Review of Superman on the Couch

By Amanda Trainor, Contributing Writer

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s…YOU!”

–Danny Fingeroth

When I decided to study the comic book “culture” for a government class term paper, I took the ever-controversial Ruth Benedict approach: I researched and studied a topic that was completely foreign to me. My extent of comic book reading went so far as the love-triangle among Betty, Veronica, and Archie (I know, pathetic). I decided to begin my journey with a few easy reads, one of them being Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society by Danny Fingeroth. I wanted to know why we need superheroes in the first place and how much they reflect our own ideas of good vs. evil; this book definitely surpassed my expectations.

So what stands out about Superman on the Couch?

  • The author, Danny Fingeroth has over two decades of experience working with Marvel Comics and his book even includes a forward by Stan Lee.  If that’s not credibility, I don’t know what is!
  • I had never thought about it, but as a society we need and yearn for superheroes and their achievements.
  • Fingeroth covers a wide range of topics such as the dual-identity we all posses, family structure, females in comic books (including a section about Gloria Steinem!), and why we need super villains.
  • It’s always a breath of fresh air to learn about society and the human psyche in a non-academic context, so why not by way of comic books?
  • Whether you are new to the comic book world as I am, or you have been enjoying them for years, this is a worthwhile read.

Most importantly, Superman on the Couch forces us to question why we idolize certain figures.  Do you look up to someone because they have so much more potential than the common individual? Or maybe you believe that while you and your favorite superhero may have the same potential, they do a much better job of reaching it? It could also be, (and this will really make you think) we subconsciously choose heroes based on the theory that a hero embodies what we believe is best in ourselves” (Fingeroth). Classic American superheroes such as Superman and Captain America clearly embody the values our society holds in high esteem: do your heroes do the same for you?

Amanda is an international relations and Spanish major who is interested in the non-profit field, specifically in sexual education and awareness.  She enjoys analyzing the role comic-books play in Japan and the United States.

I Saw Gloria Steinem and It Made Me Feel…

A 77 year-old woman was standing before me, and my heart was practically beating out of my chest. She had the air of a much, much younger woman, impeccable style, and gesticulations so sharp and sincere, you’d have to be Wonder Woman not to feel her words. Yet, I’m sure Wonder Woman would be in just as much in awe as I was when I heard Gloria Steinem speak. 

Yes, I saw Gloria Steinem speak, and it made me feel empowered, frustrated, empathetic, concerned, surprised, thrilled, and joyous all at the same time.

Empowered because I was sitting amongst a large group of women and men who each believed that some things—many things—in society weren’t right yet. And we were here together to find a way to make change.

Frustrated because although today’s society is more accepting of women who act like men, it is still against men who act like women. Frustrated because society says it’s okay for a little girl to like Batman, but a little boy can’t like Tinker Bell.

Empathetic because all the movements—women’s rights, minority rights, gay rights, environmental, and others—are all connected. We have more in common that we ever thought. If we help each other, we can all take steps toward achieving a more equal, clean, and friendly world.

Concerned because sex trafficking still exists. Prostitution is glorified by the media in such movies as Pretty Woman. Rape is still a taboo topic, even though it needs to be brought in the open and discussed honestly.

Surprised because we take the power of words for granted every day. Would you really call a young man a “boy” like you call the young women in the office “girls?” Why do we have to add adjectives when talking about women? Why say “chick lit” and “chick flicks,” when you don’t say “men’s books” and “prick flicks?” Why say female doctor and women writer, when you don’t say male doctor and men writer?

Thrilled because there is hope that one day we will no longer categorize ourselves. Someday, we’ll all just be human.

And joyous because I have the chance to make change. Like Ms. Steinem said, “change is like building a house. You start from the bottom up, not from the top down.”