Being the first one of the whole lot, Superman is the template to every superhero that exists … meaning that he’s also the one to blame for ridiculous tropes like wearing the underpants on the outside or having an insultingly transparent secret identity. However, there are parts of Superman’s character that may seem random or even stupid to you, but offer surprising benefits, according to science. So if you aspire to superheroism, pay attention …
A Tragic Past, a Small Town Origin and Living in the Big City Increase Your Chances of Heroism
Between the movies, the shows and the comics, you’ve probably seen Superman’s origin a dozen times: He was born on the doomed planet Krypton, he was raised in the Midwestern town of Smallville and he settled in the thriving city of Metropolis. That sounds like something Superman’s creators probably banged out in 15 minutes so they could get to the part where he starts punching bald people.
Their initial proposal that “He just fucking hates balds” didn’t fly.
But, whether it happened by careful consideration or sheer coincidence, it turns out that every part of Superman’s origin story is, according to experts, like an ingredient in a recipe to create a hero.
For starters, just being raised in a small town makes it far more likely that you’ll risk your neck for someone else — 80 percent of all winners of the Carnegie Medal, a prize they’ve been giving to real-life heroes for over 100 years, come from small towns. That’s 80 percent of 9,558 people, which adds up to a shitload of heroic hicks.
We’re assuming that most of the feats involved some variation of “saving a baby from a cow stampede.”
But wait, don’t the bulk of Superman’s heroics happen in Metropolis? Yeah, and this part is grounded in reality, too: Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, more recently funded the Heroic Imagination Project, which studies the reasons why people risk themselves for others. According to him, people living in cities are 63 percent more likely to carry out heroic acts. The scientific explanation for this is that, as Zimbardo himself eloquently put it, “No shit happens in the suburbs.”