I’ve noticed that recently, I’ve felt more moments of complete helplessness than I want to think about. As a soon-to-be independent young adult, I’m discovering new anxieties every single day: will my groceries rot in my fridge before I’m able to eat them? Is my downstairs neighbor going to send a noise complaint to my landlord and if so, where will I live when I’m inevitably evicted? Is my headache Carbon Monoxide poisoning? Probably yes to all of them!
Gravitating towards superheros
I think that’s why I’ve been gravitating towards superhero media as of late. The normal escape I take into pop culture hasn’t been helping me escape from scary headlines or the general overarching feeling that I won’t be able to live the life I’m hoping to live. I’m afraid of a lot, whether it be the fact that I won’t be able to get all of the tattoos I want, or literally anything related to the climate crisis. No amount of online solitaire, Youtube video essays, and online clickbait articles can distract me from that. But in a weird way, I find a lot of comfort in watching superpowered people on screen.
Out of all of them, I’ve felt the most watching the show Invincible for its character Atom Eve. I could envy a superhero for their powers, but she’s written differently from other heroes that use their powers in fantastical settings for the generic pursuit of “good.” She’s written as a teenager looking forward towards the future, still trying to find her place and affect actual change in the world to ease suffering beyond fighting giant monsters. Luckily for her, she has the ability to change matter at an atomic level.
Doing the work that needs to be done
Throughout the course of an otherwise pretty intense show, she uses her abilities to create a treehouse in a piece of untouched forest (which I am very jealous of), she saves people fleeing from a natural disaster, and she volunteers at a soup kitchen. That’s what I found so fascinating about her as a character. Even though she could spend her time impersonally affecting those who need help by devoting her time to monstrous threats (in the literal sense), she spends her time on a personal level doing the work that needs to be done to better the world, and feeling that direct change as it happens.
Doing it on the ground
Creating the character of a superhero with the ability to literally change reality, yet who still needs to feel the direct effect of the good she does by doing it on the ground on a person-to-person level is the exact thing that anyone struggling with any feeling of hopelessness needs to watch. I’ve found that the thing that most often kills my optimism for the future is the nagging thought that it’s all just naivete. But as Invincible shows us, it’s only a naive thought if there’s no follow-through of acting on it.
Invincible is a very good show. But I wouldn’t consider “feel-good” a descriptor that the showrunners were intending for it to have. But as the character of Atom Eve has shown, good can be found, even in the worst of situations. We just have to create it. She’s a fascinating new addition to the canon of superhero pop culture, and we should follow her example. Even if she does only exist on Amazon Prime Video.