Men Not Feeling Much Like Supermen

As Captain Marvel, Okoye, Wonder Woman and Black Widow have emerged, one by one, onto the silver screen I’ve found myself feeling surprisingly empowered as a woman. No wonder men have so much self-confidence, with all the male superheroes out there.

Or not. 

A friend of mine, “Bob,” sees things differently: “The downside to the abundance is that men feel like they have to live up to that.” And, apparently, fear that they don’t.

After Bob turned up this more tarnished side of the coin I started noticing a number of songs that seem to reflect the drawback to superherodom. Like Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This.”

Achilles and his gold, Hercules’s gifts

Spiderman’s control, and Batman with his fists

And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

He’s no hero but this crooner yearns for a lady who will love and accept him, anyway. He wants someone who might say something like this:

I’m not looking for somebody 

With some superhuman gifts…

Just someone I can turn to

Somebody I can kiss

I want something just like this

3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” takes a slightly different twist. Can a man still be seen as superman even when falling short?

If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?

If I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?

Interestingly, Five for Fighting’s “Superman” frets over being judged by and reduced to society’s heroic ideal in a way that mirrors women’s worry over being judged by and reduced to society’s beauty ideal. A few lines I gathered together:

I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane

I’m more than some pretty face beside a train

Even heroes have the right to bleed

Even heroes have the right to dream

It’s not easy to be me

Like women who rebuff a narrow focus on their body parts and want, instead, to be seen and appreciated for their whole selves, this Superman wants to be seen as more than just a pretty (heroic) face. He wants his full self to be understood and appreciated, even his wounds. 

My initial inability to grasp the negative side of superheroes is matched by men who envy women’s sexiness and wish they held a similar allure. “No matter how much I work out women don’t swamp me, or even seem to notice me,” they grumble. They also fail to see the other side of the coin: the continual feeling of not measuring up, or of feeling like you should be valued for more than just your looks. Or (contradictorily) holding both thoughts at the same time. 

Thinking over all this, I recall that my husband once told me that Dave Matthews’s “Where are you going?” made him think of our relationship (in a good way). 

I am no superman

I have no answers for you.

I am no hero, that’s for sure,

But I do know one thing,

That where you are is where I belong.

I’m glad that my husband feels safe enough to reveal his uncertainty and vulnerability to me, and that he feels a sense of mutual security, acceptance and belonging in our relationship. But until I started noticing these songs I hadn’t known what a burden the superman ideal could be.

I wonder how other men experience all this? Do Superman, Batman, Ironman et al make men more confident? Or do they leave men worrying that they may fall short? Or maybe a bit of both?

I suspect that while women overestimate men’s desire for anatomical perfection, men also overestimate women’s demand for heroic perfection.


I originally wrote this for The Good Men Project. You might also like this from GMP: Is a Crisis of Masculinity Healed Through the Soul?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 20, 2019, in men and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 88 Comments.

  1. Recently, I analyzed the Marvel movies for the lack of female empowerment and support so this article is interesting to read because it highlights the male perspective, which I had missed. It is true that expectations put on men from the mainstream media make men wary of being vulnerable. After all, as far as we are concerned, there is no real Iron Man or Black Panther to ensure universal safety. It is almost as if men are born superhuman and for every sign of “weakness” or “defeat” they show, they become less like Iron Man and more like a human that needs saving. The root cause of this lies more deeply than being “scared to be sad”, it lies in the realm of avoiding not being able to do what basic male instinct should: protect and serve their family (if they are “weak” they can’t do that). However, I do believe Marvel does a good job at humanizing their superheroes by showing their struggles and defeat (such as in Avengers Infinity War, or Endgame) trying to normalize trial and error, even for the best of the best.

    • This sounds interesting. If you would like to send me your research I would be interested in publishing your piece on my blog. With your real name or a pen name. You can just send in a response and I won’t publish the comment, only the paper as a blog post. Probably post it next winter.

  2. Do all women need Superman? Do all men need Wonder Woman? I think we should note that even they were someone, something for the matter else. And these songs you may hear may be like moral lessons for a young listener. As a reminder it is what’s inside that makes a hero. We shouldn’t look towards money, we shouldn’t try to look to ideals and principles. I think we should look for someone who we would still hold dear when it all comes to the worst. I think everyone should be good at something.

    • ” we shouldn’t try to look to ideals and principles”

      I mean:
      We shouldn’t try to just focus on something that makes us feel inadequate
      We should look toward ideals and principles

  3. I myself have never personally thought that I could ever become as great as these superheroes nor do I wish to become them. I think what attracts much attention to the idea of a superhero is that they are or once were ordinary people, or at least try to live ordinary lives outside of their hero self. With this in mind in no condition have I had expectations to live up to a superhero. Of course the unnatural abilities are something that can never be achieved however its the attitudes and behaviors of being good person that should be acquired through watching and reading these superhero stories. Being ones own self is what everyone should thrive for, and some influence can help shape that vision. The article states that some men envy women after trying their best to look like superheroes, but it is those men who often overlook the underlying qualities a superhero has. A superhero much of the time doesn’t seek validation from anyone and recurrently hide their identity. Once in a while it is nice to be noticed but when the sole purpose to be like a superhero is to get girls the deeper values become overlooked and get lost in the more obvious perks.

  4. For everyone, watching a superhero film causes thoughts of high expectations for themselves in society and for their families. Being a women, seeing marvel films and female superheroes causes myself to feel empowered and to know that it is possible for me to do anything. I could understand why men could feel as though they aren’t able to live up to the expectations of superheroes, mainly because they grew up viewing the characters and have always viewed them as being more of what they should become in the future. It is definitely different for women, mainly because they have never had the opportunity to connect to another superhero character. No one should maintain expectations as high as those for superheroes, since we all have our own strengths and weaknesses.

