Iron ManGloria went with me to see Iron Man last weekend. I think it's fair to say that her interest in superhero movies is "low," but she's a fan of Robert Downey Jr. (me, too), and that was enough to get her into the car.
There are parts of Iron Man that I really, really dislike, but that's not what matters. What matters is that there's a scene that lasts about two minutes where Tony Stark (Downey) is flying over the city as he tests his power armor, and it's two minutes of sheer exhilaration. That moment somehow captures the essence of what it would feel like to be a superhero.
After the movie, we were having our usual debriefing, and I mentioned that scene. "I looked over at you, because I knew you would totally get into that, and your face was lit up," she said.
"That moment was being a superhero," I said. "Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like?"
"Not really," she said.
I was shocked. I thought that everyone on earth had wondered what it would be like to be a superhero. I'm forty-seven and I still wonder about it.
"Is it a girl thing?" I asked. "Do all guys think about it, but girls don't?"
"Not completely," she said, "but that's probably a big part of it."
"You really are part of a strange, alien race," I said.
"As previously mentioned," she said.
"So who is your favorite superhero?" I asked.
"Superman," she said.
"See, he's my least favorite," I said.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because, to me, a real superhero has to battle the demons inside himself. Superheroes do great good knowing that they could do great evil. Without that conflict, there's no tension. He's Superbland."
Batman is probably the prototype superhero for that struggle of light versus dark, at least for me. He's angry. He feels rage. It always feels like Batman is one step away from being on the other side, and he has to make the decision whether to take that step every day. That, to me, is far more heroic than someone who eats their vegetables every day and always sits up straight in their chair.
This discussion with Gloria made me wonder whether wanting to be a superhero is just in the DNA of men. Have any of us gone through life without wondering, even once, what it would be like?