Typical Fan: The Psychology of why we need Superheroes


Video games, comic books and super heroes in general are seeping into every crevice of the Pop Culture landscape. An estimated 150,000+ attendees of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con which will have an estimated $140 million positive impact on the economy. Still not convinced? Maybe the $1.5 billion box office income of 2012’s Avengers movie or the well over $1 billion estimated income of this year’s Black Panther will help you see that its easy to see that super heroes are extremely popular. As previously said, the popularity goes well beyond the movies; and is seeping all over the Pop Culture landscape. So why do we need superheroes? What is the draw to invest so much of our time, money, and emotions into these superheroes? Why do these super heroes and even villains receive so much idolization thusly becoming role models to children and adults alike? Why do hardcore fans stick around after the increase in popularity and commercialism of the industry?

SamsonFoxFeatureComicsThe term ‘superhero’ was not used until 1917 and was very popular during the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s). The current Modern Age of comics brought about more psychologically complex characters, as well as a larger audience base. Many have claimed that superheroes are an integral part of American society; and despite some otherworldly aspects, comics are a reflection of our world. During World War II, Marvel famously showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. Then years later (after finding out that President Obama collected Spider-Man comics), Marvel put Obama on the cover of their The Amazing Spider-Man issue No 583 where ‘Spidey meets the President’. Continuing to address and be on the forefront of social issues, in 1992 Marvel revealed Northstar to be a homosexual. Comic books and super heroes writers seem to mirror our lives, which in turn makes them even more relatable.

So we have established that the evolution of comics and superheroes themselves sometimes reflect the events that are happening around us as well as address the societal problems that our world is facing; but what about our idolizing relationship to a superhero? As we readIron Man Repulsors comics, especially the young audience, we not only increase our ability to read and understand more complex works; but we develop emotions and morals. Take for example, Tony Stark. Despite Tony’s celebrity status and the ultra-powerful Iron Man suit…he is a broken character. Throughout the years of Iron Man comics, the Tony Stark/Iron Man character has had to deal with insecurities due to his broken relationship with his father, has suffered from alcoholism, suffered panic attacks and even bouts of paranoia. This flawed character, much like many other comic book superheroes, help us see the human qualities and make us look at ourselves. But like fairytales and children stories, superhero stories serve a didactic purpose. Most superheroes teach the reader how to succeed in life. Whether that success is to better the world around them and defeat evil villains or just by demonstrating exemplary behavior. On the basic level, they educate readers between right and wrong.

When we are little, most of us pretend to be law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, cowboys, or someone in the armed forces. The same principles that cause use to look up to those people, are the same reasons they pretend to be Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. These superheroes are larger-than-life, epic characters that do anything to take away evil and make things right. We admire paramedics, Marines, firemen, etc. because they help save us in our times of need. The Stamp_Day_for_Supermanpsychological theory called terror management theory proposes that people’s fear of death strengthens their allegiance to certain cultural values. For example, during times that we witness evil and death a typical response would be for us to think more about the fragility of life and it leads us to value heroes even more. Heroes also fulfill our need for fairness and lawfulness, which is sometimes lost in our normal everyday lives. In the 1950s Superman TV show always spoke of Superman’s never-ending quest for “truth, justice, and the American way”. They bring us hope.

While video game characters, comic books and superheroes of all types are exaggerated WonderCon_2012_-_Captain_America_and_girl_Captain_America_(7019315865)examples of what traits we hope to exhibit, they fill a purpose. We admire the masked superhero. The prosocial behavior has a positive impact on the readers/players. We sometimes find ourselves escaping the setbacks and failings that we are experiencing in our own lives; and we are living vicariously through these characters. Sometimes these characters help us face real adversity in our lives. Giving us courage and inspiring us to overcome health problems, failures, or even just the everyday challenges that we find. Heroes lift us up on a personal level by allowing us to compare and contrast the traits that they portray; and allow us to personify the best parts of their personalities, ethical commitments, and moral traits.

My son, Daniel, may have said it best when he said that when he’s watching a good movie or playing video games that he can forget about stressors, homework or chores; and just be lost in that character’s world. The characters that we play, watch, read, cosplay, or enjoy are sometimes flawed souls with admirable intentions. Just like normal life, we can be flawed and be successful. We can have complex backstories and have different motivations. We will continue to love and idolize these characters because we see a little bit of ourselves in them…or maybe we see something that we want to add to our own story.


