Anti-heroes: a reflection
Being born in the 80’s, my favourite past-times growing up were playing on my 1989 Nintendo Gameboy (which I only recently parted with) playing street-football with my mates and collecting superheroes comic-books. I may be in my thirties now, but I get super-excited to see superheroes that I avidly read about in my childhood come alive on the big-screen thanks to technology that just didn’t exist back then. Just this week Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War was released in cinemas and I just can’t wait to go and watch it! This once very small industry has now become gigantic, awakening old childhood memories in many adults as well as creating fresh ones in a new breed of fan boys and girls.
Yet, something that I have noticed in the past couple of years is a shift in popularity from “heroes” to “antiheroes”. Whereas in my days it was the morally upstanding heroes that were on the top of most children’s favourites (such as Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and, my favourite, Spiderman etc.) today that spot is being taken over more and more by morally compromised antiheroes such as Dead Pool, Iron Man, Wolverine, The Punisher, Spawn, John Wick etc. From womanizers and alcoholics to murderers and hell-bound demons, these much darker antiheroes are increasingly becoming the new favourites. Something that, quite frankly, concerns me.
In my opinion, there are few "natural" reasons why such shift is occurring. On one hand there is certainly the fact that a now adult fandom enjoys more mature and complex content. On the other, is the fact that it is much easier for viewers to relate to and identify with characters that struggle with their own demons and moral flaws than with a “Superman” who never lies and never kills.
Whatever the reason, what is most concerning to me is the fact that the once universally accepted definitions of “good” and “evil” are now becoming a lot more fuzzy and blended. That light is somehow becoming darker and darkness more justifiable. That somehow it is actually possible to serve the light with dark means.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of John’s words concerning God – “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1John 1:5). This is the true and only standard of goodness and perfection, the standard against which the whole of mankind will one day be measured. We may be able to identify more easily with “heroes” that share in our flaws and inner-darkness but to find any goodness in that is a mere illusion (if not an outright lie). But how can one ever expect to ever rise to God’s perfect standard of goodness, to a degree of moral "brightness" in which there is no darkness at all? John gives us the answer only in the next verse: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. That standard of righteousness and that transformation from darkness to light is achieved in Christ, the one who took the darkness of our sin and our inner corruption and replaced it with his righteousness and holiness at his death and resurrection – a free gift that he offers to all those who would believe in him. As Jesus himself put it, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light… I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
We can either identify ourselves with antiheroes in an attempt to stick a label of goodness on our inner darkness and corruption or, on the other hand, we can reach out to Christ by faith for him to transform us from children of darkness to children of light. “This is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil… He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”.