For me, the hardest part of any writing project is beginning the first line. Being in the radio broadcasting business, I sometimes have to write what we in the “biz” refer to as “copy”, which is another way of saying “script”, a term normally used in the theatrical realm. (I also have some experience in local community theater, though I’ve never written a script for any production.) Invariably, when I sit down to write radio copy (“script”) for a commercial, I find myself struggling to write that first sentence. However, when the Radio Commercial Muse eventually appears and begins to dictate, I find that the rest comes fairly easy. I may have to tweak it a bit, or rearrange a sentence here or there, but once the words begin to flow, they typically flow rather effortlessly. The problem is, the Muse is rather unpredictable and has been known to be caught in heavy traffic in the Cosmic Continuum Beltway, so her arrival is quite unreliable.
I say all this because when I sat down to write this column, I struggled a bit to decide how to begin. If I were to ask a writing expert where to begin, I am quite sure the answer might be something akin to “Why, begin at the beginning, dear boy,” spoken (in my mind’s ear, at least) in the cultured voice of Sir Ian McKellen, a rather distinguished English actor who has played both the roles of Magneto in the “X-Men” movies, and Gandalf the Grey/White in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films. However, were I to heed Sir Ian’s counsel, I might find myself describing events that took place eons ago, long before Frodo and Bilbo and even J.R.R. Tolkien himself ever existed.
I recently saw the film, “Man of Steel” starring Henry Cavill. In the event you’ve been living in an underground bunker or been banished to the Phantom Zone for the past few decades, this is the latest Hollywood blockbuster “Superman” film. Having seen the movie trailer a couple of months ago, I was already as excited as an 8-year-old kid on Christmas Eve. The look of the film is much different than any of the other Superman films I’ve seen before. There is a hyper-realism, a sort of grittiness to it. And Cavill, who is British by the way, does a fine job of playing the Son of Jor-El, who is sent to our planet to not only preserve his own Kryptonian heritage, but to save the people of Earth from…..well…..you’ll just have to see the film, but it’s not from melting polar ice caps.
You may have noticed that in recent (within the past 11-12) years, Hollywood has released several “superhero” movies. Many would reason (and I cannot disagree) that these films typically bring in big box office sales for the movie studios. If they didn’t, they would stop making them. But I suspect there may be a valid reason WHY they bring in big sales. I love the music of Tina Turner, but I think the message of her 1985 song, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is dead wrong. The last decade or so has been a very stressful time for America. We’ve been involved in wars, we’ve lost fellow Americans to terrorist attacks, we’ve seen our retirement funds dwindle to a few dollars, we’ve seen friends and family lose their homes to foreclosure, we’ve seen children and adults slaughtered their own schools, and I could go on. Movies are pure escapism. They allow us to forget all our problems for two and a half hours. Superheroes, whether in comics or on the big screen, are symbols of hope. They remind us that no matter how bleak things are, there is hope that one can overcome obstacles, if one refuses to give up. Once hope is lost, we simply give up. Peter Parker may have the proportionate strength of a spider, but he still has problems, he still loses loved ones, and he still must find a reason to keep fighting for good.
We need heroes. We need those symbols of hope.
We need all the heroes we can get.