Featured Image – Spidey cosplayer hugging a girl by US Defense Dept. – http://www.defenselink.mil/home/images/photos/2005-04/photoessays/pi20050428d11.jpg, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=124594
Fox Comics featuring Samson‘s original uploader was Konczewski at English Wikipedia – Grand Comic Book Database (http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=574), Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17710516
Firefly, the Archie Comics Superhero in Top-Notch Comics #10. November 1940 by and accredited to Bob Wood, – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hyju., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17798406
Iron Man Repulsers Cosplay By Chris Favero from USA – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34364573
Captain America and girl Captain America at WonderCon 2012 by and accredited to The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33398682
Screen Capture of George Reeves as Superman in the US Government Film “Stamp Day for Superman” by and accredited to U.S. Treasury Department – United States Treasury Department film, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13616319
Spider-Man with Donald Rumsfeld by and accredited to US Defense Dept. – Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6265138

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Best Banned Books

More times than not, when you tell someone not to do something…they are going to want to do it even more after that. This is definitely the case with my yearning to want to read banned books. Governments, school districts and churches (as well as the Office for Intellectual Freedom) are arguing back and forth over what books should be banned. In the past and in different parts of the world, books have been burned or removed 1933-may-10-berlin-book-burningcompletely based on the book’s differing religious or political views. While the Nazis even removed books strictly because they were not of German origin; most books in modern America are challenged by parents in a public or school library because of questionable themes, sexual content, offensive language, or topics that are unsuitable for that age group. Since the American Library Association began in 1990, Stephen King and Judy Blume have surprisingly had the most books challenged or banned.

With that being said, I am sharing with you the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Best Banned Books. This list is based on my favorites out of the banned books list.


10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Reason for Censor: Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Anti-family Themes

Plot: The anti-utopian novel, Brave New World, was originally published in 1932. The novel itself follows the illegitimate son of a governor who, now in a future London, was raised in America and is not aware of the new empire. The book shows the culture-clash that he experiences living under the new set of rules and the author propounds that the economy and lack of jobs will create an atmosphere where the government controls the population through technology and psychological manipulation.

My take: Brave New World may have received mixed reviews early on but it is now ranked as one of the most most significant novels of the 20th century. I read Brave New World in college after reading 1984 and is in line with utopian novels like The Giver by Lois Lowry and Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. The anticipated actions of the governments in this future environment are not far from the fears that many of us have today. For a mature reader, this novel is a great read.


9. Ulysses by James Joyce

Reason for Censor: Sexual Content

Plot: Ulysses is a modernist novel that chronicles the itinerant appointments and occurrences in the life of Leopold Bloom. The story takes place in Dublin but the novel parallels the life of Odysseus (the hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey) and Leopold Bloom. (Example: Joyce alludes the comparison between Bloom’s trip to Bella Cohen’s Brothel and Odysseus’s time with Circe.)

My Take: Despite a 1921 American obscenity trial while being banned and burned in both the US and England in the early 1900s; since its publication, Ulysses is regarded as one of the greatest literary works in history. The writer’s stream-of-consciousness writing technique and beautiful prose writing creates a rich and humorous book. The story definitely has adult themes and sexual content; but is a great read for the appropriate audience.


8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Reason for Censor: Thematic Elements, Occult/Satanism

Plot: Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels that chronicles the life of young wizard, Harry Potter and his friends. The story essentially centers around Harry’s growing in his wizardly knowledge and abilities while being threatened by the evil dark Wizard Lord Voldemort; who wishes to not only to rule the wizard and non-magic realms but wants to kill Harry based on his family lineage.

My Take: It took me a while to get on board with Harry Potter. I did think that the book series’s increasingly dark tones, gruesome violence, and occult practices were somewhat questionable early on; after I first read the story I realized that even though some more conservative groups could see the occult tones as questionable, the writer helps readers understand death, prejudice, corruption, and even mental illness. The book series are now a cultural phenomenon; leading to a successful movie series, amusement park attractions and endless amounts of memorabilia.

of mice and men cover

7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reason for Censorship: Offensive language, Racist Language, Violence, Thematic Elements

Plot: The 1937 novella tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small traveling through California. The two displaced migrant ranch workers move place to place searching for new job opportunities during America’s Great Depression.