  5. I don’t think that it’s realistic for men to set expectations for themselves to be like superman or any other superhero. Then again, I don’t think it’s realistic for women to set expectations for themselves to look like models in magazines and we still do it anyway. All of the expectations men and women have set for themselves are made by society. I think as individuals we truly need to break this cycle and just be us! So many articles that I have read recently are about boys and girls, or men and women trying to be more like what society says to be and to be what society’s version of perfect is. I believe that we would all be more happy if we just set our own personal goals and achieved those goals based on our own opinions. Let’s be real, women do not expect a man to be superman, spider man, or batman. Women want a man to make them feel safe, and that’s the only aspect of a superhero that we should expect.

  6. There is so much pressure on everybody to live up to these standards. Men have to be this superhero that has to protect the helpless woman waiting for him. Why does it have to be like this? Why can’t it be the other way around? I feel like it can be a bit more hard for men at some point because they’re expected to not show emotion or else they can be labeled as gay (which is not bad at all but for some men that can really hurt their ego ughh) I can see this every time my little brother cries and his dad tells him not to because he is a boy. But why are we teaching this to a 3-year-old kid? He is a toddler, of course, he’s going to cry. We shouldn’t teach our boys to not show emotion because emotion is how people connect and its a beautiful thing.

  7. Stereotypes are for all!

    For men the idea of a problem solving supernatural being that bases decisions on logic and emotion is nothing but a fantasy. My boyfriends and I discussed this topic after I read this post and he said “It made me feel I wasn’t adequate enough” and “sometimes I felt I was the one that needed saving in my world” I started to think the pressure we put on men as a society might be overlooked, sometimes when I hear a man being sensitive I automatically think “he’s not being serious” I question their ability of being sensitive to the world we live in. Even as we advance some of our thought processes could still be backwards.
    Have you ever notice how most of the super-heroes besides Mr. Incredible never really had a solid relationship, do you wonder why? It’s because it’s not real life, real life is about seeing women or men as humans beings, not someone who needs to hide their identity in order to fulfill others dreams, just human beings who deserve to be equally treated, who deserve a chance to not be stereotyped

  8. Superheroes are always portrayed as perfectly strong, the same way men are expected to be. This concept of men has been around for years and this is now what society expects because it is a norm. Because this is the norm, I believe that many people assume that men like to be looked at as a “superhero”, but they don’t realize the pressure that goes along with that title. Men are told from a very early age that they must be tough, resilient, and be the dominant ones, but the pressure of that can be misleading for some, and many do not say. It is more often talked about how much pressure women have to face and never the pressure that a lot of men face. This has also caused men to believe that a “superhero” is what women look for in men, but that is not necessarily true. Of course, women want to feel safe around and about their male partner, but it should also be vise-Versa. I feel that this is a great way that men and women can relate to one another. Just as women go through high expectations within society, men do as well.

  9. I enjoyed reading this piece because it opens up vulnerability of both men and women; underlining that both sexes struggle to feel that they “measure up”. While it is more commonly known that women continuously face unachievable beauty standards, it should not be ignored that men face an equally unattainable standard of heroism and masculinity. This comparison is especially interesting because while men have had the image of superheroes to look up to for many generations, the emergence of female heroes is newer, and as mentioned, empowering. Personally, I feel like the creation of female superheroes is an overdue symbol of equality, but I appreciate the male perspective of pressure that male superheroes present. Seeing this view is an encouragement that men can understand that female ideals of beauty are just as severe as their superhero characters. By first realizing that both men and women are subject to these standards, I hope that steps can be taken forward to diminish unattainable ideals for both men and women.

  10. Social media has a huge role in presenting a certain image for both men and women. Women tend to look up to models and see many beautiful women but when they look at themselves, they feel like they don’t meet those expectations. Women tend to have the idea that they will never be as beautiful as models. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like men go through the same. Society puts both men and women to have certain expectations. Men are automatically supposed to be gentlemen to women and protect them in every way, just like superheroes would do. That’s not the case though. It’s not a man’s responsibility to look over women; that’s a job between both genders. Not only should your significant other have to protect you at all costs but so should you. Men may feel intimidated or feel like they aren’t feeling like they are supermen because women are constantly reminding them of the things they didn’t do instead of realizing that the little things are what matter most. Men shouldn’t have to look at superheroes and think that’s how they are supposed to act for women to like them and women shouldn’t have to think they need to look like models for a man to like them, that’s social media manipulating people to think that that’s how it’s supposed to be.

  11. As a male, I found this post really interesting and also very relatable. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before but Superhero’s really do set a high bar for men that we should be strong, fearless, good looking and have the ability to solve all problems of any sort of threat.
    I think that society puts a lot of pressure on boys and men to be “tough as steel” and show no emotions. It is important for us to be invincible and not let our emotions drive our actions like society thinks women do. Superhero’s show that in the face of danger, men are suppose to step up and be the protectors, and I can imagine that for a lot of men, that can be hard if they are not fearless or incredible strong – like most normal humans aren’t.
    I think this topic brings a lot of awareness to a side that a lot of people don’t see. A lot of topics can be about how we don’t have enough women superhero’s and that could be true – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems with the current ones that we have.

  12. This post made me rethink my impressions on superhero movies. I did not pay much attention to them much, but I can now see that they propagate societal standards of masculinity and femininity. I think that the issue of femininity is starting to change as social awareness is increasing. Women are now portrayed in a better way than they were before, and this is great. The issue of masculinity, however, seems to still loom in pop culture as Ideal, sexually attractive, bodies are the default in superhero movies. I would say it’s damaging to everyone, but especially towards males who may feel the need to suppress their feelings, much like “bob” in this case. I think it’s something we all know and feel, but refuse to admit it. Try as we may, the idea of living up to the standards of a “superhero” is unrealistic and distorts our ideas of masculinity. Not much has changed since the inception of Hollywood. Big, muscular men were the standard heroes of the 80’s and today. Look no further than Captain America, Hulk,Thor, Bruce Wayne. I’m sure the idea of repudiating these standards will gain traction eventually, but it’s “business as usual”until then.

