So there was an article today on io9 today about why it sucks to be a superheroes girlfriend. One of the points was how the girlfriend is usually the last person to find out about the superheroes secret identity which got me thinking about my biggest pet peeve regarding super hero identities, namely the tendency for superheroes to keep their friends and family in the dark about their identities as superheroes in spite of the massive danger this poses.
The typical story goes that a superhero gets their powers, dons a costume, and goes superheroing out in the world. As part of donning a costume they usually neglect to tell their friends or family what they’re doing or why. The reasons vary, the superheroes a kid and their parents wouldn’t approve or they’re protecting their loved ones for some vague reason. This is where things tend to get annoying as a superheroes heroics tend to draw fire onto their loved ones from supervillains or other forces. And the superhero will never tell their loved ones why this is happening.
The reason this bothers me so much because of the negligence on the superheroes part to let them know that a threat might be coming for them and why. While superheroes having a secret identity is generally a good idea to protect themselves from the public and supervillains coming after them it generally does not help their loved ones. Since supervillains have a tendency to come after a superheroes supporting cast for various reasons, possibly because of their association with the superhero, it tends to be problematic but not really an unmasking situation.
But when a supervillain knows who a superheroes secret identity is and the superhero knows this is when things get really problematic because the superhero will probably never tell their loved ones that they are being targeted or if they do tell them they probably won’t say why they’re being targeted. This always bothered me because these people are supposed to be the most important people in the lives of the superheroes, and they aren’t doing a whole lot to protect them on this front.
This is strange as superhero will have most likely have revealed their identity to someone else at some point, possibly someone who is helping them with their heroics. While I can understand why they would do it seems strange that they reveal their identity to someone who is presumably not as important their loved ones. Especially if it’s someone they barely knew or at least didn’t know as well as their loved ones.
To give an example of all this in action I’m going to use the Daredevil Netflix series. In the series Matt Murdock does not initially tell anyone his identity as The Man in Black/Daredevil. The first time he does reveal his identity so someone is when he’s found by nurse Claire Temple in a dumpster. She functions as a healer for him for a while before he finally tells her who he really is. This occurs long before Foggy Nelson, Murdocks best friend and the closest thing he has to a loved one discovers Murdock’s identity as The Man in Black. Foggy is understandably upset by this as he notes that if Matt had been caught, the fallout from this would have hurt Foggy and Karen Page their assistant. While none of the series villains ever learn Daredevils secret identity, keeping the secret from Foggy damaged their relationship for a while because of the potential consequences of Matt’s actions.
In an example where the supervillains did learn the superheroes identity and did something with it we have the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. In all three films we have Mary Jane Watson and/or Aunt May being attacked as a way to get at Peter Parker. In the first film Aunt May get’s her house blown up by the Green Goblin which tips Parker off that the Green Goblin knows his identity as Spider-Man. He does not subsequently tip off his love interest Mary Jane or best friend Harry Osborne that they might be in danger. As a consequence Mary Jane is kidnapped later on by the Green Goblin in a plan to destroy Spider-Man. She survives and the Goblin is dealt with but she was still caught off guard because she didn’t know that her life was in danger in the first place.
Now I do understand why they do this, The drama of a romance arc to make things more interesting but still it doesn’t explain why a superhero wouldn’t take any proactive actions to make sure that their loved ones were protected by people who would use them against the superhero. And what happens when the superheroes loved ones know who they are from the start?
To use an example of a superhero having actually told their loved ones their secret identity from day one and it working in their favor because of this we have Supergirl TV series. By the end of the first episode Kara’s coworker Winn knows because she told him, her other coworker and potential love interest Jimmy Olsen figured it and she didn’t deny it, her family knew about it before hand, and the DEO the agency that she works for know who she is. The only person in the main cast who didn’t know and still doesn’t know is Kara’s boss Cat Grant, who is out of the way enough that she doesn’t need to know that Kara is Supergirl. But because everyone else knows Kara’s identity things go a lot better for her loved ones because they coordinate things a lot better and Kara is able to easily tip any of them off if they are in danger.
It just seems like such a weirdly over used excuse that superheros don’t tell their loved ones their secret identity to protect them when it seems like telling them would do more to protect them. Sure they would be worried about the superheroes dangerous actions but hey better to be safe and worried then dead. Am I right? Or am I wrong?