My Take: I read Of Mice and Men in school and it is taught in many school systems around the US, but the book is constantly targeted by the censors and is on the American Library Association‘s list of the Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century. Though the book’s events are somewhat tragic and most of the characters are truly depressing, it is a wonderful book that displays a sad reality of real life. The depressing nature of the book did lead one critic to challenge the book in one school because of the ‘depressing themes’…but this shouldn’t keep you from reading it.


6. Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Reasons for Censorship: Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited for Age Group, Anti-Family

Plot: The Hunger Games trilogy center around teenagers: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. The novel is set in the dystopian setting of a the country of Panem. The country is made up of the wealthy Capitol and 12 specific districts that in different levels of poverty. Every year, children from the 12 districts are selected to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games, which are compulsory, are an annual televised death match.

My Take: The book was singled out for being overly religious, even though religion nor any deity was mentioned in any of the books. The books depiction of violence is very straight forward and graphically described; but it is tastefully done. The books are very well written and the writer does a good job at causing the reader to become emotionally involved in the story’s characters.


5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Reasons for Censorship: Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Unsuited for Age Group

Plot: The novel centers around Holden Caulfield, a teenager from New York City,  who is living in a southern California mental hospital (or sanatorium) near Hollywood, CA in the 1950s. Holden tells the story of his time at the Pencey Prepatory Academy in Agerstown, PA in which he flunked out of. After many altercations, he decides to leave to go home early and stay in a motel in New York City. The story continues as he interacts with different people and the teenage angst and alienation;  before the end of the story where he decides to go to another school and is optimistic about his future.

My Take: There is no denying the impact that this novel has had on popular and literary culture; but the book is definitely not for the younger age groups. The book made Time’s 100 Best English-langauge novels written since 1923 list and is #15 on the BBC’s The Big Read list. While the novel tackles complex topics like losing your innocence, self identity, a sense of belonging, and dealing with loss; the Holden Caulfield character is a very relatable. Though many view the books protagonist as an icon for teenage rebellion; I view him as your average teenager trying to make it in our complex world.


4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Reasons for Censorship: Drug/Alcohol Use

Plot: The books center around a girl named Alice who goes on an adventure. Alice falls through a rabbit hole and enters into a fantastic new world full of very peculiar humans and anthropomorphic creatures. Alice finds herself to hold a pivotal role in the future of world that she has fallen into.

My Take: Though many have hinted at a sexual or lustful relationship between Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Alice Pleasance Liddell (the little girl whom inspired the story); nothing has ever come to light. In fact, my young adult literature class in college spent about half of the semester dissecting the sexual and literal imagery found in the books. Since the tale was written to the girls, it is more commonly believed that Dodgson was writing it to warn the girls of the life that they will experience as they grow up; and the ‘drink me’ and ‘eat me’ portions of the book could be taken as a precautionary tale of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Either way, the story (taken at face value) is considered to be one of the greatest examples of literary nonsense; and has long been celebrated in popular and literary culture.


3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons for Censorship: Sexual Content, Drugs/Alcohol Use, Unsuited for Age Group, Homosexual Themes

Plot: The epistolary novel is a modern day coming-of-age tale. The novel centers around an introverted teenager named Charlie, who is trying to journeying from the worlds of adolescence and adulthood. Charlie was encouraged to write the letters, of which the novel is comprised of, by his English teacher based on his passion for reading and writing. Charlie is struggling in his first year in high school. The novel takes place after two truly traumatic events take place in his life: the dead of his only middle-school friend and the death of his favorite aunt. Charlie is befriend by two seniors but is shunned by the group after a fallout with a girl. Charlie regains his friends but is anxious about losing his friends when they graduate. The novel explores and talks about many avenues of life, relationships and love.

My take: I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the suggestion of a friend of mine in college (who was also in that Young Adult Literature class where we discussed the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland books); and I don’t say this lightly but this book truly touched me. It was a life altering experience. The love and loss that Charlie experiences, along with the hurt and pain that happens to us all during our adolescent years causes an inexplicable bond to be made with the characters. The books themes are not appropriate for younger age groups. The book has been on the top 10 American Library Association banned book list 7 times since publication but I feel that older teenagers…especially we wallflowers, need to read this book.


2. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Reason for Censorship: Violence, Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Thematic Elements

Plot: The story, which is told in nonlinear order with events (taking place via flashbacks or time travel experiences) ranging from his time in the war, to postwar, to his early years. The unreliable narrator, Billy Pilgrim, was an ill-trained, disoriented, and fatalistic American soldier; who refused to fight. The central events of the story is then Prisoner-of-war Pilgrim’s survival during the firebombing of Dresden and his experience with time travel to and from the war and his time spent in the ‘human exhibit’ in an alien zoo.