  13. Odethe Virgen Barajas

    I never EVER thought I’d see a blog like this which is why I love it so much. I find so much truth in this because there are many women that have an idea of what the perfect partner is and we tend to look at the fantasy of things more than the reality. I admit, I have even wanted a “Superman” of my own. I do think it’s a bit harsh now that I am older. It’s heartbreaking that some men may feel the pressure to live up to a superhero that’s completely unrealistic. I do believe that the idea of possibly being with someone that is a superhero is exciting because there are so many aspects to them that makes them, well…”perfect”. I don’t like when people expect certain aspects that pressure those in a relationship that they need to “do better” because someone has “higher expectations” of what the perfect partner is which may lead to things such as people wanting to alter their looks which is not completely bad at all, but could be done because others are not accepting of someone. 

  14. chris agbanusi

    I understand where this mindset comes from, Growing up I have always been the bigger guy in my friendship groups.There was never a person on the big screen who i could relate too, until I got into comics. Although most of the characters in these comics won’t make it to the big screen, there is an abundance of heroes all shapes and sizes to relate to. Thats why so much of the comic book community were excited when superhero movies became popular. Although the movies have been great and at times accurate to its source material, it is clear that they are targeting a certain audience to also come out and watch these movies. Many of these new tv shows and movies focus on selling these heroes for bodies rather than power. The latest movie aquaman is a great example of selling for looks then plot. In the newest iteration of Aquaman, we get more shots of Jason Mamoas body then we get of plot and action. There is a clear sign that sex sells and these outlets have capitalized on it. Thus making the average man feel inferior just for watching a movie.

  15. Men these days, have been noticed more for having body issues similar to those of women. Men and women, and practically everyone, want to look a certain way; and, although we may blame a lot of that on the modeling industry and social media, there are other body images besides sexy that people desire. Superhero movies can account for a lot of this because the writers and TV crew will do anything to make a superhero look desirable in every way possible. Although superheroes are fictional characters, they are still admired. What I have learned from this is that there is a dark side to practically anything. In this case, everyone loves superheroes, but many want to be like them. Even if they do not think about it too much, they automatically begin to compare their own bodies to those of the superheroes. It is also a matter of understanding that it is not just women who have body image issues, but it is everyone. If it is everyone, why are we not creating more substantial change?

  16. I think the gender imbalance in norms and expectations also negatively affects men too. Men are expected to always be “masculine”, to always be strong. This is unrealistic, and hurtful to healthy emotional, social, and thought processes. It also teaches them to perhaps create this superficial person, and not be in touch with who they truly are because they are held to such a high standard. It’s interesting how many people talk about how they want men in their lives who are honest, genuine, vulnerable and in touch with themselves and their emotions, but continually, as a whole, society validates men who portray unhealthy processes and toxic behavior. I also notice that in superhero movies, the men are portrayed as pushing any weakness away or always being upheld by their masculinity or the help from other male friends who are also portraying those same tropes, while the women represented in superhero movies find their strength from inside and are more focused on justice (or not, and are honest about it, like Catwoman), and not affected as easily by anger and vengeance on a whim. There is a more thoughtful aspect in the female superhero characters as opposed to this idolizing, fate and righteousness schema that male superheros are stuck on. The reality is this form of masculine expression is unhealthy and toxic at times, and no matter how men who don’t “subscribe” to that behavior will be affected or have been affected by it because portrayal matters and influences behavior on a personal level from some form of portrayal in society.

  17. I liked reading this post because it shows that men can be in a situation where women are in all the time. Where men feel like they have to live up to the ideal of a perfect man like in all of the comic book movies and those alike, women feel the constant pressure to not only live up to the ideal of the perfect woman (like a supermodel) we also feel the need to live up to men. Whether people want to believe it or not, women are still not treated equally to men in today’s society still. So when a woman is interviewing for a job, she feels the need to be as good or even better than her male competitors. She does not want to be looked down upon because she is a woman. When I was placed in an engineering group with all guys, I felt the need to be as good or even better than the men in my group because I did not want them to treat me differently because I was a girl. I also did not want them to associate me not knowing certain things because I am a woman too (in reality, I was a first year in college while they were all third years).

  18. I thought this blog post was very interesting because it flips the situation women are in every day and allows men to experience a similar situation. Though society has the mold of perfection for both men and women, the world puts much more pressure on women to reach unrealistic standards. I think superheroes to men are exactly that, a representation of an unrealistic standard. Your analysis of the songs shows me that this is an issue that doesn’t get much attention compared to the sexualization of women. I had heard a few of the songs listed, but I never read too much into the lyrics. Unfortunately, this situation with feeling lesser than made up heroes seems inevitable since I think humans need goals and “roles” such as superheroes to look up to. We all, both men and women, paint these heroes and their character as something we can work towards becoming. I don’t think people should hold others up to these fictitious characters and look down on them if they’re not close. Superheros are just more fantasized versions of different real heroes. In the end, hero movies are simply stories that are meant to excite their viewers. We all should realize and understand that these heroes in the movies are not real but they can stand in for real-world heroes like firemen and policemen.

  19. I wonder if this idea is more prominent in the last few decades. Sure super hero comics have been a thing for a long time, however super hero movies have gotten extremely popular. I was never into comic books, however I enjoy super hero movies and have seen many of them. If this is the case, maybe this idea to be like a super hero is more prominent. I never compare my own confidence with a super hero, but maybe other people do. However, I would see this comparison in the same way as comparing yourself to a celebrity. Super heroes are clearly fictional and that comparison may be more towards an actor than the actual super hero. Also, I believe women might compare themselves to super heroes like Wonder Woman, but I don’t see any of these comparisons as negative. Even if people are comparing themselves to super heroes, I don’t think it’s really a bad thing overall.

