Is America Obsessed with Super Heroes?

Poster of Birdman or the Unexpected virtue of ignorance. (Image Source:

Poster of Birdman or the Unexpected virtue of ignorance. (Image Source:

Last week, I went to see the new Michael Keaton movie, BirdMan or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

It is a very interesting movie, not just because of the stream of conscious type filming where one scene rolls into the next, but it poses a lot of questions.

The obvious kind come to mind first: Does he really have powers? Can he levitate? Is he hallucinating? Can he really fly? Is Bird Man a figment of his imagination? Is this movie about the inability of a once well-known and loved actor to accept the fact that his career is over? Is it about his downward spiral from fame?

And the not so obvious questions come to mind later. Questions like: Is this movie making fun of the super hero genre? Why would the directors and actors want to do that? Is Keaton poking fun at his own turn as Bat Man? Why would he want to do that?

And then the question that comes to my mind a week or so after seeing this movie is: Why is America obsessed with the super hero?

What is it about these men with supernatural powers who save the world on a daily basis from “almost certain” global destruction? The bad guys aren’t just evil, they are devil-like evil, therefore the super hero isn’t just good, he’s god-like good. But the movie BirdMan or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance doesn’t have an antagonist. It doesn’t. There is no devil-like evil doer. Unless of course, you include the observer.That’s what makes it really deep and far beyond excellent.

In school, my English teacher would always prepare us for the state exams in Ireland by repeating this mantra. “The answer lies in the question.” And this holds true for the new Keaton movie as well. Maybe there is a hidden message here for people. Maybe the hidden message isn’t so hidden, and is there in the title. Is there virtue in ignorance?

Goodness in being stupid. That’s what its telling us. Asking questions and seeking answers requires a lot of work. A lot of brainpower. A lot of digging deeper and critical thinking. And asking questions means learning the not-so-pleasant truths, or even worse, getting no answer at all.

This is why I like Bird Man.

My own interpretation of the movie is that we need to stop relying on super heroes, and that list would include a multitude of people who want to do our thinking for us, including the poster of BirdMan who does the thinking for Keaton’s character in the movie.

As my mother used to say, “Well, if your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?” I think she was urging me to think for myself, and not follow the crowd. And maybe that is what this movie is saying, subliminally, too.



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