When my son was young he loved superheroes. He had a pair of Batman pajamas when he was two that he insisted on wearing everyday for about a year. Most days he wore them to bed, but some days they were his outfit of choice. When he was four he had a Superman cape that he wore anytime we went shopping. He said he needed the cape so if there was “any trouble” at the market he would be able to “swoop in” and save everyone.
He was certain these clothes gave him power and it was fantastic. I have wonderful memories of my son as a superhero. When it came to Spiderman however, all bets were off. He loved Spiderman. Loved him. He could tell you all about Peter Parker, and spoke like he knew him, in a very matter of fact way. He was an expert and would happily talk about Spiderman at the drop of a hat. By drop of a hat of course I mean it was constant.
I went to every superhero movie that was released during his childhood and watched all the videos and cartoons we could find. When he was old enough to see the classics, like Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman, we would watch the movies at home and seeing his face as he saw the men he admired so much come to life was magic. I respected his idol worship, valued his opinions, and washed his pajamas and cape everyday.
After 18 years of unwavering support of my son and his superhero friends, this week things got complicated. We saw a commercial for the new Spiderman movie and I made a comment questioning how many movies they could make of Spiderman, and how many different actors could play him. My son looked at me with a look I can only describe as complete disgust. How could I question the making of these movie masterpieces?
He then spent the next twenty minutes explaining something about there being different universes and each franchise, led by different actors, was a different universe. The Michael Keaton Batman was not the same as the Christien Bale Batman, and you could not compare Toby McGuire’s Spiderman to Andrew Garfield’s, because they were simply not the same. I’m a smart girl but I truly did not understand what he was talking about.
They are all the same. Spiderman is the same guy, with the same powers and same outfit, regardless of who is playing him. It is the same with Superman, Batman, and all the other superheroes. It doesn't matter who the actor is, if it is a cartoon on TV or a comic book, they are all the same. He rolled his eyes and eventually gave up trying to explain to me how they were different. Perhaps he gave up because he is wrong.
I love this kid and his love of these childhood heroes. I may never understand how it all works and it doesn’t matter. The fact is he understands his logic and that is cool. It is also cool that I am the only person on the planet who does not understand how the world of superheroes work, and lucky he loves me even though I am incapable of understanding the most basic facts about how a superhero franchise operates.
It is my son’s job to roll his eyes at me and wonder how I get through life with a limited ability to comprehend basic things. It is my job to support his beliefs and convictions, even if they make no sense. The fact is no matter who you put in the leotard, give him a web, a cape, or a sexy car, they are all the same. Making superhero movies is about making money, not changing actors to distinguish different universes for loyal fans.
When my son was in the middle of his lecture on how the world of Spiderman works, I looked at an 18 year old but saw a 4 year old boy talking to me. I was transformed back to his childhood and it was magic. The power of a superhero I guess. I am going through emotional turmoil as I deal with my son moving away to university and when he looked at me, having completed his case, I started to cry and he started to laugh.
I told him I thought he was amazing and he was right about all of it and there were different universes and no two Spidermen were the same. He laughed harder and told me I didn’t need to cry because I didn’t get, and it and he loved me. I sobbed, he howled, I tried to sneak in that I would move to school with him so we could be close to each other, and he laughed louder, although I saw a twinge of panic that I was not kidding.
My kid is ready to get out of here. It does not mean he does not love me, or appreciate his home, it only means he is ready. He is 18 years old and just about done with this stage of his life. He wants to leave home, experience life, see the world, and forge his own path. As for my ever being ready for my son to leave home, it will take the strength of Superman, the calm of Batman, and the courage of Spiderman for me keep the faith.
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