  20. This blog  really surprised me , it made me expand my mind and thoughts of the opposite sex. I knew most men had felt an expectation to become masculine enough, to my surprise one of the main causes to this is Superheros who are predominantly men. This exposes young boys to feel pressure to grow into this character as they grow up as young men. Which they are expected to be at a very young age to become strong , muscular and almost have superhuman expectations  placed before them . I can see how this can be a toxic for men and a unhealthy example. A lot of  these influences are portrayed in the media , as well as the pressure for women to be perfect in the beauty world. I believe that they do need to portray men to be seen at times less masculine and more human in order to decrease the pressure of men having to feel like they must meet a certain  expectation in their life.

  21. There are some messages that my parents always said to me in this article. One of them was “Men should not be always strong as people believe the way men should be.” My parents said to me that you should be kind to others rather than be strong. This does not mean that I did not need to be strong as a person, but this means that being kind to others is what I need to be more than strong. I do not think it is true that only men can have strength and that what women always need other men to have is kindness. Women can have some strength in them like we tend to associate it with what men should have, and men can have some kindness in them like we tend to associate it with women too.
    I assume that what we should focus on other things rather than masculinity in superhero model. I know they look cool and most of boys might dream being like them because they are strong and beat villains, but I feel what we should look at is not there.

  22. There are some things in this article that I can directly relate to as a father and a partner in my relationship. My two daughters have always seen me a “superhero” and they perceive that I can pretty much do anything. How laundry gets miraculously done and how I am able to cook so well when I can, or when they get hurt; I know exactly what to do. It’s hard at the end of the day, working full time, taking care of my daughters and having to be a good partner with my wife. There are times where I feel as though I fall short or there is simply not enough time in the day to do everything. One thing is for certain, I am able to share this information with my wife and not have her feel as though she is with a man that is incapable of being “superhero” status. I think for many men like ourselves that have busy lives, we can feel this way. I am just glad I have people in my life that know and understand that I am still human and I do as much as I can.

  23. Ryland Takayesu

    I find this to be a very interesting topic as I and many of the people I know feel of have felt this way. In fact, I don’ think there is a guy in the world who had never felt the anxiety of under-preforming or not living up to expectations. The idea of superman is that of being the ideal. Unconquerable and perfect in action and morality. However, men are not like that. We don’t fit into an exact norm or body type. Like many women, not all men are comfortable with their image or status. Many guys are scared to under-preform and not be enough for our loved ones. There is almost an innate fear that by not being that perfect “superman” then we are inferior as people. This is especially true for those suffering from abandonment issues as they may fear that by not being perfect, the ones they love may be taken from them by someone who is. I don’t consider myself as someone with those issues, however, I too feel that way sometimes myself. Therefore, like with women, it is wrong to try to create an ideal male image just as it is for men to create an ideal female image since in truth there isn’t one perfection is a subjective term and means something different to everyone.

  24. Sexism is harmful to both men and women. They are both put into these stereotypical roles of providing for the family or looking after the children. Having a truly equal society means that no one feels forced into behaving a certain way. Superheroes are an idealized version of men and women. They are what we want to be, but can never become. They are unrealistic and perfect versions of people with no large flaws. Men are used to seeing strong representations of themselves, while women are not. Women are working hard to get this representation, so it can be difficult to see a superhero as a bad thing. A superhero should be a fun version of a person, but should not be the standard that other people are judged against. It is unattainable and depicts men that are never vulnerable team players. The problem with male superheroes is that they do not have enough variety to represent all men.

  25. Social norms for sex created by society always misleads people
    Of course, they are usually the ideal image of many people and show the height of human perfection. However, people sometimes forget that they are all fictitious. So, as the author is wondering, people tend to compare themselves to superheroes, even if it is a fiction that does not need to be compared. This trend is not only about superheroes. In addition to the characters appearing in movies and animations, people repeat comparisons with themselves, with envy on actresses, actors, and idols appearing in the media.
    What I particularly sympathized within this article is that men and women are both reluctant to expect to lean on gender. In the case of men, in particular, it is a symbol of self-confidence and credibility, but in the case of women, insisting femininity to the public is often viewed directly as a sexual feature. It is not a very popular sight for women. However, people’s expectations for such ideals and values for gender are increasing year by year. It appears that people categorize gender-based features and characters. It feels like it’s sought after as a male attraction because there is a category of male heroes. LGBTQ and hashtags are examples of that. Indeed, by categorizing, the image that each one wants is spread to the world in an easy-to-understand manner. However, it forms a fixed concept. Even though each person has different characteristics, characteristics, and charms, it is thought that because of such division into categories, something must also belong to something. But don’t forget that they are all fictional products.

  26. I had learned a little bit about this topic of men feeling the pressure to meet “heroic perfection” a few years back in school, but now I understand more how men just want to be valued for being themselves. I don’t think that enough people are aware about how there is this constant pressure on men to work out and be buff with six packs in order to attract women and how it must be hard to live up to those standards. I feel like there needs to be changes in the media on how men are physically portrayed because as of now there is still the big idea that men need to have perfect muscular bodies or else they won’t attract women. It is important to understand that not all women are looking for men to have perfect bodies and in most cases we value character and what is on the inside rather than just physical appearance.

  27. I found this to be a really fascinating topic and a really great read. One thing that came to mind while I read this was that a lot of a man’s ability to fit the physical superman mold comes down to genetics and is therefore out of their control. Someone can lift weights and run and work out all they want and barely get any results while other guys may have a much easier time changing their body. This can definitely frustrate lots of men because the ability to reach that perfect form feels impossible to achieve. Thats why its important for people to understand that looking like a superhero doesn’t really change who you are as a person, and that’s what most people care about. People tend to prefer those who are kind and smart and funny over someone who is just really strong. People’s time might be better spent working on who they are as people rather than working out in a weight room sometimes.

