Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Roundup: “Superpowers”

Spiderman, Batman, or even Ron Jeremy couldn’t touch the caliber of super-man status that Ira Glass achieves in this week’s This American Life. A poignant episode ensues after Ira declares, "When we were weak, we told ourselves we were strong." … Read More

By / August 18, 2010

Spiderman, Batman, or even Ron Jeremy couldn’t touch the caliber of super-man status that Ira Glass achieves in this week’s This American Life. A poignant episode ensues after Ira declares, "When we were weak, we told ourselves we were strong." Superpowers: What is the significant draw to them from the common people? Ira pounces on the topic of the ubermensch with Chris Ware, finding that "Some of us, we spend a long, long time hoping that we’re more than what the world thinks of us. So of course we’re drawn to this." But, should we inherently assign the role of judge to the voyeurs presumed to be watching our every move? Like the last unwed daughter of a worried mother, babygirl generally forgets self-service and opts to become what her mother sees her as. Oy. I’d rather submit to a fellow Jewess with a clue. Continuing on, it is wise to choose our superheroes wisely.


Act 1: There would definitely be flight groupies, I imagine

In investigating which superpower best scratches many a bystander’s yen, John Hodgman poses the Q, "Flight or Invisibility?" Personally, I wouldn’t mind slipping into the holy voyeur role à la invisibility for some field research now and again, a purely educational endeavor for the good of the people, of course.

People pining for superpowers don’t necessarily have epic intentions to match. "Here’s something that nobody says, I’d use my powers to fight crime." Boo, talk about a cold shower. Most of the interviewees sought foremost, just as SuperIra pointed out, to be more than they were in the eyes of their peers, constantly aware of their critics. It’s as if these sugarbabies submitted fondly to the voyeurs who, although happily dished out shiny critiques, weren’t responsible after all for honeybunny’s happiness. Nietzsche wrote of the voyeurs, "Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt." Where have all the mensches gone?

Hodgman is shocked at the lack of drive to save the world, many opting to do mundane things with less responsibility like stealing sweaters and spying on exes. His expectation that his fellow man would enthusiastically give of his or herself to a greater cause is lofty, like a lonely Hasid seeking a commitment from Candy on the corner.

Deliberations ensue that tie the decision between flying and invisibility to be one of primal desire. What do these superhuman wannabes want, and better yet, as Hodgman aptly challenges, which would you choose-the person you hope to be or the person you actually are? To choose the selfless former option is truly the sexy superhuman one that this act has found the average joe rarely chooses. Hello Woody Allen misanthropy, so we meet again.


Act 2: Soon after she was schooled in the sheer power of lipstick a short skirt and a supermodel runway walk to control the minds of others.

Kelly McEvers interviews bounty hunter Zora, an astute woman on the flipside who doesn’t give a shit about mediocrity and goes for superhero status directly. Dropdead hot and Serbian, she decided at 10 years old that she wanted to serve the populace with her increasing skillset. A person willing to fight for a cause while enhancing her own hot mess, her Indiana Jones pipedream never came to fruition. Based on her post-CIA interview rejection meltdown, I’d argue that her kryptonite was a lack of Plan B, bringing her life to a greater standstill than a Blago jury. After cleaning up her act, Zora became the international heartbreaker able to serve the public and find her calling. Fishnets and all.

The act is followed by David Sedaris’s rendition of Billy Holiday’s "Goldfinger." Sexier than I’d ever seen him before, I can’t help but picture him in a cape.

Act 3: I have a little trouble with 3D Man.

The Midwest Superman peaks through his New Yorker Clark Kent persona in telling us of Beppo the Amazing Supermonkey from Planet Kryp-TAN. Don’t worry, Ira, your secret’s safe with me.

Jonathan Morris of "Gone and Forgotten" aptly describes Batman as a well-trained human. It’s what makes him the hottest hero in my book. "If you could just school over somebody, that’s probably a superpower you want," finds Morris when dissecting various superhero traits that have busted or succeeded over the years. Perhaps the greatest superpower one could possess that propels a cause into the cosmos is the power of nonchalance. In an interview several years ago, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne declared, "I stopped caring so much about what people might think if I sung about love and humanity."

Morris also speaks of the various technologies that expand a hero’s horizons. Save me, Captain Jobs.


Act 4: They needed people to believe them.

"When arms fail they have to go straight to myth. It is called a desperate act." Jason Bleibtreu investigates makeshift superheroes boosted to godlike status among God’s Army, a rebel army of Burmese Seperatists. The significance of myth that the superhero affords bring solace to beaten down populaces, as their legendary stories tend to parallel a group out of hopeless wastelands. From Luther and Johnny, the twin leaders of the army, weakness manifests as greatness under the guise of mythology and collects popularity in the country and guile in politics.

In the US, what we need are some strong characters that break the rules to save the day. As evidenced by the box office, Sly and the Family can replace Marvin and Bronson as America’s badboy superheroes. Again, we’s high aimers. Pass the sildenafil, please.