There's this quintessential statement that has been cemented in the lore surrounding Spider-Man.
"With great power comes great responsibility"
We've all heard it. Or, most of us anyway. And it's the thing that makes a super hero just that.
People will squabble all day long about what makes a super hero. Or maybe even just a hero in general. Is it their powers? If so, perhaps Batman doesn't qualify. After all, he's just a rich guy. And here departs the sarcasm train, inevitably leading to Tony Stark's money, and somehow looping back around to Superman and whether he's cool or just ridiculously overpowered.
And somehow in all of this semantical nonsense, we've missed the point.
Let me reiterate: "With great power comes great responsibility."
Specifically as people who can create, whether we be artists, musicians, filmmakers, anything, we have power. Great power. The power to change and shape minds and culture. To inspire, or merely redirect. We have the power to give people something to identify with. To stand behind or rally around.
Because behind every great song, every film, every heroic campaign, there's something basic. Something elemental that resonates within ourselves and others that reminds us of who we're meant to be.
It's why when Bruce Wayne garnishes himself with a bat, years later street kids are scribbling it on the sidewalk in hopes that he'll return. It's why, after the Avengers save New York, children are strapping trash can lids painted with stars to to their arms and guys head to the barber shops in droves to get the unmistakable Stark goatee. It's why, when Peter Parker prints a spider on a luge onesie and finds who he is, street artists scrawl arachnids on brick walls in dripping paint. It's why one kid who knew there's more purpose to music and adventure and all things media than just entertainment sketched out a fireball on a scrap of paper, then invited others to wear it proudly.
"What is this, Sam?" You may ask. "Narcissism?" No. This is a reality check.
Look, thanks to Suzanne Collins, hordes of females are running around with a fictional bird stuck to them and wearing their braids slung over one shoulder (not that I have a problem with Suzanne Collins. I quite like "The Hunger Games").
I consider myself a lot of things. A writer, an actor, but let me speak chiefly as a musician for a moment.
As musicians, we are one of the few types of people on earth that are basically looked at like super heroes. I'm not saying we "deserve" it any more than the single father construction workers. But it's just the way it is.
I remember when I was a kid. Real little. Like, 3rd and 4th grade. I remember hearing lyrics out of other kid's mouths. Seeing them imitate dances they saw on TV. And even then I remember thinking, "These kids need different a different kind musician." I won't say "a better class" (despite the Dark Knight reference here that's just begging to be corrected), because I'm not going to arbitrarily throw blame around. But different.
The Grammys. The resonance is still palpable, and I didn't even watch the thing (not because I have some big objection to the Grammys, I was just doing something else that night). But people talk. And the internet, well, it's the internet.
Is it risque or is it empowering? Is it edgy or is it damaging? Is it inspiring or just sad?
We are culture shapers. People will google us and see what we stand for, what we believe in, how we live, what our lyrics mean. They'll wear our emblems, our hairstyles, our shutter-shades. Men. Women. Children.
One thing about super-heroes, they have remarkable power. Superman got his via a somewhat involuntary manifestation, but hey, so did Darkseid. Imagine the self-control it must take to be Superman. Batman is a guy with wealth, brains and astounding skills. But hey, so is Deathstroke. Peter Parker is the result of what you might call an accident. But so is pretty much everyone he fights. It comes down to what you choose do do with your power.
We creators, we have remarkable power. In the wake of a performance or a major release, people often treat us like our abilities are nearly mythical. And you know what? Perhaps they are. We can stick our hands right into your soul, and so often, you are more than willing to let us.
But we must remember the lesson that Peter Parker's story has endeavored to hammer into our collective awareness. Because people will imitate us. They WILL follow us. They will lend their themselves to our causes, but we have the responsibility of being the vanguards of those causes.
We may not always do it perfectly. It's sad to see life overcome some little Disney star and watch their life suffer as they try to define who they are. We too, after all, still undergo constant character development. But like any good super hero, our endeavor should be to embody the ideal. This power isn't just for us.
Because so often we already have the super, but we also have to remember the hero.