  28. I 100% agree that the concept of being unable to live up to societal’s standards must be looked at as a two way street. The standards of beauty that require someone to be tall, fit, and anatomically symmetrical will always hang over the lives of everyone. While I suppose this may sound rather pessimistic in nature, it unfortunately is reality. That being said, these “Superman” or “Super Model” complexes are not determinant to someone’s success in finding love or significant other.
    I find that people often forget how important a role being able to socialize plays in first impressions. Sure some people will automatically write you off right away for not being able to pass their desired level of attractiveness, but for the majority of the population, it’s even more important to be able to connect with someone, make them laugh, and hold a meaningful conversation. An incredibly attractive man or woman who is emotionally devoid with little to no personality will perhaps be an excellent partner for a short physical relationship, but to think about the future and a long term relationship, this type of a person just is not a viable partner.
    In conclusion, “being ugly” is not make it or break it. I strongly believe that having a personality that is able to resonate with someone else is more important. Be confident in who you are, which includes not just your looks, but also your hobbies, your quirks, and everything else that defines you.

  29. Personally, I don’t want a superman. I do catch myself, looking at a guy and thinking he should work out a little, but I always feel bad when I think like that. I don’t want to put this “superman” pressure on them, because I personally don’t want to be held to a supermodel’s beauty. I do feel like the men, especially the ones who are trying to be masculine, overestimate women’s desire for herotic perfection. I believe part of this problem might come from having a misunderstanding of true masculinity. Another problem is the media, which always portrays people a certain way, that the elite are the image of perfection that others should strive for. Then society, itself, is continuing to promote these images of supposed perfection. While more and more people are starting to push for and display different types of people in the media, there continues to be this social stigma that hold people to a standard. The fact that men are often forgotten in this social problem might be from due to the women’s movement. Women have been at a disadvantage in history and society has been focused on getting equality for them. So much so, that we often forget about the problems of men and the struggles they are facing as well.

  30. juliana rodriguez

    I think with marvel and dc making and remaking super hero movies and making the hero strong and attractive can make men who arent as confident insecure.

  31. Without spoiling too much, I have to say my favorite example of a superhero has to be Thor in the last Avenger’s movie. As you have mentioned in your blog post, the image of a perfect hero with chiseled muscles and stunning body has been ingrained in most men’s minds growing up as an ideal to aspire to, and can become a disappointment when one realizes how hard or impossible it can be to measure up to these ideas set by Hollywood. In the last Avenger’s movie, Thor breaks these expectations.

    Thor is overweight, lazy, and generally just out of it. His friends help him get back on his feet, and achieve their goals towards the end of the movie. He doesn’t magically lose his beer-belly and get chiseled abs, but he lives with his imperfections and embraces them as he moves forwards, with welcome support by his friends in The Avengers. He can still be a superhero, despite feeling “washed up.” This, to me, is an important and inspirational message to young men watching The Avengers: Anyone can be a hero, and there is no one ideal “hero body” you need to be one.

  32. I found this article very relatable in my eyes because in a sense I do believe that most men and me included do try to live up to these people we see in movies. Growing up I learned of there being certain things expected of men such as being strong, not showing too much emotion, being someone that people can rely on and someone that can carry the weight of the world. Growing up and watching super hero movies and my dad I kind of thought thats how I was supposed to act, like a pillar that people can rely on and someone that can help others and tough it out with my own problems and I think thats the view of most men in our society. It was really cool to read that I was not the only one that recognized this issue. I had never really noticed it in music so it was really cool to read about how people had brought this issue up in their music.

  33. I like that this blog post brought insight on how men feel when they are compared to these unrealistic public figures. I think that we often forget that men are also trying to live up to unrealistic body expectation and that they can feel like they fall short making them feel unworthy. A lot of people lust after super heroes or models and I think that is what makes people think they need to live up to those expectations in order to be loved and wanted in someone else’s eyes. I also think that men are less likely to speak up and speak out about these issues because they are afraid of looking weak or others judging them for having body issues and feeling unworthy. Everyone needs to be able to feel like they do not have to live up to any beauty expectations or standards in order to feel desired by someone they are attracted to.

  34. I am not into superheroes stories because they feel way too superficial to me. But I do have experience with the expectations that the society places on men. I am a naturally introspective person, which makes me weigh all my decisions carefully. For an outsider this trait of my character may appear as indecisiveness and lack of confidence. At the same time, the popular culture praises confidence in men and stigmatizes lack of it. As you may guess, it does not help me to feel good about myself at all. Moreover, introverted and thoughtful men like me are often portrayed as sexually undesirable which makes it even worse. I am also pretty sure that I am not alone.

    Speaking of songs, Radiohead’s Creep perfectly described my feelings for many years.

    • I do think men think women have higher expectations for a hero just like women think men have higher expectations for bodily “perfection” but those Worries run down our self-esteem even more. And I know women (Like me) who have preferences for introspective men over superheroes, so there’s hope.

  35. Alexis SIlva

    Superman or any superhero is a imagine society has portrayed as the ideal man. Physique, mental toughness, ability its a long list of what these individuals have that make them peoples idols. But in comprising to a normal person living their lives, they should not compare themselves nor mirror image their life to fit these individuals. Each person is perfect in their own way, and is capable of achieving many things in their lives staying true to themselves. Men have also drilled in their heads that women look for the ideal man to be like superman. Once again that is not true, modeling or imitating to become a superhero will not get you something genuine. Being true to oneself and expressing who they really are as a person will lead to success. There is nothing better than self worth and confidence. Idealy there isn’t a perfect person, there are just people who know how to live their lives their own way.

