The Paradox of Our Obsession with Superheroes

By Craig Miller

This article is part of DFLA’s ongoing series looking at the problem of abortion through the lens of American pop culture.

Superheroes are presented in pop culture as mighty people with special powers. Ever since Marvel burst onto the scene at San Diego Comic Con in 2008 with the trailer for the who’s-that character of Iron Man, there has been a steady stream of superhero content in film and television, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon.

Here’s the thing about the superhero narrative: nearly every savior in a suit comes from humble beginnings, or, in the case of Tony Stark, unexpected tragedy and loss. The origin story of the superhero is ubiquitous: it’s Starlord, Luke Skywalker, and Moses. It’s Natasha Romanov and Diana Prince. It’s someone who is thrust into an impossible situation, and keeps going. That’s why they’re superheroes, and why the story, quite literally, never gets old.

Frequently, these origin stories involve infants who are vulnerable, whose parents couldn’t care for them. This is where we can begin to identify culture’s warring desires between our affinity for superheroes and our nation’s carte-blanche promotion of abortion, in legal extremities not even shared by Europe. When a child can’t be cared for in the movies, they just might be a superhero! When a child can’t be cared for in America, women are encouraged to terminate. 

This isn’t just superheroes. The Exposed Child Motif has existed for millennia, and forms a common theme in the study of religious and mythological texts. The basic plot is simple: the mighty king, wise leader, or even “god” began their life in grave danger, and were saved by the actions of either parent(s), the Divine, or natural or supernatural forces.

Familiar examples include Moses and Jesus, targeted by sanctioned mass murder of infants. Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt, and Moses’s mother built a floating basket and set it on the Nile. The founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were abandoned by their mother, but were saved by miraculous events including being suckled by a wolf. Similar storylines include the Ancient Egyptian myth of Horus and the Akkadian story of Sargon.

Today, we watch movies about a dying planet where the parents of a baby send him in an escape rocket before their home is obliterated. The spacecraft lands on Earth. The child becomes Superman.

Here’s the thing: our celebrated stories consider unwanted infants remarkable, each with the potential for greatness and lives well lived. Our reality considers unwanted infants disposable.

Today, with abortion as the prefered option for unwanted pregnancy, many unborn babies are truly “exposed” children. Mothers in a crisis situation are frequently pressured, by partners, parents, or providers, to end their child’s life. Yet, as in these stories we love so much, heroic individuals intervene; they are the mothers, counselors, crisis pregnancy centers, and others who go against the currents of modern sensibilities and choose life for their children. 

These are true super heroes.

Craig B. Miller an ordained rabbi serves as a Board member of Democrats for Life of America. He runs Black Rabbit Marketing a Strategic Planning with clients in alternative health coverage, aerospace, politics, and internet technology. He lives in Passaic, NJ with his wife, two dogs, and two rabbits. He is serving his fourth term as an elected Board of Education Commissioner, overseeing a district of over 18,000 students and staff.