A few years ago, my son came home his obnoxiously progressive New England preschool and informed me that he was not allowed to talk about Superheroes at school because they solved their problems by fighting and not with their words.
He was right, I suppose. But they’re Superheroes! They’re the fabric of childhood. I could barely imagine my own without Superheroes. Their stories helped me believe I might actually survive the nuclear 80’s. Their problems were not like parking tickets, traffic jams, or sub-prime mortgages that you could just talk about. They were dealing with evil super-villains, rogue mutants, and extra-terrestrial war-mongerers. They had the kind of problems that you might only be able to solve by fighting.
One of my favorites, The Incredible Hulk, couldn’t even use words. He just grunted and bellowed like an animal. But his anger, his insecurity and pain was his superpower. His existential angst made him special and allowed him to help others with his unique physical gifts.
What better role model for a child of the 80’s?
Still I had to admit that Malcolm (or his teachers) had a point. It’s just difficult for me to deal with the idea that he could have a superhero-free childhood or, worse yet, that he would think the model of a Superhero is this guy on TV now named “Sportacus.”
If you haven’t seen an episode of Lazytown, you’re missing one of the most truly bizarre television experiences. Teamed with a spunky little punk rock girl in pink hair and a gang of muppet-esque children, Sportacus speaks with a faux-French accent and wears a creepy handlebar mustache waxed to sharp points. He outfits himself in a tight blue spandex flight-suit and aviator goggles; and he champions things like physical activity and eating fruit. Pretty much any problem in Lazytown can be solved with exercise and an apple. Sportacus is, in real life, an "Icelandic sports star" who wrote, produced, and directed Lazytown in an effort to teach children about good health.
But here’s my main concern: What good would Sportacus be when the apocalypse came? What kind of model hero is this? What dreams of survival would he inspire? His beloved fruit would all be poisoned with radiation. Exercise is difficult when you have another head growing out of your shoulder and sort of pointless if you’ve mutated into some kind of Ninja reptile. Lazytown is yet another reminder that my son lives in a world that is both eerily familiar to my own childhood reality and strikingly different.