  36. Superheroes, in all of its grandeur may appear innocent but how superheroes are portrayed in today’s movies comes from toxic masculinity, which is destructive to men. In parallel to women, men are ascribed masculine traits and have gender role expectations as well. Superheroes in the movies are pumped up with hypermasculinity, such as with physical strength (have superhuman powers), aggression (the ability for the superhero to fight the bad guys), and sexuality (the superhero always gets the girl), and living up to these expectations are unrealistic. Unfortunately, superhero movies tell women and girls what an ideal man should look and behave like. For example, some women look to find their knight in shining armor to come save them. Since we live in a male-dominated cultural society, we seldom think about the struggle of boys and men who are subjected to the harmful standards of toxic masculinity because of their male privilege. Men, too, need to feel safe, honored, and be humanized.

  37. By the way, hope you enjoy memorial day weekend.”

    thanks, you too. I know you’re busy, but you should watch Cobra Kai. I love the show. It doesn’t take long to go through, but it’s actually written well. There are only 10 episodes for the season, and only 25-30 minute as most per episode. The second season just came out last month. I like it because of the nostalgia that we may both have to karate kid and classic movies of our childhood or youth. But there’s much more than that. I like that each of the characters have a story and reason why they feel the way they feel. It’s not black and white, but the grey area, just like it is for most people. Even the characters that start going the wrong path, while you don’t condone their mindset and where it’s going and making them jerks. You see where it’s coming from and why they may feel that way. You understand the “anger and hurt or why they may be angry and hurt” and why it’s coming out in a jaded way, but it’s obviously not right. But from the human perspective, you understand feeling that way or how one could feel that way. So no pure evil or bad characters, just some more jaded and heading down a wrong path more than others and part from straying or taking teachings and going to far in as well as mentors that show up that bring out or influence even more or manipulate more bad feelings of the characters.

    The hurt, insecurity, rage… So many facades, The original men Ralph Maccio, and William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) find themselves mentoring the youth or next generation. Part because it just comes to them with a kid being Johnny’s neighbor who was getting bullied and saw johnny’s fighting skils when johnny was defending himself against the bullies that inadvertently damaged his car. To ralph getting involved because he has a teenage daughter in the show and sees johnny start up the cobra kai dojo, because the neighbor wanted to learn karate from johnny because of him seeing johnny’s self defense karate skills. There’s also a ton of humor in it too though, lots of tongue in cheek stuff.

    Even though he’s become a jerk, and obviously I don’t find the character is good in what he represents. You see his path and the irony which is interesting. But Hawk is a fun character lol, But it’s really eli, putting on a mask from his empowerment but abusing his power instead of using it to help. It becomes more self centered use than ,selfless and is rooted from obvious insecurity. Here’s a clip, of different parts of the season and transtion of “eli” to hawk”.
    Miguel is the neighbor that got johnny to teach him karate and how a cobra kai dogo started up again. He’s the main character but hawk is a big part and for him being friends with miguel. Johnny’s such a dag but funny “I don’t know what the spectrum is, but you better get off it fast or the eye patch part lol” Some of it is cheesy or a little stupid but I found those part with hawk in it funny or there’s like charm to it

    • Sounds intriguing. I put it on my watchlist. Thanks!

      • yeah you should. It’s funny and touching. Don’t take it personal when Johnny lawrence tells his students to be badass and not pussies. Remember how you said most or all of us internalize our culture. He symbolizes a man who was brought up in the old school mold by Kreese, the strike hard, strike fast and no mercy. So he’s trying to teach on the go and learning as he goes and do the best he can. But he tries to bring in that toughness to the old cobra kai that was good, but not the bullying, toxic part. But like I said he still has some old school mindset because what he grew up to and times. But he’s a man and why I root for him, that has tried to better himself and progress from the bad things he was taught and do his best for the younger, future generation. So trying to bring back a refined, improved cobra kai, but as you see as show progresses, people cause problems or obstacles come in his way. It’s quite funny too and I’m pretty picky with comedy stuff. I think you’d find a lot funny.

        It’s right on youtube so you can watch if you have a smarttv, which many people have or your laptop. But first two episodes of first season are free. But I tell you, you get hooked after first two and then it gets you to want to watch more or rest of season. It gives a free trial for 30 days. All I did was sign up and then unsubscribe right after signing up so I don’t forget or get billed when the 30 days go by. And what happens is even if you unsubscribe right after signing up, you will still get to watch the youtube premium episodes for the 30 days and it will just simply stop allowing you to watch after the 30 days go by, but you won’t be charged right after from unsubscribing right away. You don’t have to do it right way, I just do that so i don’t forget to do so. Ill have to check back and see what you think of show when you get a chance to catch some. Like I said the episodes are short so doesn’t take long to watch one as they are 30 minutes at most and usually are like 25 minutes and just ten episodes for a season and just two seasons out now that the second season was released just a month ago.

      • I’ll try to check it out soon.

  38. I really enjoyed reading this blog article. I absolutely think that males in society, regardless of age, are starting to feel as if they need to live up to the superhuman characteristics portrayed in the movies or comic books. But let’s think about this for a minute. Most comic book or movie superheroes portrayed all have common traits that, in my opinion, can be displayed by anyone today! Now not every man may have the ability to lift Thor’s hammer, but by golly, every man has the capability to emulate Thor’s sense of duty to his people and humanity. Not everyone can have spidey senses, but anyone can exhibit spiderman’s love and respect for his fellow citizens. Most superheroes fight for what is right and put others before themselves to make it happen. In short, not all superheroes wear capes. If men were to embrace the values and morals that most superheroes embody, I think that in itself would make any guy a superhero.

