Winning the Lottery and Super Powers

Not a day goes by that I don't win an international lottery. Hundreds of millions of dollars tempt me each day when I check my spam folder. If I actually cashed in on all of them, I could buy and sell the people sending them. Alas, it's only spam.

I've been watching a lot of Smallville the past couple of weeks, and it's been creating a huge internal dialogue in me about why I gravitate toward superheroes and other archetypes for entertainment. Let me preface this by discussing how I came to like certain super characters.

Spider-man and Batman are also up there with Superman for me. (I know, pick the three with the biggest following why don't I?) Spidey and Batman were first introduced to me through drugstore comics I would pick up and browse while I was waiting for the shopping trip to be over. Having suckled at the He-Man teat during my formative years, the concepts of super powers and secret identities were old familiar turf by this time. With comics being designated as a "guy" activity, I found out more about these two through animated series, which was an acceptable form of entertainment for a young girl. The original Batman live action series was also being run on Nick at Night at the same time, so I was able to see Adam West portray the characters through a myriad of "WHA-AM"s and "KA-POW"s. Then came the Michael Keaton movies, that rooted Batman as one of my favorite characters. The part I liked best about him was that he used devices rather than real powers.

A few years later, my family tuned into The Adventures of Lois and Clark. Dean Cain became Super-man and had to deal with human dilemmas and saving the world. Up to this point, I kind of thought Super-man was a tool (sorry original movie fans). Reeves did a good job of portraying the character he was given, but the character was weak. He was too plastic and alien to see any qualities that I myself might possess. He wasn't human and it felt alien. Then the live action series of Lois and Clark came along. Cain made Super-man human. The writers showed the turmoil and human emotion that the plastic Super-man of the movies lacked. I could finally relate to the character and I was sold.

Recently, there have been more movies depicting these characters. The Spider-man movies let me connect with Spidey on this same human level the cartoons lacked. The Batman prequel revived my interest in a character I gave up for dead when Kilmer took over. Then, thanks to the D-train, I was fully exposed to two great episodes of Smallville (season 5 finale, season six premiere). I was willing to go back and put up with the awkward first season freak-of-the-week episodes and thanks to DVD could ignore those plots in favor of the longer character-evolving story arcs. I could relate to this Super-man and was excited to see him Return in a movie. Unfortunately, the movie was another plastic caricature. A much better plastic man than the previous films thanks to more realistic special effects, but still an alien with which I could not empathize. So I decided to stick with the Super-man I liked - on TV.

I was rewarded when the Smallville sixth season DVD came out. I had missed the Oliver Queen story arc due to a lack of DVR and catching up in the series on DVD. Imagine my surprise when I found that of all the characters I'd known so far, the one I could relate to best was the Green Arrow because he lived in the real world, or at least a much realer and uglier world than the others. I've always had a penchant for gray characters.

This is when I discovered that my super power may be extreme empathy. I can only relate to characters that I can understand well. I need to be able to put myself in their position and see their motives for the actions they take.

At times, this power is also my weakness, especially when I leave the fantasy realm of entertainment and watch comedy or drama. Sometimes it's physically painful for me to see characters embarrassed or hurt. My mortification sets in before they even stumble into the situations that cause their pain.

I'm not sure why this is. I, like most people I know, had my own moments of awkwardness or embarrassment when I was younger, but nothing like the deep-seeded mortification or embarrassment I feel when I watch characters walk in to these situations completely unaware of what awaits them. Sometimes I find that my reaction is much stronger than their reaction, and I wonder why this is.

I also wonder why so many writers love to put people in these kinds of situations over and over again. Yes, some humiliation is good for character growth, but sometimes it's way over the top of what it needs to be - probably to heighten the viewer's reaction and emphasize the trauma of the event. I would love to see more scenes where the humiliation factor builds, but then, like many times in real life, the others who could laugh don't because they're too polite. Sure not seeing that on reality TV.

Now if only my super power could have been to cash in on those lottery winnings for real...


“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents