Written by Le Clown and The Ringmistress. Disclaimer: Le Clown and the Ringmistress are not medical professionals, but certified nerds with too much time on their hands.
Women, typically being less doctor-phobic than men, will report experiencing mental health issues more often. However, dudes love their self-medication, and are more prone to drug and alcohol addictions to deal with these underreported mental illnesses1. The cocktail of addiction and mental illness create a high-risk group of men who are more likely to become homeless, either temporarily or chronically2. So what if you’re a man with unnatural powers? As it turns out, even superheros get the blues. Here’s our completely
unscientific analysis of a few of them.
Batman (Bruce Wayne): Bipolar Type II
Who cares if Batman possesses no real superpowers? Gotham City worships a man dressed in a skin tight bat suit—with cape—who commands respect by instilling the fear of God in his enemies and torturing villains. So what? Maybe Batman got off on nearly killing the Joker, but he’s a good guy, so coolsies, right? Perhaps the Dark Knight is traumatized by the death of his parents, murdered in front of him, and hides in a dark, humid cave (I’m calling out the vagina metaphor, though it might just represent his own tortured psyche ~S), isolated from people, irritable, negative, insomniac, and pessimist. Totally normal, right?
Wolverine (Logan): Borderline Personality Disorder
The man in mutton chops is known for harbouring a contempt for authority. Add on a reckless disregard for his own safety (granted, he has the power to self-heal). This impulsive, aggressive, paranoid, loner prone to tumultuous relationships (that Jean woman is BAD news) possesses a destabilized sense of self, lack of solid identity, and a pervasive sense of emptiness. Also, a touch of anger control issues. And a Cutter.
Hulk (Bruce Banner): Dissociative Identity Disorder
The Incredible Hulk to Wolverine: “Hulk no like fight little man! All Hulk wants is to be left alone”. It could have been an internal monologue, one between the Hulk and his very well-defined Other, Bruce Banner. There is anger and disjointedness between the two identities. There is no peaceful coexistence between the personalities. They are both aware of their presence, but a veil of amnesia separates their psychic realities. Bruce Banner is in a constant state of disarray—his fugue is endless, his quest to flee his inner monster is futile; the beast lives within.
And what about Iron-Man‘s narcissistic and sociopathic behaviour, Mr. Fantastic—the eccentric genius with Asperger-like tendencies, or Thor‘s God complex? If not for Pepper Pots, Alfred Pennyworth, Professor Charles Xavier and the Invisible Woman, what would become of our supermen? The line is fine between being a superhero who keeps the demons at bay (with support and love of trusted sidekicks or confidants) and a supervillain who indulges in psychopathic acts of violence. How thin is the membrane between “Batman” and “Joker”?
Perhaps we love our superheroes because they represent contained madness, a madness we can all identify with to some degree, but mastered and used for good. Likewise, do we fear the supervillains because they encapsulate a complete loss of control? A psychological land of no return? A place where we all hope never to go, but wonder, if under the right (or wrong) circumstances, we see ourselves going?
The superhero/supervillain dynamic taps into our collective psyche, giving us hope that we can triumph over evil (a.k.a. insanity), and that even the most troubled fan boy or girl can achieve something good and awesome.
1 Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Statistics: Men & Women.
2 Parliament of Canada – Risk Factors for Homelessness.
3 Batman’s image from Boxfont.
4 Wolverine’s image from Heroes Assemble.
5 Hulk’s image from ComicVine.