Trial of the Hero

Our weaknesses can become our strengths.

Many superheroes in stories have some kind of flaw. This makes it so instead of simply winning in every situation the hero is actually overcoming challenges. Way more interesting. These flaws can range from physical impairments to personality quirks. The way the hero overcomes weakness or inadequacy is what makes the character unique and therefore worth looking into.

Sometimes a superhero’s disability influences his or her skill set. A blind man is often shown as being expert with his other senses. A weak man sometimes is motivated to make up for his lack of strength with an increase of intellect. In these cases, focus is taken away from the disability and is shifted elsewhere.

There are also characters whose personal issue is part of their power. One comic book character I know has multiple personalities and he shows a different super power depending on which persona is in control. Some characters have abilities that are connected with their emotional state and they have to watch their feelings so they don’t get out of control. What is a detriment to some becomes a benefit to them.

So what about behavioral disorders? They don’t get much exposure in storytelling. I want to know if there is a way to portray those diagnosed with certain conditions in a way that is both interesting to wide audiences and does not portray them poorly. Unfortunately, this comes with many hurdles.

What genre would you portray the autistic in? If you place them in a comedy you run the risk of making light of their situation. A drama may make their situation look worse than it actually is. And a horror movie might paint the autistic as either a victim or a monster. The autistic may not have a preferable place to get their stories told.

Another hurdle is the fact the story of an autistic person is not always a compelling tale. Nobody makes stories about children struggling at school. Would you go see a movie about a boy who has trouble making friends? Some of the most important stories are of people just trying to live a normal life. How do you make that interesting?

I can’t think of what an autistic superhero could possibly be like. Some would surely lean towards portraying them as tortured geniuses with amazing mental abilities and limited social skills. You can’t portray every autistic person as a savant. What about a superhero who struggles with making friends but has an amazing ability to empathize with how people are feeling? Now that is a hero worth watching.

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