Born in Queens, New York, Peter Parker lived with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May after being orphaned as a child when his parents were killed in a plane crash by U.S. government spies. Peter was an academically gifted child who excelled in science and became a high honors student which in turn often made him a social outcast and a target for bullies.
While attending a public science exhibition at the age of 15 years old, he was bitten on the hand by a radioactive spider which had been irradiated by a beam from a particle accelerator used in a demonstration. Peter was walking home from the exhibition when he was nearly hit by a car; yet, he managed to jump out of the way! It was then that he discovered his incredible strength and his ability to cling to walls, much like a spider.
Ever since that night, Peter started noticing a variety of changes to his body and learned that he had acquired super powers. Spider-Man’s super powers consist of the ability to cling to walls, a “spider-sense” that alerts him to danger, perfect balance and equilibrium, and superhuman strength and agility. Though Spider-Man has cool powers, he isn’t necessarily invincible. Punch him and he bleeds, shoot him and he goes down–his victories are hard fought through guile and effort. However, he is stronger and faster than any normal person and has those amazing webs!
But why do we look up to Spider-Man? What is it about him that makes him different from your every-day human (besides his special powers)? Superhero actor Christopher Reeve once stated, “What makes a person a hero is not the power they have, but rather the wisdom and maturity they have to use the power wisely.” Spider-Man has the opportunity to show everyone all of the powers he has; yet, he decides to put himself in the shoes of the “average” human. For Spider-Man, it is not about receiving high status or gratitude.
He works as a reporter and never uses his abilities to get out of unfavorable situations (that do not have to do with evil, of course!) Furthermore, Spider-Man always has his mask on when saving the world, which further emphasizes his humility. It is not who he is under the mask that is important to him, but rather the idea that the mask represents that is bulletproof. Instead of boasting about the heroic acts he performs every day, by leaving his mask on, Spider-Man demonstrates that what is important is not who saves the world but who is out there doing the best they can do, with what they have, in order to make the world a better place.
Heroes not only do great things, but they also give back by inspiring us and giving us the confidence and motivation to do the same. We are all links in a chain and it is our duty to pay it forward– and that is what will truly change the world.
Many may assume that just because Spider-Man has super powers, he is automatically a hero. However, powers are not what make the hero–the mindset is. What makes someone a hero is how they use their knowledge and natural abilities to improve the world, thus giving others the courage and inspiration to do the same. To be a hero is not just performing one heroic act — it is a journey one chooses to explore. Imagine a world where every human chose to nurture their inner hero.
To quote Christopher Reeves, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Spider-Man began as an ordinary man. He fought crime even when he had no powers. He made the decision to help those in need, knowing that he would receive nothing in return. He proves his courage every day and he never gives up, even when his opponent is much more powerful than himself. Like Bob Riley said, “Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the hero within us is revealed.” We all have a hero inside of us– sometimes, we just need a boost of confidence or someone to help us unleash it, to whisper in our ear and say “Go for it. You can do it. You will prevail.”
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Ashley Mekin, Raha BagherNiakan, and Aubrey Hunt are undergraduate students at the University of Richmond. They wrote this essay as part of their course requirement while enrolled in Dr. Scott Allison’s Social Psychology class.
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