My Take: Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is not only one of my favorite books that has been censored but it is one of my favorite books period. The science fiction-infused anti-war novel is a complicated but amazing read. What I find interesting is that the events of the firebombing of Dresden have been described by Vonnegut as semi-autobiographical. The book’s anti-war sentiment was immensely popular after its publication in 1969 amidst the ongoing Vietnam War, causing the novel to top the New York Times Best Seller list. The sexual acts that are described in the novel may be a bit much for younger readers but older teenagers may appreciate the style of writing.


1. The Holy Bible

Reason for Censorship: Religious Viewpoint, Sexual Content, Unsuited for Age Group, Incitement to Violence

Plot: A canonical collection of sacred texts or scriptures by many different authors that Jews and Christians view as a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between the Judeo-Christian God and humans.

My Take: The United States is home to more Christians than anywhere else in the world but it is also home to more challenges to the book that the Christians view as the most holy. The Holy Bible is listed as the sixth most challenged book in America. The ALA, whom I have referenced many times in this report have been collecting information from the books that have been challenged, banned or censored from American schools or libraries since 1990. The ALA has listed many reasons why a book would be banned:

homosexuality, immigration, religious viewpoints, political viewpoint, occult/satanism, antiethnic, prostitution, suicide, evil, Islamic, Unsuited for Age group, Cultural Insensitivity, liberal propaganda, racism, sexual, slavery, gender non-conformity, glorification of criminals, alcohol, drugs, smoking, violence, anti-family, confuses children, promotes perversion, bisexuality, racist to whites, glorifies Islamic Jihad, Nudity, sex, anti-police, abortion, offensive, atheism, and mentions of Allah.

The ALA defines that any challenge is a ‘formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.’ Religious viewpoints is the fourth most common challenge recently, and the Holy Bible is one of the books that is receiving an increasing amount of challenge. Many people view a Bible being in a school library as a violation of the seperation of church and state, while some have complained that some of the topics and content is inappropriate to minors. I agree that some younger children needed to be guided through their reading of the Bible. As a Christian I view the Bible as an important historical, religious and sacred document but if it is just viewed as a piece of literature over an extended amount of time….it is amazing that that many writers could get their stories straight over thousands of years.

Whatever your feelings on censorship, we ultimately have to do what we feel as right; as long as what we feel as right doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. And my right to read something shouldn’t be infringed on because you don’t like something that is in my selected book. But with that being said, if something violates a viewpoint that I do not agree with; I do not want someone forcing my child (or me) to read that piece of text. It’s a complicated situation that we are in, in this day and time where the world around us is constantly changing.



Nazi Book burning in Berlin, May 1933, accredited to Unknown – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Public Domain (PD-US-unpublished), https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1253020

Brave New World cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8103565

Ulysses cover, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=555052CC

Crowd outside a book store for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince accredited to Source, (SA 3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=226679

Of Mice and Men cover by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19545457

Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49711016

The Catcher in the Rye cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1709640

Original Cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland accredited to source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47434658

The Perks of Being a Wallflower cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8206705

Slaughterhouse-Five cover accredited Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5481972

Holy Bible image by and accredited to Lyn Lomasi – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15744249

Book burning in Chile following the 1973 coup that installed the Pinochet regime accredited to Source, CIA Freedom of Information Act, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49711016

Rock – Paper – Scissors – Lizards – Spock

It was back in 2007 in season 2, episode 8 of MTV’s Rob and Big that I first heard Rock – Paper -Scissors called Rochambeau. I had enjoyed playing it many times as a child and it was so ingrained in popular culture that I had seen it everywhere from one of my favorite adolescent movies Bio Dome to aiding in a decision making process on my childhood playground. No matter how silly the game may be, it is  a nostalgic competition that has transcended time.