  39. I really enjoyed reading this post because as a man, I also feel like there are some expectations from me. I remember when I was a child, watching all those heroes and listening to their stories used to encourage me. I remember saying, “I’ll be like Superman one day. I’ll protect people around if need be.” It felt really good at that time because I was a ‘Man’ and all those heroes that I role model were also men. After I grew up, I realized that things don’t follow as expected. I wasn’t as strong as Superman, but none of my friends were. This situation made me feel vulnerable because I wasn’t meeting with the expectations. I really like this post because it shows people the other side of the coin. It shows that those gender roles that are created by society are just stereotypes. It really bothers me that there are some expectations about our jobs, education, appearance, and behaviors. It also bothers me that sometimes I don’t have the courage the behave the way that I really want. Sometimes while watching a romantic movie, I want to cry but since I know that people look at me in a different way because of the stereotype “Men don’t cry,” I stop myself. I know that I don’t have to, and I can do whatever I want, but those pressure and expectations from society make me anxious. Makes me fake. I am sure that there are lots of people, who face the same problem as I do. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this post and I appreciate the fact that this post shows the other side of the coin.

  40. I found this post very fascinating especially because of the fact that it acknowledges the challenges that men have to face in terms of how they are “suppose to be like” in our society. Especially considering the fact that the idea of masculinity is highly surfaced throughout superhero films and comic books, it seems to be that what a man should look like or act like is quite extra. From their physical appearance of what is considered “ideal” to their behaviors of always finding a way to save the world, it feels like there is this intense pressure on men to be something that they are not. It is the fact that in these superhero films and comic books, superheroes are always shown to be brave and emotionless which ultimately plays a strong influence on those younger male generations. As they get older, they tend to strongly believe that they are supposed to act manly and never show emotions or else they would be considered too “girly”, as if it’s a bad thing to say. It is definitely important for men and boys to acknowledge that they do not have to be something they are not just by influences of what masculinity is. Just because a comic book or a film makes men appear as though they are emotionless creatures does not mean that they should take it by heart and do as said. Instead, everyone should be who they are no matter what others think, even if it’s a boy or man who feel like crying out loud once in a while.

  41. Yeah, my area of study is about how we see the world symbolically, so we see criminals and their victims symbolically too. And because we live in a world where upper-class white males aren’t seen as criminals they tend to get less punishment. Or, because we think of men as powerful we will be less sympathetic to them as rape victims. It can be hard for people to get outside of the stereotypes – this symbolic way of seeing the world.”

    The white dude isn’t upper class thought, I don’t think, Middle class? He actually night be below middle class. You see this happen where a dude may be white, but he doesn’t have any family privileged connection to law enforcement or wealth, yet gets a slap on the wrist.

  42. I really enjoyed this post because it discusses the confidence issues that men have and how it can result in their vulnerability. There are certain stereotypes that exist and create the facade that men want to display. Often they want to be seen as a superhero that have the characteristics of strength, dominance, and power. However, it is driven by society not by their true feelings and hopes. I often feel like in society there are so many expectations for each gender whether it be appearance, capabilities, education, etc. These expectations result in many individuals going out of their way to live up to them when in reality they are not achieved by many. I believe that social media has a huge role within setting expectations because it causes people to see the lives of others and desire that life, even though a post does not depict their entire life. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the causes of the confidence issues for each gender because without doing so we are amplifying the unrealistic expectations. As the post mentioned the writer did not know “what a burden the superman ideal could be” (broadblogs). Often we are consumed of fulfilling our own expectations and making sure that we are perceived a certain way by others that we do not take the time to reflect on how our true lives are. Without reflecting on our actual lives we are not able to change our perceptions therefore we are not able to recognize the struggles of others.

  43. What I find most interesting about this is the way in which the portrayal of super heroes has changed over time. Superman, the original actors and the original drawings, was not some muscle bound Adonis. Hugh Jackman as wolverine went from a relatively fit, normal guy, in X-Men to being absolutely shredded in his later films. Even Batman has been consistently reimagined to be stronger, grittier, more brutal. If these heros are meant to portray the male ideal I wonder what their increasing brutality has to say about that. Most recent Superman snapped his enemies neck… something earlier Superman’s would never do. I wonder what their increasingly over muscled bodies says about the ideal. The progression from moraled characters to characters who justify themselves. Comics have always had darker heroes, but even heroes that used to be known from their stalwart moral code, are being portrayed as little more than executioners. I’m curious, if these are meant to be the ideals, what does that say about our ideals? I’m even more intrigued by the idea of considering this juxtaposed with our political climate and the increasing toxic masculinity seen there.

    • That’s a really interesting point about the increasing machismo of our superheroes and the rise of the far right, complete with a lot of bullying. Maybe some of this is either a backlash to gender equality or a way of identifying with superman when men are feeling more powerless.

      • I think it’s more real life heroes in the mix which is not bad, as long as it’s not all about a super hero being “macho”, My take of the grittier batman and superhuman and why super heroes are becoming more interesting to people is because they are given layers. They aren’t presented now as ‘perfect” gods, but humans who have super abilities, but human feelings and flaws. The anti hero has come on very strong and people find more interesting than the black and white, good guy and bad guy. We like the “grey’ area, because most humans are in the “grey” area with morality and emotions. Most aren’t sinister evil, nor saintly perfect. Batman should have mercy, but perhaps it’s being shown, as in to show his anger, frustration, maybe jealousy can even get the best of him at moments even if he usually controls it. It’s not super hero, but I’m loving the show Cobra kai on youtube because it takes karate characters who were black and white and puts the men into a new light. A redemption story to johnny lawrence and daniel larusso not so perfect. Both trying to do well, but like people, we have our different ways of how we do things or try to mentor, etc. But there are so many factors that something meant well can still cause problems from either the people not listening or conflicts that happen, You seem like someone that I’m sure loved 80s and 90s classic movies and shows. So I’m sure you’ve seen karate kid like many others growing up right?.

      • Yep, I do like the Karate Kid. Heroes are great. In fact one of my friends wrote a book on how to be a hero:

        I guess the difference is whether you are expected to meet impossible standards.

        By the way, hope you enjoy memorial day weekend.

