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Rainn Wilson: Why superheroes are weird

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Super Rainn Wilson

His new movie Super — about an average Joe who dons a spandex suit and fights crime vigilante-style (see an NSFW clip here) — opens in select cities today, and to celebrate The Office star shares his thoughts on the superhero genre in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands today. Turns out, he has quite a few burning questions about Spidey, Batman, and their crime-fighting peers. Click through for a preview.

Superheroes are a truly strange storytelling phenomenon, specific to the culture of 20th-century America. Hotties in tight, bright uniforms flying around in masks, fighting supervillains, finding kid sidekicks, preserving secret identities, and fostering furtive romances with mortals. W-E-I-R-D. Having just played my first superhero, the Crimson Bolt, in the new film Super, I am now an authority. Granted, my character has no actual powers, just a sociopathic sense of purpose and a spandex costume. Herewith, my thoughts.

THE ORIGIN STORY or HERE’S HOW IT GOES DOWN After being bitten by something or exposed to something, you realize that you have a “power” of some kind, something that sets you apart in some way from the ordinary mortal man. For instance, X-ray vision, superstrength, or the ability to fold laundry with one’s mind. What do typical superheroes decide to do with said powers? They make a flashy costume, keep a secret identity, fall in love inappropriately, build a lair, and take on the bad guys, vigilante-style. And do they take on ordinary bad guys, like bank robbers and muggers and Ann Coulter? Noooo. They go after “supervillains.” Now, what would you do if you discovered you had a power? Call me old-fashioned, but I’d probably tell the CIA or local law enforcement and work with the authorities. I’d dress and act as low-key as possible. I’d try to find a way to be of maximum service to the world — show up in Haiti and Japan and Tijuana. Do the occasional birthday party. You know.

THE COSTUMES What’s up, superheroes!? What’s with the neon red and kelly green skintight spandex outfits? Why the yellow boots and silver tiaras? And those teeny-tiny masks you wear like you just walked out of Eyes Wide Shut? Do you really think you’re intimidating someone by dressing like a Romanian acrobat from Cirque du Soleil?

To read Wilson’s entire guest column on the superhero phenomenon, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, April 1.

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