This time of year as the wind turns cold and the day get shorter and shorter, creatures all too familiar begin creeping out of the woodwork. Horrifying monsters like aliens, Dracula, Wolfman, the Creature from The Black Lagoon, Mr. Hyde, The Mummy and Frankenstein’s creature lurk on hall way decorations. Villains like the Joker, The Wicked Witch of the West, Voldemort, Saruman, The Lizard, and Darth Vader line our party supplies. Yes, it’s October, which means Halloween is coming.
As much fun as people have with heroes, we also love the villains. Just take a quick look at all the costumes available. Yes, you have plenty of hero costumes, but there are also costumes based on the villains too. Even when we were kids playing in make-believe adventures, somebody (usually the biggest and strongest kid in the group) was the bad guy. After all, a story would be boring with out any conflict and a good villain can supply that.
In many cases, these villains can scare us. We like being scared, at least when we are old enough to know the difference between fact and fiction. It’s not so much fun when we are kids. We run and hide from the monsters and bad guys. We see a creepy old tree swaying in the wind outside the door way and we think it’s some crazed lunatic trying to break in. We see monsters lurking in our closet, and hiding under our bed. So logically we turn on the light. We run into mom and dad’s room and have them chase the monsters away. We do any and everything we can to banish those monsters and bad guys. Then our parents tell us that those monsters and bad guys aren’t real, they are just pretend and they can’t hurt us. Some parents won’t let their children own toys of the villains until they are old enough to know these facts.
At the same time these monsters and bad guys do exist. No, none of Batman’s villains have broken out of Arkham Asylum. Loki isn’t leading an army of aliens into Manhattan, trying to take over the world. The Lizard isn’t trying to turn us all into lizards. Darth Vader isn’t going to blow up our planet.
However, these villains and monsters are a metaphor. They are a personification for our deepest fears and anxieties, and yes, even for people “like” Joker, The Lizard, Voldemort and Vader. When we hear of a prowler on the loose, don’t we check to make sure our doors are locked? When we hear of some one abducting a child, don’t we check a few more times to make sure our children are safe and sound? Some one bursts into a movie theater, or a work place, or any one of our safe havens, we hold our loved ones a little tighter, and all but refuse to let them go to those places again for fear of losing them.
Deep down, just like when we are children we check our closets and under our beds to make sure no one is waiting to harm us. We want to feel safe and secure. We want to know that we can sleep sound at night .We want to leave our doors open and let our kids go run and play in the street with out worrying that some one will snatch them up, shoot them, run them over, or some other accident of nature will happen.
Perhaps it’s why, though we don’t admit it we still need and want heroes. After all, if the monsters and bad guys are the metaphors for our deepest fears and anxieties, then our heroes are our deepest hopes and aspirations. Some one to chase those monsters and bad guys away. A “mommy” and “daddy” to double check for us that no one will harm us, just in case. And perhaps, just perhaps, like those little night lights we had when we were kids, just a little light in the darkness.
After all, next to any type of hero does a bad guy really look all that scary? No. Whether they are falling to their death, hand cuffed and locked away, or reformed, some how they always lose. Then we look again in those spots under our beds or in our closets, and, yes, even our headlines, and realize there is nothing to be frightened of. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” And he of any one should know. After all he had to face not only the Great Depression, but World War II, both of which were some of the darkest days in human history. It may sound glib now, but he was right.
If we live in fear of those monsters and bad guys, both real and imaginary, we don’t really live. Worse, it can affect our health and personal well being, and can even affect the lives of others. It is so much better to just let the fear go. After all, what is a villain’s greatest weapon? Fear. But how are they defeated? By facing them, and their weapon head on.