant in our world because they are manufactured. Our human heroes can never live up to these standards. Here is a short clip from a Star Trek actor on why every dad or mom should watch Star Trek – Voyager with their daughter. It reflects my thoughts on this topic. All of these fictional heroes are truly becoming the best role models for our kids.


Conversely, I believe we should not hide our real-life historical figures. We should not tear down their statues or monuments. What we should do is change out the plaques and update their history based on our new paradigm. "Here is a flawed person who tried. He or she may have been a fathead who believed xyz, but they did something that moved the ball forward. We can stand here in judgement because we live in a more enlightened time. We thank this person for the things they did that brought us here, but now we have grown and moved beyond their prejudice, their racism and their war-mongering."

Or something like that.

Anyone who has read any of my work knows where I stand on inclusion, diversity and tolerance. So please do not read into this thinking that I am an apologist for past generations or for hate of any kind.


So talk to your children about your family tree and talk about it openly and honestly. Talk about the horrors of slavery, our forefathers' role in the Native American genocide and the torture we bestowed on those who lived alternative lifestyles. Then educate your kids as to why it was so wrong and despicable and that there are still vestiges of it that must be crushed. These conversations will remove these ideas from the abstract.

After you have done that, watch Star Trek with your kids and let them see the leadership lessons taught by Captain Kirk and Picard. Watch an incredibly strong female role model in Captain Janeway and Burnham. Let them watch Captain Sisko try to raise a son during a war. Then move on to the superheroes and the Hobbits and Paul Atreides. Compare and contrast these fictional heroes with our reality.

Remember the “What Would Jesus Do” campaign? This spoke to a need for children to have a role model who they can use as a touchstone for decision making. It was a source of strength in behavior and thought process. If you are a religious family, then go for WWJD, but if you are not, find another person or a fictional character who you can share with your child.


My boys loved Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos.

Sgt. Fury became Nick Fury of Shield. I can talk about that guy all day long. We would read those comics together at night and then talk about it. It was set in WWII, and Sgt. Fury and his surprisingly diverse group of commandos would put the beat down on the Nazis. There is no such thing as a good Nazi, so it led to having discussions on a multitude of levels. We then moved on to the Hobbit, Dune, Star Wars, Star Trek and the Avengers.

Just figure out what works in your family and share those stories together. Then compare and contrast them with reality, contextualize it and make it a life lesson. This works, and it will help your child with independence and better decision making.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker    
CEO/President YMCA of Boulder Valley