In a recent discussion of Wonder Woman’s new less-attractive yet also less-patriotic looking 80’s Mall Rat crimefighting gear, more than one reader opined that he did not “get” the whole don-leotards-to-fight-crime shtick. Some wondered why super-vigilantes did not dress in riot police gear.
Allow me to explain. Let us suppose your great-great-grandfather swore an unbreakable oath that he and all his descendants, including you, had to fight the scourge of piracy. Let us suppose you also knew that criminals were a cowardly and superstitious lot, and that you live either in the arctic circle, in a fortress of solitude built from a mysterious crystal from a perished world, or in a secret base shaped like a skull. Let us further suppose you have a choice of possible weapons, including a magic lasso, a boomerang shaped like a bat, a magic ring that is afraid of the color yellow, a mace made from the mysterious Ninth Metal that allows you to fly, a gun that shoots green gas that never effects you or your deadly Oriental chauffeur, or the ancestral ring that, when you punch a crook, leaves a mark shaped like a skull burnt into his flesh.
Let us further suppose you had to face a foe, either the unstoppable War Wheel of Nazi Germany, or group of guys wearing masks and carrying shotguns who are menacing some pretty girl you have a crush on.What is the most reasonable way to handle this dire emergency?
By why ask this as a hypothetical? Let us take a look at real security camera footage of a real crime recently halted by a vigilante. Roll tape, please.
You see, the answer is, that instead of acting like a marine or a cop to stop crime, the waycool approach is to ride up, while napping, on a motorcycle that you drive with your feet, dismount by means of wheelie on the front tire, and shoot the bad guys with a machinegun hidden in your guitar. Then the stunningly attractive Bollywood actress will sing and dance with you.
So, no, this is not the way we conduct matters in the real world. This is, however, the way the human heart works.
Is it ridiculous?Yes, of course. This is not a bug, it is a feature. It takes a certain courage of the imagination, a certain headlong infatuation, to suspend one’s disbelief for the ridiculous. It is also good practice for that once or twice in your life when something that seems too good to be true turns out to be real, so that you will have the courage to face it. (Yes, it takes courage to face overwhelming joy: ask any nervous bride.)
So why dress in a red-white-and-blue bathing suit to fight evil? The answer is that superheroes dress in bat-costumes because if the underworld ever discovered their secret identities, their effectiveness as crimefighters would be compromised. Besides, criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot, and they are all afraid of being attacked by weightlifters in leotards.
Um. Okay, forget that last answer. The real answer is that we live in a day and age where people do not wear togas and capes any more, and what we have instead of knights in mail and royalty in pomp are soldiers in drab camo and politicians in drab three-piece suits. We live in a drab age. The real answer is the same reason why the sword is the favored weapon of the galactic empire, and why space princesses are more fun to rescue from ninja vampire space pirates than the daughter of a space senator.
We need (one hopes only in moderate amounts) a little color, gaiety, mystery and romance, to remind us of what we all secretly know.
We all secretly know that there is something cooler than the real world out there, somewhere. If the real world satisfied the human heart, we would all read newspapers and reports on potato crop production in the Ukraine, and these real things would never bore us.
If the human heart were satisfied with the world, then every day would be Monday, and all trains would be freight trains, and never the circus train.