This post is for everyone born between 1945 and 1965, because, if you did, you grew up with the classic superhero comic books. More than likely, you also saw how, at some point in the plot, these heroes needed to spank women in order to “teach them some manners.”
You grew up in a post nuclear world where the future dissolved amidst Alfred Hitchcock films and adventure. Perhaps you imagined your life, and that of everyone you knew, would end beneath a mushroom cloud blast. In your mind you saw their bodies burn in milliseconds or develop mutations such as three eyes, four arms, five penises, eight mouths, or thirty five toes.
Superheroes were a way to fight against this nuclear disaster. These supernatural humans were the only ones who could defeat the evil Nazi forces. Everyone knows the first villain Captain America and Superman had to defeat was Hitler himself. Then their battle was taken against the USSR.
It was only until several years later that you realized how these comics, and now movies, were the best ideological vehicle for the United States to enlist people into their imperialistic cause disguised as democracy and justice. At the time, you only noticed the bright colors, the tales of men who could fly and shoot laser beams from their eyes.
In that world women became the work force tasked with shaping discourse. As secretaries specialized in shorthand typing, they were mediators, filters, and starting points to turn moral ramblings into presidential and social leadership speeches. Those were the words you listened to at home, while reading sexist comics as your dad would yell, “The hell we’re going to do now?” before he asked your mom for a second helping of mashed potatoes.
It was then you saw how Batman and Robin wore the same tights as your mom. You liked it, didn’t you? They were unafraid to have a feminine side. Yet you were forbidden from showing any sign of weakness, since that was a “woman” thing. They had to cover up their emotions with technical jargon that began with bat (batmobile, batcave, etc.). They also had to defend their manhood by hitting women.
You started to think it was normal: for the woman to be the secretary, that she was passive, that she always wore a skirt, and that she needed spanking from men, since they were the “bosses” teaching her a lesson. You began comparing the colorful stories with the attitudes and actions your father used on your mother. You saw the same violence that at times was dismissed, while at others was forcefully hidden under heavy makeup.
Years go by, you get married and have kids just as society intended. You’re happy you made something of yourself. You raise your daughter like your father raised you. You treat your wife like you learned from all your heroes. Which is why you’re shocked when your daughter starts talking about feminism at the dinner table. You tell her to shut up and finish her plate. Then one day she tells you she’s a lesbian, and you kick her out. You justify this by seeing yourself as Batman defending Gotham.
After a couple years, you come to realize that there’s not one way to be good man. You apologize to your daughter, who now has a son. You try to bond with your grandson by giving him your entire classic comic book collection.
Your grandson starts wearing his Batman and Robin tights when he gets in drag to go out and protest. It’s then when you start thinking that maybe if you’d spanked your daughter more, she’d raised a better son. Thankfully, she broke the sexist pattern of your time, that believed hitting women was okay.
This might not be the happiest comic book story, but there’s plenty of positive influences from superheroes. Stephen King has a personal story of how Batman shaped his life. There’s also the tale of the hidden life of the man who gave us Superman.
Translated by María Suárez