Kitsune-ken_(狐拳),_Japanese_rock-paper-scissors_variant,_from_the_Genyoku_sui_bento_(1774)Yes I just made Rock – Paper – Scissors sound a lot more serious than it actually is but the history is vast. Rock – Paper – Scissors arrived in the United States around the 20th century, but it is one of the oldest games in existence. The first recorded mention of the game was found in Chinese Ming-dynasty writer’s Xie Zhaozhi’s book: the Wuzazu. In his book (circa the 1600s) wrote that the game itself actually dated back all the way to China’s Han dynasty (which is from 206 -220 AD). The game, as he explains it, is called shoushiling. The game also exists in Japanese lore, and throughout history there have Mushi-ken_(虫拳),_Japanese_rock-paper-scissors_variant,_from_the_Kensarae_sumai_zue_(1809)been references to ‘fist games’. These fist games, known as sansukumi-ken (ken meaning fist). The earliest version of sansukumi-ken was known as mushi-ken. Mushi-ken (meaning frog-fist) was playing by one player showing his thumb who is displaced by a slug (represented by the user showing his pinky finger), which is then displaced by a snake (represented by the index finger), which is only displaced by the frog. So can you see the rules are similar to our modern day Rock – Paper – Scissors.

Over the years, the game spread beyond Asian borders and reached Britain in 1924 when the game was described in a letter to The Times newspaper (which has been a daily national newspaper based in London, England since 1785). The game was called ‘zhot’ and was described to be of ‘possible Mediterranean origin’. The British populous took interest and subsequent articles were written to describe the game to the readers. If it hit Britain, it was only a matter of time before it came to America. In a 1932 New York Times article describing the Tokyo rush hour, the rules of the game were laid out and the Rock_paper_scissors_author beckoned Americans to try it, so they could ‘benefit’ from its uses. In the 1933 edition of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, the game was called John Kem Po and was described as a ‘common method of settling disputes between Japanese children’ and the author pointed out that it was a “good way of deciding an argument that American boys and girls might like to practice too”.

So is it ironic that a game with so much history is played by children making random choices or by adults who are more inclined to use some game to decide some minuscule decision? Absolutely not. The game is popping up all over pop culture; even finding itself in a modified version on the ever popular TV show The Big Bang Theory (who modified the game to be Rock – Paper – Scissors – Lizard – Spock) and some players have even turned it into a legitimate nostalgia-fueled competitive sport.


From China’s street corners to America’s playgrounds, Rock – Paper – Scissors will continue to flourish; and its history will not sink like a rock or rust like a pair of scissors. No no…it will cover the landscape like a piece a paper. 😉



Mushi-Ken representation by and attributed to Linhart, Sepp. “Die Repräsentation Von Tieren Im Japanischen Ken-Spiel: Versuch Einer Interpretation.” Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift Der Schweizerischen Asiengesellschaft 65.2 (2011): 541-61.Yoshinami and Gojaku. 1809. Kensarae sumai zue (拳會角力圖會). 2 vols. Edo: Murataya, Jirobe, Osaka: Kawachiya Taisuke, Bunka 6., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37139430

Rock-Paper-Scissors image by and attributed to U3144362 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63503453

Men playing Rock-Paper-Scissors by Jeff Eaton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffeaton/10911307996/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54972934

4th UK Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship image by and attributed to James Bamber – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16532763


‘It’s so quiet out here’

Living in eastern North Carolina doesn’t usually allow us to have a lot of snow during the winter; but thankfully a beautiful blanket of snow fell early this month. The snow reluctantly fell after a layer of wintery mix and ice so that made the roads somewhat impassable. This caused my wife to not be able to go to her antique/thrift store but the schools being shut down due to the dangerous road conditions allowed Daniel and myself to be home with her. Since we live on a small creek that leads to the Northeast Cape Fear; Daniel and myself set out on our trek the morning after it stopped snowing.

We walked our way through the inches of snow and relished in the site of the sun rising above the snow carpeted horizon. We meandered our way through the woods; walking on the grass that was smothered by the inches of snow. We walked down the snow kissed creek and appreciating God’s beautiful creations. We saw rabbits huddling in their underbrush dens and the melted spots of ground where deer had bedded themselves the night before. Daniel climbed fallen trees and laughed as he caused snow to cascade from the leaves on me as I stood below.

Daniel and myself finally found our way to a small tributary that leads to the creek. I used to sneak off to this spot when I was a child to draw, write or just to relax. Who am I kidding…most of the time when I was a kid, the dominant thought that shouted its way to the forefront of my thoughts was bouncing around the woods with a sword and pretending to be He-Man or Rambo; (I’m a child of the 80s…don’t hate. ;P)  but most of the time I used that place to just relax. It brought a sense of calm to me to share that moment with my son. Daniel and myself found ourselves enjoying the solitude of the silence. The lack of traffic out on the road that runs about a mile from our house or maybe it was the fact that we weren’t being distracted by uselessness on our smart phones or wasting our time watching TV. We were just enjoying something that we don’t get to experience that often…and times like those are worth their weight in gold.




