Thursday, November 28, 2019

Is Elsa a Superhero?

I've been in a couple of spirited debates with my almost 3-year-old, Samson, over whether or not Elsa is a superhero. We watched Frozen II - which I liked, by the way - and I left the theater convinced Elsa is a superhero. Don't worry, no spoilers ahead.

Samson disagreed. "Elsa is not a superhero!"

According to him, a superhero is defined by 2 characteristics:

One, they can fly. Two, they have a sword.

Or they shoot webs and can jump. (Of course, you can't leave out Spiderman)

It's usually at this moment I point out that Elsa can shoot ice from her hands, and Samson moves onto something else in frustration.

I get it, he's three. We're not going to get far, but it does make for hilarious conversations given his "logic."

Part of Wisdom is Changing Your Mind

But his "logic" is what's so intriguing to me! There's clearly some sort of logic in his head that defines what a superhero is, and I wish I could tease it out. There's something about his observations of superheroes - which is limited to a couple of kid shows, some costumes, books, and our stories - that has left a gap in his understanding. Because let's be honest, Elsa is clearly a superhero.

And then I start thinking about all the other places he only has a partial picture and has therefore formed incorrect conclusions. I wonder where he thinks water comes from. Or why we pray before eating.

I don't expect him to have everything figured out (I don't!). But I do hope and pray he has a growth mindset, and is willing to change his mind when presented with new information - that's what a wise person does.

But cognitive bias is a real thing that prevents us from objectively evaluating new information. This is why our political climate is so polarizing. Why two people can see the same thing and claim it supports their side of an argument (it's record low temperatures this winter. Proof the climate is fine. No, it's proof the climate is not fine.). Wisdom is identifying your bias and being willing to change your mind.

One thing I strive to demonstrate for my kids is to admit when I'm wrong and show them it's OK to change your mind. And not just do it, but explain, "I was thinking this, but then I learned about X, and so I changed my mind, and that's OK." I've been practicing in my job, which my co-workers may or may not have noticed, so I'm comfortable doing it with my kids. Plus, I want to be wise myself.

But Seriously, Is Elsa a Superhero?

But today, Samson and I need to settle this debate. Here's my 36-year-old logic.

IN MY OPINION, there are two parts to a superhero. Breaking down the compound word, let's start with "super."

To be super, you need to have some sort of ability beyond normal human capabilities. Flying, climbing up walls, mind control, etc. They can be natural, magical, or with the aid of some sort of biological/mechanical thing. Think Superman and Spiderman. Even Ironman and Batman count because of their mechanical enhancements. I think that means anyone can become super. I'm OK with that.

Age doesn't matter. Gender doesn't matter. Nor does socio-economic status. In fact, it's possible to have a disability, like an inability to walk (Professor X), and still be super.

The other part is "hero."

It's NOT someone who is admired or idolized. Though, that often happens as a result.

A hero, IN MY OPINION, is someone who seeks justice for others. They demonstrate courage in the face of adversity, and ideally, save the day (in big and small ways). Think police officers and firefighters. Even teachers and coaches.

It's definitely a subjective, in-the-eye-of-the-beholder, type of criteria. But that's OK. I personally don't count athletes who "save the game" with a fantastic play (justice was never in danger). But they can definitely be heroes off the field, and towards their fellow players.

Does Elsa have some sort of ability beyond normal human capabilities? Yes, she does.
Does Elsa seek justice for others and demonstrate courage in the face of adversity? Yes, she does.

Therefore, Elsa is a superhero.

And a woman. And a fantastic singer. And a royal. And a sister. Let's not get too caught up in labels. :)