There are 23 released movies set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are laser beams, telekinetics, sentient robots, galactic imperialists, cybernetically enhanced spies, explosions, abs and plenty of gratuitous badassery. It’s awesome.
Unfortunately, it also makes real life completely underwhelming. In the real world, no one can fly, no one can throw cars with their minds and no one (and I mean no one) has abs as rock-hard and glisteny as Chris Evans’.
Superheroes don’t exist in the world we live in — at least not in the way we’ve been taught they do. Unfortunately, flashy hand motions and neon explosions are the luxury of Marvel Studios. Real superpowers are any events that are slightly above average that have any connection to an individual.
I’m not a mathematician by any means, but I think my understanding of fractions is decent enough to talk about this. When you’re flipping a coin, the odds are 50/50 (or 51/49, depending on your mathematical persuasion). But if someone constantly got heads instead of tails about seven out of ten times, they’d break those odds.
Merriam-Webster defines a superpower as “excessive or superior power.” Getting heads seven out of ten times might not be particularly flashy, but it’s excessive. It’s superior. It fits into the definition of a superpower, even if the late Stan Lee wouldn’t call it that.
If you read my headline, you probably think I’m crazy. But I disagree. I feel like there are people who get lucky just a little too often — people whose coins land on heads more than usual. You’ve probably seen them around campus. They’re the ones with the perfect skin.
I’m definitely not one of those people. But I’d say that I land on heads maybe five and a half or six times out of ten. Sometimes, when I look at babies, they stop crying. I also accurately predicted the ending of “Game of Thrones.”
Sometimes the wind blows my car door shut for me. I’ve narrowly avoided more accidents than I can count. And every time I ride Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, it breaks down.
This isn’t saving-the-world material, by any means. But saving-the-world material is for the movies. It’s fiction. If your parents didn’t already tell you, Santa isn’t real, that spider bite is just going to get infected and the verdict is still out on Jesus. It doesn’t look good for her.
But here’s the good news: Superpowers are real, and it looks like a solid amount of people have them.
Having some decent luck isn’t exactly something to write home about. But, there are physical examples, too.
A casual runner usually completes a mile in about nine to 10 minutes, according to Healthline. The Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj set the record at three minutes and 43 seconds. That’s an excess of about six minutes below average — a clear example of a superpower.
Back in August, Simone Biles broke records and became the first person to land a double-twisting, double somersault off the balance beam in history, a gymnastics feat so impressive that it totters the line between humanity and divinity.
And if we lower our qualifications of what a superpower is to anything slightly above average (in any sense — physically, mentally, in terms of good fortune), then most of the people we know are superheroes.
In movies, superheroes don’t have all the superpowers, just like in real life. I couldn’t move a feather with my mind if my life was on the line, but the odds are 60/40 in my favor for guessing TV show endings.
For us to truly notice superpowers, we have to lower our expectations of what they look like and how much they can do. There’s no downside to this. We get to claim responsibility for our own good fortune.
We can even take the argument farther. If we look at bad luck and misfortune as our natural status (which isn’t so hard to do in 2019), than any circumstance that is slightly less shitty than normal is inherently supernatural. A day we might once consider average becomes incredible.
I gave up on magic when I turned 11 and my Hogwarts acceptance letter failed to arrive. But I’m not giving up on superpowers just yet.
Maybe I’m stupid. But if I’m going to believe in something, I’d rather believe in myself than in anything else.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, California. He might not have superpowers, but he does have a Twitter @eamoncmorris.