Hotel Windows


The passenger elevator ascended to the 18th story of the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The doors opened and we shuffled out of the open doors. We walked to the end of the hallway; hearing the metal doors of the elevator shut behind us. We were all exhausted from the non-stop drive from my mother-in-law’s house in South Carolina; but we were ready to explore the historic city. We were mere footsteps away from the historic French Quarter, within view of the mighty Mississippi River, and in the heart of one of the nation’s oldest cities.

When you stare out of a window onto the world that lies below, you can only speculate at the things that are to come. Over the years we have related old stories to new friends and narrated our lives like autobiographies; but every journey starts with a glance. But there is a certain level of separation that you feel when you observe the world below you through panes of glass. Despite being able to see what lies beyond the glass; those realities look very different when you’re face to face with them. Sometimes you just have to pull back that curtain and take a deep breath before venturing out into the world and  showing up as just another speck from the view of someone else’s 18th story window.



Mr. Bean: An Origin Story?


I have never hid the fact that I played a lot of video games and watched a ton of TV/movies in my youth. Before my parents upgraded to the elephant sized satellite dish whose movements tracked broadcasting signals beamed down from some celestial satellite in the sky; we were stuck with the normal 80s and early 90s TV stations: CBS, Fox, NBC, and my favorite PBS. PBS wasn’t just the channel that entertained and educated me through Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood but PBS made me laugh. Shows like Are you Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances caused me to wake up my parents multiple nights from the laughter that would come from my laughter that broke the quiet in the house. PBS brought me to sci-fi comedy shows like Red Dwarf and introduced me to a show that would become one of my favorites, Doctor Who. But after that giant satellite dish was planted in our backyard, I found a familiar face on HBO: Mr. Bean.

Atkinson_RowanDuring the early 90s my family stumbled across Mr. Bean, as the sketches would be released throughout the early 90s. The British sitcom, created by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson (the man that portrays Mr. Bean), was based the show after a character that Atkinson created while he was working on his master’s degree at Oxford University. The ‘child in a grown man’s body’ and his teddy are seen in the show solving various everyday problems, while causing disruption with the unusual solutions to the seemingly simple tasks. Mr. Bean rarely speaks in the show and this adds to the hysterical interactions with the people around him.

Mr_Bean_in_Serbian_(4333769801)During its five-year run, Mr. Bean only produced 15 episodes; but the show itself has not only has been sold in 245 territories worldwide, it inspired an animated cartoon spin-off and two feature films that found Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean. Atkinson has appeared countless times as the Mr. Bean character in other venues: Countless sketches for Comic Relief, a performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and even a Snickers commercial. The show has definitely had its impact in the world of Pop Culture, because the two most popular TV shows according to Facebook fan likes is The Simpsons and…you guessed it: Mr. Bean. Despite the show’s regular run ending over 20 years ago, Mr. Bean is the second most liked TV show on Facebook at 61.5 million as of 2015. Here’s some perspective…The Walking Dead, whom some in the Pop Culture community would consider one of the most popular shows has about half of the number of Facebook likes as Mr. Bean. And Game of Thrones has half of that!

So…besides my adoration for the show, what fuels this blog today you may ask? As I was re-watching the series for the umpteenth dozen time, a thought crept into my mind of Beanandteddywhich I had never even imagined. Who is Mr. Bean? Rowan Atkinson himself likened the Bean character to that of “…an 11-year-old boy who’s given the responsibilities of an adult but hasn’t learned better.” “There’s always this sort of feeling of a childlike innocence combined with a childlike vindictiveness and selfishness and instinctive anarchy.” So what is the origin of this naive comic hero? Don’t laugh too hard at this or scoff too loudly but I think that Mr. Bean…is an alien.

Mr._bean_title_cardNow I know that I might have lost some of you on this one but bear with me for a second. Just take for instance the opening credits of the show where Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light, while the fall is accompanied by the heavenly Southwark Cathedral Choir singing Ecce homo qui est faba which is translated as “Behold the man who is a bean”. Later episodes show Bean being dropped from the night sky in a deserted London street against the backdrop of the St Paul’s Cathedral. That’s not enough for you? How about at the end of episodes three and six, he is shown being sucked right back up into the sky in that same bean of light. Still not convinced? Well even Atkinson himself admitted that Mr_bean_animeBean has a “slightly alien aspect to him”. In the animated series episode “Double Trouble”, the alien aspect of him was brought to light when he was sucked up into a ‘UFO’ with aliens who look exactly like him. At the end of the episode he is even sent back ‘home’ in the same beam of light and similar accompanying choir-esque music.

