Many superheroes have secret identities. Most of them argue that it’s for the sake of their loved ones. But, is it lying? Although it isn’t clear, having a secret does not imply wrongdoing, but it could. It all depends on the Superhero’s actions and how he behaves with his loved ones. Let me explain this using some examples.
Superman keeps his identity from Lois in the comics and the original color movies. He wants to keep her safe from his foes. But, in doing so, he’s deciding for Lois what to do next. For starters, he doesn’t know if she’d keep up with him. He assumes this, and so he decides for her. It goes as far as assaulting her. In Superman II, he kisses Lois at the end of the movie and wipes all her memories of him being Kent. Lois never gave her consent. Superman just decides to do this.
Having a secret, it’s part of one’s identity. However, how we keep that secret is what makes the difference. Spidey is another Superhero that doesn’t act well either. By keeping Mary Jane in the dark, he’s destroying her ability to make the decision of being with him or not in the future. Perhaps even this is what puts Mary Jane in danger in the first place!
Some Superheroes have decided to say who they are in public. In doing so, they’ve become celebrities sacrificing their privacy. A good example is Ironman. Tony Stark confesses in middle of a public conference who he really is. In that very moment, he becomes even more public than he already was. It’s true that he gains something from becoming a celebrity, but it also makes his life more difficult and more public.
Now, it does make more sense to keep your true identity as a Superhero from the public than to the loved ones. However, the public might have as many demands as your family when you can do unbelievable things. But, does having a Superhero secret identity imply lying? Although it looks like so, we can see that not all Superheroes use lies.
If we take a look at Superman, we can see that he uses truthful misleading all the time, mainly because he represents all the true American virtues. But, what’s truthful misleading? When we don’t want to tell the truth, and we don’t want to lie, we exploit conversational conventions to make people believe something. For example, Kent arrives late to a meeting with Lois because he was being Superman and fighting one of his foes. He arrives late, and the excuse he gives to Lois is that he was on the other side of town. When Lois looks at Kent she believes him. Why? Because an average person needs to take a taxi or the tube to cross town. She won’t even fathom him to be flying around. So, exploiting her expectations on a normal human being, he makes her believe something false.
Socially, we see truthful misleading as something better than lying. That’s why we can see many Superheroes using this technique to hide their true identities. However, both telling a lie and truthful misleading are equally bad. The results are there: making someone to believe something false. Despite this, it’s okay to use it to hide one’s private life as long as we don’t engage in conducts that undermine other people’s autonomy and decision making. (Think about Superman kissing Lois to wipe all her memories of Kent being Superman.)
So, secrets make part of our identities, and they’re essential because they make us strong over ourselves. We decide what to say to whom, when, and why. So, the ability we have to form a meaningful identity goes hand in hand with the ability to have secrets. So, privacy is paramount to our identities, and so is for Superheroes as well.
Although secrets are moral, how we keep does secrets cannot be so. And here’s the trick. Many Superheroes use patronizing ways to keep their identities. In doing so, they’re stealing autonomy and the ability to make decisions for their loved ones (who in many instances happen to be women.)
So, what do you think about this? If a Superhero has a secret identity, is it lying?
Copyright: Top image made by dePepi with a (C) DC – Batman vs Superman image / Memes & Gifs (C) by their owners.