This is hopefully the first in a many-part series on the power of heroes and the possibilities that personal identification with a fictional hero can create.
Last week at San Diego Comic Con, comic book writer Gail Simone tweeted about the opportunity she had to meet with a group of vets from Stack-up.Org. This non-profit uses video games to help returning vets recover from physical and invisible wounds, as well help them transition to civilian life. The group had some representatives on hand, vets who were funded to go to Comic Con. You can read her whole thread starting here:
One vet had been “hit by a bomb,” lost an arm and had other, unspecified, injuries. He had really wanted to meet Simone because her work had meant a lot to him during his recovery:
While Simone doesn’t reveal what it was about her Batgirl series that resonated with the veteran, he took inspiration from Simone’s representation of Batgirl, a fully fictional, animated character. This kind of personal identification with a fictional character is rooted in empathy, and we can work through our own emotions by virtually witnessing the experiences of fictional characters through reading or watching their stories. This kind of emotional connection gives the reader or viewer permission to feel the way he or she does, without self-reproach. The connection allows us to identify with the struggles of these characters, and put our own faces on theirs; to take strength from their experiences, and relate to how they manage success and loss. In some ways, because these characters are fictional, potential barriers rooted in personal social and cultural structures are muted and can be safely transgressed, which allows for personal growth. In other words – perhaps ironically – these fictional characters allow us to be truly human.
Much more to come on this topic, but for now, What Would Batgirl Do?