My hope is that all superheroes get punched in the nose, or are at least brave enough to face mortality. Or for the sake of this article, I would rather have seen Super Man in a hospital as a result of picking up a car. Most people have been exposed to superhero cartoons or movies; “superheroism” has left a permanent image on our psyche. From the Ice Man freezing a villain, to Bat Man punching the lights out of a crook on top of a building, or Cat Woman batting her paw like hand, many young people are infatuated with superhero or heroine drama. America has been accessorized and inundated with a superhero image. And many kids at school want to act out their favorite superhero.
It starts with just one superhero want to be coming into the preschool classroom. “Good morning Matthew….”I’m super man today, he proudly says.” “OK,” I say with a smile…”I’m super Paul.” Matthew is quite passive with his demeanor and to identify with a superior character is necessary to his play. As an adult it would be a crime to break him from this world of fantasy or squelch his wish to be like a superhero. Being a super hero or heroine is where kids have access to their own creative power.
And all through out the day, the boys are superheroes, jumping off the playground equipment, bumping into each other, tugging at each other’s arms, shooting each other with invisible projectiles – and the occasional handful of wood chips being flung in the direction of someone else. (In my observation of aggressive superhero play it is mainly boys who take on this role. Girls on the other hand are involved in a heroine play, which involves less physical activity.) As a teacher I get annoyed with the superhero play because I find it at times aggressive, inhibits other possible play, and may exclude other people. Yet as a teacher I recognize the value of not intercepting or impeding on their world of fantasy, because it would be wretched and dull. Superhero, war play, and other fantasies where the ego is charged, is a normal part of childhood development and robs them of their imagination and their way of exploring self-confidence. However, the common mantra in the superhero play of the “good versus evil” paradox is hard to swallow when war is so prevalent within society. Meanwhile I observe the behavior and wrestle with either interrupting it or finding a positive way to redirect it. As it commonly results in someone getting punched in the face. Usually the latter strategy seems to be most effective, as I pitch a proposal for freeze tag, a game less competitive.
Since, superheroes is so culturally entrenched, they are not flying away or disappearing any time soon. Is identifying with a superhero a normal and healthy part of childhood development? Is there a problem with kids acting or mimicking their favorite superhero character or developing war games?
Superhero drama spreads a common myth that supreme use of force (violence) is justifyable and “good” in the face of “evil.” And it begins at a young tender age. (TO BE CONTINUED)
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