In cinema and television, it’s mostly single people with no attachment to families who save the world. Things like getting married and having kids are usually unnecessary encumbrances. World-saving is important. Nothing else matters.
The slew of Hollywood productions and Netflix offerings show this. In the Avengers franchise alone, Hawkeye stands out from the rest of the team because he is the one who was married and had kids. The rest were mostly single. The same could be said for almost all other heroes from both Marvel and DC universes: Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Supergirl, Oliver Queen, and Professor X. The world of fantasy is no different: Dumbledore, Merlin, Gandalf, Obi-Wan, and Frodo Baggins were all unmarried. So were James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and Jack Ryan from the world of espionage. To be fair, many of them had partners or love interests. I’m talking about husband and wife with children living together as family under one roof.
The disconnect between heroism and family life hit me more clearly when I watched Charlize Theron’s Old Guard few weeks ago. This Netflix movie is smashingly good. It features the immortal Andy (Andromache of Scythia played by Theron) and her team of immortal heroes whose job was to save the world from evil, preferably by gunfights and big explosions. Andy is a fierce warrior, very committed to her work, and very tired of her immortality. She’s single too.
The Old Guard got me wondering why pop culture keeps hammering the idea that marriage and family are incompatible with heroism. Or, put another way, why is the task of saving the world mostly reserved for non-married people? The 2004 animated movie The Incredibles graphically showed us how, in the world of blockbuster movies and TV shows, marriage and kids are a downgrade from superhero activities. If you want to subdue heroes, get them married and produce kids.
Of course the reasons could very well fall under the category of plot development. Singles have more time in their hands, they can drop everything at a moment’s notice, and they are sexier for the big screens.
But that’s precisely the problem. Pop culture reduced heroism to a sexy swagger, big explosions, unlimited stamina, and well-choreographed fight scenes. These larger than life figures look good with eye popping visuals but if you take a closer look, they lead tortured lives. Heroes don’t mix well with regular people. As in the case of Frodo, their wounds never really heal.
Taking this against the backdrop of the Christian faith, I can’t help but notice a few things.
One, the world always needs saving. Two, the world already has a Savior. Not the kind it wants but the kind it needs. Three, many writers keep superheroes single most probably because marriage humanizes them, makes them just like the rest of us who have to deal with laundry and groceries. That ruins the plot. And four, the world simply underestimates the heroism of regular Joes doing good in the world. While pop culture portrays heroism in terms of gun fights and big explosions, what really preserves society is the slow task of keeping a marriage, raising good kids, building businesses, serving in far-flung communities, developing vaccines, and electing good presidents. This is usually done by being a normal person most of the time.
But that’s enough philosophizing. They’re just movies and I’m rambling because we are in the fifth month of quarantine. I’m really just stoked that The Old Guard is getting a sequel and Jack Ryan is up for a third season.
* Image from Vulture.com