Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Nature of Love as a Weakness for Superheriones

The first famous superhero was Superman. His weakness was a substance from his home planet: Kryptonite. If any villians placed it near him, he would be rendered completely useless, like so. It would help to define the nature of a Superhero (and Superheroine). Superheroes have to have weakness, or we couldn't relate to them at all. I honestly believe that Superheroes can exist without any weakness at all, except death. in some cases. However, they are created with weaknesses and "secret identities" to make them more acessible to humans. It's kind of how the Greek gods were created with flaws as well because no one would worship something that wasn't the least bit like them. I could be wrong, but worshipping them would be pointless. That aside, kryptonite didn't really make for a very acessible weakness. No one I know succumbs to a glowing rock. To make Superheroes and Superheroines more accessible to everyone, we created them with human weakness, like emotions. And no emotion can be used as a weakness more than love.

Katniss in the Hunger Games survives through her feigned loved for Peeta throughout the hunger games. Her survival depends on her sponsors, and sponsors are willing to give more with every kiss she lays upon Peeta. With it comes to the time where Peeta must die for Katniss to win, Katniss decides to eat deadly blueberries with Peeta so that no one wins. Imagine is no one told them to stop. There would only be tragic figures  at the end. At that moment, the contemporary viewer of the film had great admiration for Katniss to sacrifice herself for "love". Her "love" confused her, however,  and almost ended up killing her. Without the love interest, she would viewed the same as the other competitors- a ruthless, killing machine who the human condition doesn't apply to. But with statements such as, "I couldn't imagine myself without him", it highlights both love as a method of appeal and a weakness. 

Buffy's story is an even more direct application of this. She goes about slayer every vampire than comes near here. Angel poses a more powerful challenge to her because she loves him. Angel stated that to beat Buffy with force is useless. To defeat her, you must love her. It was shown that Buffy is very susceptible to this because she refuses to kill him at the end of the episode "Innocence". If he was just another vampire to her, he would've been dead and have no potential to pose further problems to her. However, because she still has feelings for him, she decided to have mercy on him.

Now, I'm not saying that love by itself is weakness. For many people, it can be a source of strength.  Lots of relationship are founded on the concept of love. However as a superheorine, being in love (especially with an enemy) would pose more of an liability than an asset.


  1. I do agree that in the world of superheroes and superheroines, love is always a liability. The villain traps the hero's loved one and threatens to kill them as bait to lure in their enemy. However, I don't think this necessarily makes the character weaker, just more accessible. In my opinion finding true love is one of the hardest things in life, and putting your trust in someone else can come at great costs. Being able to find someone you love is more of an accomplishment to me, and I think that makes the superhero/ heroine even greater.

  2. I definitely feel that when a comic book writer, director, etc. wants to create the "perfect" superhero, she definitely tries not to strip the superhero of all his humanity. The vulnerability of us humans is what makes us not "super" and that's exactly the feeling the writer wants to create in the superhero. I feel that this is for two reasons: a superhero should not be intimidating to the general public because how must a superhero protect the public if he is simultaneously scaring them. Also, a purely action-packed comic isn't always ideal. People still appreciate a "soapopera-esque" story.
    I read a graphic novel last semester in my "Memoir and Memory" class with Xine Yao entitled "Arkham Asylum". This was a beautifully written, psychologically driven portrayal of the vulnerability of the Batman at the hands of both his arch-nemesis "Joker" and his tumultuous past. This intrigued me as a reader because I became more involved with Batman's mental status than his dashing moves.

  3. If love is considered a weakness, I don't think that it is only for female characters. Think of many action movies where a man's family is taken hostage, or in Taken where the entire plot happens because a father loves his daughter.
    As for Katniss, personally I don't believe that she would have swallowed the berries. She needed to get home to Prim, and she was faking love with Peeta. I do not, for a second, believe that Katniss would have actually committed suicide. She called the gamemakers bluff.

    In Buffy, I think people wouldn't watch the show if Buffy could completely separate herself from her emotions. The slayer Kendra did not have love as a problem, but in becoming more like a person than a Slayer, she gained affection. Also a superhero without love can easily turn into a super killer. Love partly gives the moral compass to not kill people. Loving humanity in general is still love.

  4. While these two female characters are good examples of love as a weakness, I agree with Maggie that this cannot be restricted just to heroines. My first thought was Spiderman and how he is weakened by his love for Mary Jane. It is also important to note that although love can be a weakness, some stories could not take place without it, and this is not necessary a bad thing. Think of classic novels like Wuthering Heights which would have almost no plot if it were not for the complicated love triangles. As you have said, I think the inclusion of love as a weakness makes characters seem more real. It is something that everyone can relate to and in the end makes the stories more successful.

  5. Whlie Katniss may have complicated sexual feelings for Peeta, her attempted suicide was shrouded by her thoughts of the gracious donation that Peeta provided her years ago. Indebted to Peeta, her struggle with killing him was less so instigated by love, and more so related to the payment that she owed him for saving her and her family in the past. To simplify her emotional struggle to just love is to miss an entire aspect of her character, and looking past the role that love plays in helping her survive. Katniss uses love to gain supplies from her sponsors, which makes love a tool of power, not of weakness. Katniss' feelings for Peeta do not represent a "normal" affection that one would have for another, as she is using him literally as a means for survival.

  6. While I do feel that you make a good point, with the idea that falling in love can cause a weakness, especially if the person you fall in love with is your enemy. I think this can be easily seen in any star-crossed lover book, poem, movie, song, etc. However, I feel that Katniss' true weakness in the Hunger Games was not necessarily Peeta, but rather the need to win to get back to her sister, Prim. There were many instances in which Katniss will go on a thought about how she could not die, because she knew Prim would be watching and she would not want her to see her die. While Peeta is a complicating force within Katniss' life, I feel that her greater weakness was her desire to return home, and if she had to gain the voters support by being a star-crossed lover, than that is what she was going to do.

  7. I agree with your opinion that love seems to always be the weakness for super heroines. I don't believe that this is true for all super heroes, however. As you mentioned, Superman's weakness is Kryptonite rather than a female love interest. Seeing so many super heroines have weakness that involve men causes their own power to seem less than that of their male counterparts. Rather than have an outside, uncontrollable force be their weakness, it is their own emotions (that they can't control) that cause their weaknesses. Katniss uses her "fake" love for Peeta to her advantage and Buffy ends up killing Angel to save the world, but both also prove that their emotions take away from their strength as super heroines. I hope that in the future, new super heroines will begin to move away from such love weaknesses and instead become more independent.


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