There is an intriguing (and somewhat disturbing) theme in the new TV season. Many of the new programs feature human beings with enhanced abilities.
There is Supergirl, of course, the feminine version of Superman. This program continues the myth so common in TV crime dramas that the toughest people in a street fight are not muscle-bound men but skinny female models. Usually in high heels.
There is Heroes Reborn, which features Evos (evolved humans with extraordinary powers), who are being attacked out of fear by lesser humans.
Then there is Minority Report, which has two brothers who have the special gift of seeing murders before they happen.
And finally there is Limitless, whose hero becomes “the smartest man in the world” when he takes an NZT pill. It might be a little more convincing if the first thing he chose to do under the influence of the pill wasn’t to stand in front of a train to see if he could correctly calculate where it would stop. If this is what the smartest person in the world does, there is not much hope for stupid people.
Do the creators of these programs ever think about the messages they are sending? The message of Limitless seems to be that taking drugs will make you smarter. Isn’t that a wonderful message to be sending to young people?
Perhaps an even more insidious message is that it is only people with superpowers who are important and that such people have a right to look down on ordinary mortals.
In Heroes Reborn, when a nerdy teen (with a secret superpower) asks why he is important enough to be recruited, he is told, “You’re going to help save the world.”
In the trailer for Limitless, the hero who is about to take the magic pill is asked, “Are you ready to become somebody who matters?”
The message in these shows is that people don’t matter unless they have superpowers and can save the world. (And, of course, they save the world with violence, not with love or kindness or hard work.) Young people are being given the impression that it is not good enough for them to shape young lives by being a school teacher, or to bring healing to people by being a doctor or nurse, or to provide food to people by being a farmer, or to help people by working in a factory making some useful product.
The message of these programs is that ordinary people don’t matter, that if you can’t be a superhero, then your life has no purpose. For young people living in the real world where superpowers don’t exist, that is a message of despair.