Bean_Budapest_(5044219305)Though Mr. Bean is never actually outed as being an extraterrestrial, the evidence is there to think about and adds another dimension to the character when you re-watch the episodes, imagining that the experiences are that of an alien…trying to live in an alien world. Or if he was a man whom aliens abducted, tested upon, and is again and again re-abducted for the aliens to best observe life on this alien planet. Many fan theories out there agree with my hypothesis and in a 1993 interview Atkinson himself places more weight on the fan theory that Mr. Bean is in fact an alien. Atkinson explains that referring to the Bean character in an un-produced Mr. Bean episode,

“He sees this spaceship landing in a field and he stops the car. He looks up and suddenly the door (lowers) and this bright light comes out of the spaceship and a Mr. Bean walks out of the spaceship…and then another Mr. Bean and they all shake hands and then 25 more Mr. Beans all come out of the spaceship and pat him on the back and say ‘very nice to see you’. And then all the Mr. Beans go back up into the spaceship and the door goes up and that’s the end of Mr. Bean.”

SONY DSCHim being an alien could easily explain why everyday tasks like interacting with other humans, ordering food at a restaurant, driving around in his British Leyland Mini MK, or even going swimming are so hard for him. Either way the humor of the show comes from the absurd solutions to our everyday problems and the complete disregard for the people around him when he solves these problems. Or better yet his pettiness or even the malevolence. So does it matter if Bean is an alien or not? Of course not, but since Atkinson admits that he’ll never retire the character, maybe a new Mr. Bean movie or possibly TV episodes will finally reveal the mystery behind the ‘man who is a bean’.



Mr. Bean and Teddy screenshot – Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12850641

Bean tag in Budapest by Metro Centric – Budapest, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778477

Mr. Bean title shot by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24330368

Rowan Atkinson by Gerhard Heeke – Photo taken by Gerhard Heeke., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=226929

Mr. Bean movie advertisement in Serbia by David Bailey from Laktasi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778490

Mr. Bean Cartoon image – Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2224196

Rowan Atkinson and Manneken Pis in Brussels by Antonio Zugaldia from Brussels, Belgium – cropped verion ofDSC00220, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2757565

Mr Bean on a Mini by Nathan Wong – originally posted to Flickr as Mr Bean at Goodwood, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9681387



From Dawn til Dusk

IMG_0199Before we all had phones in our pockets that had picture taking capabilities; I would ride around with a disposable camera in my car to take pictures of whatever image that I wanted to capture. I would hold my camera out of the sunroof of my Mustang and snap pictures of a beautiful sunset or stop to take a picture of an old building. I guess you can say that I was Instagram…before there was an Instagram.  I was taking pictures of sunsets when the symbol for the hashtag was still the pound sign. When cell phones began to advance and the tiny little cameras were an finally an option for our smarter phones; I took advantage of the technology.

Over the years, technology is starting to capture the images the way that we see them. In the case of Snapchat and Instagram filters, the images that we take sometimes look better than the ones that we actually take. According to Apple, the most popular thing to take a picture of, according to iCloud uploads, is either a selfie or something found in nature. Whereas the 2nd (or 3rd if you don’t like that that was a tie) most popular thing photographed is some sort of animal. One of the most popular animals (second only to our beloved household dogs and cats) is a bird. Of course the category of ‘birds’ encompasses everything from ducks and geese to chickens and pigeons. The places that are photographed the most is Paris, New York, and Barcelona.

Is that an indication of how we perceive beauty in our society? We either find ourselves being drawn to the beauty of nature, historically beautiful places, or the beauty of ourselves. I think I’m okay with that honestly because nature photos are my favorite. While driving home from work, heading to the store or the gym, if I look and see the clouds and horizon line have that glow that appears to be so much more than the sun reflecting upon them, I’ll just stop on the side of the road to capture that moment when the clouds light up with incandescent oranges and vivid yellows. Now-a-days my phone is full of landscape photos just like all of those rolls of film from disposable cameras back before the time of smart phones. Technology may have changed…whereas my appreciation for nature has not.