Not All Heroes Wear Capes (But Some Do)

I was looking for an old list of character names on an hard drive earlier this week, and I came across a folder I thought I’d lost forever when my old computer died. The following is my college admissions essay, which I wrote back in 2009 before I applied to various schools. This essay got me into all of the colleges I applied for, and rereading it was a fun ride down memory lane, so I thought I’d share, even if some of the sentences are a little cringe-worthy.

The prompt was: Personal essay option #4 of the Common Application: “Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.”


 

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I watched Saturday morning cartoons for fourteen years. And, admittedly, I would still watch them if I didn’t have to get up for work at 6:30AM on Saturdays.

But I’m firmly convinced that cartoons do not rot your brain, nor is their aim to fill children’s minds with violence and fantasies of mutants and aliens coming to invade our planet. Cartoons, or, more specifically, cartoon characters, hold far more merit and importance than we normal, three-dimensional people give them credit for.  For fourteen years, I watched masked vigilantes, spandex-wearing champions, and super-powered idols light up cities with their strength and charisma, and then proceed to light up criminals and villains with their fists. I marveled as caped crusaders won the hearts of millions with their dedication to justice, honor, and protection from the forces of evil. Even when faced with the darkest, most frightful peril, those heroes stood their ground and the bad guys always wound up behind bars.

But that’s easy when you have lasers built into your eyes, bullet-proof skin, and you can fly.

Watching heroes like Superman fly off into the sunset, or The Flash sprint around a city so fast that little tornadoes kick up from his heels, always provided me with a sense of wonder and amazement. But there was one hero that always stood out from the others; one lone, cowl-wearing , growling hero who would sooner be called a menace than a star. Because he couldn’t fly without help from a grappling-hook, he couldn’t shoot beams from his eyes, and he most definitely couldn’t turn invisible…though he did blend in with the shadows quite nicely when prowling the streets for mongrels and dastardly deviants. I admired him because he wasn’t a superhero.

Batman has influenced me life because of his lack of super.

I’m not, and can never be, a superhero. I’m about as average as a teenage girl gets, and, in a few years, I’ll probably be an average adult. I’ve had a very cynical view of my abilities in the past, thinking that I’ll probably amount to nothing because there’s nothing particularly special or remarkable about me. But just because I can’t fly, can’t shoot heat rays from my eyes, or deflect bullets with my bare hands doesn’t mean that I should resign myself to a life of hopeless simplicity, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a shot in hell at being something maybe a bit more than ordinary. Batman, in all his cape-wearing glory, has shown me that normal people, like myself, can achieve some pretty significant accomplishments with the right attitude and the determination of a soldier at war. He’s shown me that humanity and ordinariness are not hindrances; but attributes that make success and victory taste all the sweeter when all is said and done.

I remember growing up averse to the entire idea of Batman; to me, he was the lamest of all heroes, because he was a normal human and couldn’t do what Green Lantern or Martian Manhunter could. He couldn’t see through walls or talk to fish, like the rest of the Justice League, and he had to try three times as hard to be heroic because he was always at a disadvantage; burdened by his humanity and lack of actual superpowers. I was actually glad when he left the show for a time due to the fact that he, as a human, felt inferior to the others, though he triumphantly returned a few episodes later. Eventually, after a lot of thinking and reflection, I came to realize that it was his humanity that made Batman such an astounding hero, and a stand-out from your stereotypical, average every-day Superman or Wonder Woman. Batman, an ordinary human by birth, had to spend years training his mind and his body, developing the right persona and mind-set to be able to fight crime and strike evil to its knees, simply by the strength of his heart and resilience of his spirit.  He wasn’t handed his powers on a silver platter – he had to work, and strive for his heroism, and the result is a human-born hero who manages to inspire and achieve goals through steely determination and ironclad perseverance…all while looking ridiculously cool in costume, swinging from building to building and cruising down the streets of Gotham in his Batmobile. He’s amazing because he can’t fly, turn invisible, or communicate with animals.

As an ordinary human being, I can never be Superman. But Batman has shown me that I can be a little more than average, if I only dedicate myself to my dreams and goals. Batman hasn’t influenced my life because he can kick the Joker’s butt and he drives a wicked awesome car; he’s influenced my life because of the trials he had to endure and the ardor he had to have in order to become the hero he is today.  His journey from ordinary human to respected, heroic icon is one that I will always admire, and instills a fair amount of hope in my average human heart that I can be something a little more than normal – that my dreams, no matter how far-off or unreachable they seem, are never so impossible. Heck, if Batman went from ordinary human being to crime-fighting, mask-wearing crusader of justice, my dreams of becoming a graphic novelist may not be as impractical as I first thought.  Batman will always be a normal human; with a little extra punch, thanks to his dedication and fierce determination.  And, after fourteen years of watching him dominate the bad guys on Saturday mornings, I’ve come to hope that I can be a little bit like Batman as I start to become an adult.

Thanks to Batman, I’ve come to see that just because I’m an average girl with an ordinary life doesn’t mean that I’m forever stuck in a routine of drab normalcy – and just because I’m not a superhero doesn’t mean I can’t accomplish anything a little bit extraordinary.  I have the ability to become what I want to be, as long as I’m willing to put forth the effort and strive to achieve my goals, overcoming any obstacles in my way with enough dedication and a proper, steely mentality.  But I think I’ll leave the cape-wearing and criminal-fighting to my favorite not-so-super hero.

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