  44. Isabelle Chappuis

    I found the blog post “Men Not Feeling Much Like Superman” really interesting. I think that supermen portrayed in movies are almost like the “angels” in a Victoria Secret show. Although no one in the world is actually a superhero and they have traits that are impossible for humans to have, the way that the male superheroes are shown can make men self-conscious. The male superheroes in movies portray the men as big, muscular, saving the world, powerful and many men do not believe they live up to those characteristics. The superhero movies display societies stereotypes on what a male should be, aggressive, powerful, dominating, muscular and strong in which case men watching these movies do not feel good about themselves while watching them because they do not live up to those expectations. This is similar to women watching a Victoria Secret fashion show, they are women portraying unattainable body images and watching it can make you feel bad about yourself because it is extremely hard to look the way they do because of their lifestyle.

  45. In this article I can see a lot of new understanding about supper hero and idea about men hero and women hero. First of all, I totally agree with you that women super hero impressed me more than any hero like Supermen, Iron Man or Spider Man. For example, the Captain Marvel is the most powerful one in the Marvel universal. So I think in this modern time, women are doing more and well than men. Also, no matter what kind of job there are women. Before when we hear about super hero, all we can think about are those men, but now, we have to change our opinion. Moreover, you have mentioned that “Even heroes have the right to bleed; Even heroes have the right to dream” I think it is true, no one is Superman, but everyone could be a Superman. When you have a clear mind to know what is right things to do and what should you protect, then you are the Superman for the thing or person you are protecting.

  46. And yes, I always appreciate your questions and your philosophical nature 🙂 Gives me a lot of food for thought ad material to write about.”

    Thanks. I have a feeling you’re probably going to do a post soon about abortion ban attempt or heartbeat one recently attempted by Alabama and Missouri right?

    • I have written something but I am Going to try to put it on another blog first. And unfortunately it can take weeks to hear back from them. But you will probably see something on the issue at some point. It will probably stay in the news.

      • I know sometimes the wrong people are over sentenced, perhaps men of color, but other times men who deserve to be sentenced harshly are given a slap on the wrist. Our judicial system is ass backwards at times, I’m sure judges can be voted in and out. But it seems like we need a lot of fixing and have needed fixing in our justice system for a long time. But look at this shit. This dude is basically elliot rodger, and it’s not just ‘oh he’s just saying this”. The dude has made it very clear many times with his words and multiple arrests and threats to women and stalking, strangling one woman. It’s not if but when, he’s a ticking time bomb, but no time behind bars for him.

        An incel who wants to and promises to have a terrorist attack like elliot rodger and kill as many women as possible and yet, oh well, let him free and some probation. Probation won’t do shit, like restraining orders don’t do shit for an abusive bf or husband who wants to harm or kill his gf/ex gf or wife/divorced wife. I wish you could sue judges or prosecutors who do this shit. If any women are raped or killed by this guy now, these asshole judges, have blood on their hands and should feel all the guilt in the world and blame. Pieces of shit.

      • Yeah, my area of study is about how we see the world symbolically, so we see criminals and their victims symbolically too. And because we live in a world where upper-class white males aren’t seen as criminals they tend to get less punishment. Or, because we think of men as powerful we will be less sympathetic to them as rape victims. It can be hard for people to get outside of the stereotypes – this symbolic way of seeing the world.

      • makes me think of the judges like that rape case with Brock turner and the unconscious girl a few years ago and him sentenced just 6 months. I’m always disgusted by the criminals, but sometimes I feel the enablers are worse, because they allow it to happen or continue. Like the many assholes with the US gymnatics sexual abuse with tons of women effected by the gymnastics doctor and they knew but turned a blind eye. Same for the MSU staff too who knew of it,

      • Well I think the criminals are worse than the enablers the enabler‘s are nearly as bad. It’s a lot harder to have criminals without enabler‘s.

  47. Superman, Batman, Ironman, etc.; they are just fiction. Simply entertainment and as the wise say, “Entertainment is vastly overrated.” However, there are real lift heroes and they are everywhere, but not always noticed nor are they perfect. But, for brief periods of time they are.

    • Interesting thought. Thanks.

      • The name you choose for your friend is ‘Bob”. I found that amusing the same alias name you made up was Bob as well. I don’t think men want to be superheroes, but society has it ingrained to where many men can super competitive with each other and compare themselves to each other. I know I’m competitive. It makes guys more likely to be ego centric and well if you can do amazing feats wealth, talent and other ways, you are like a mortal super hero. I wonder if that’s what drives men who are in power positions to want that? Since they can not be actual super heroes or Gods, and limited by out human imperfections and mortality. The closest thing to those is reaching great wealthy heights and power that beats out most men are a large scale, therefore some type of superiority. You think about out ancient male rulers sitting upon thrones as kings and taking over countries and tons of men do what they want, that’s like a God and super hero like power and perhaps desire to get that ‘high’.

        I do believe it’s culture, individual personalities and I wonder if it’s just a philosophical aspect. The desire to be “more than we are”.And to distract and take oneself away from their mortality and perhaps eternal fears (existential realities). I have a short life, maybe it doesn’t matter or nobodies lives matter, but while I’m here on earth I’m going to do so many things better than others and mighty things. So trying to get this accomplishment, gratification to fill a void of the reality of people and life being “dust in the wind” and possibly insignificant so trying to find a way to make something briefly significant or that rush of something mighty like I said. Don’t you appreciate my philosophical touch? ha

      • The friend’s name is the same as yours because it is you. If I’d written this originally for my blog I would probably have said “reader” but you’re a blogging friend too, right?

        Not sure why men feel pressure to be superheroes. Maybe because it’s role-modeled for them. Maybe it’s the competition boys and men are taught to have (think of boys toys: football, basketball, baseball, hot wheels — very competitive vs girl’s dolls, cooking sets, stuffed animals). Maybe it’s domination culture (expressed as patriarchy) — men taught to dominate more than women are. Maybe it’s a combination of things.

        And yes, I always appreciate your questions and your philosophical nature 🙂 Gives me a lot of food for thought ad material to write about.

  48. Oh. And here I was trying to live up to the Joker.

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