Continuing my fascination with all things avatar, comes Confessions of a Superhero. I bring up the avatar because, even though this is a documentary about real people, the idea of choosing to live behind a mask is the theme of this movie. The film follows the lives of four different “superheros” (Superman, Batman, The Hulk, and Wonder Woman), who are actually out-of-work actors dressed in costumes who walk Hollywood Boulevard offering themselves for photographs.
Their reasons for taking up this occupation (the honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, calls them “panhandlers”) is rooted in wanting to become famous movie stars. But between the different superheros there are varying degrees of deep psychological connection to the characters they emulate.
The person most connected to his superhero character is Superman, Christopher Dennis. He lives and breaths Superman. The scenes in his apartment show tens of thousands of dollars in Superman merchandise. He also looks (and he knows this) eerily similar to Christopher Reeve. Throughout the film he comes across as obsessed, yet sympathetic. It is obvious that there have been very troubling times in his life, and his fascination with Superman is actually a more recent event, as opposed to being obsessed with Superman as a kid. He’s the main character and heart of the film.
The three other people are equally compelling. Maxwell Allen, who is Batman, is charming and genuine on the surface yet masks very deep anger and aggression. He likes to position himself as a vigilante (his stories of being hired muscle for the mob and other tales might be exaggerated) is perfectly in line with the qualities of Batman.
Jo McQueen, who is Hulk, was the audience favorite. Smaller in stature, quiet, and homeless for 4 years, in some ways McQueen inversely portrays the muscle and power of the Hulk.
Finally, there is Jennifer Gehrt as Wonder Woman. To me, she is somewhat of the antithesis to Wonder Woman. Jennifer is more reactive to situations than proactive, she married young and admits that she needs a lot of attention. She is a deeply feeling, emotional person. I don’t know if I’d characterize her as strong though. To her, Wonder Woman is just a way to get by during hard times.
I loved this film, not only because of the compelling characters and beautiful cinematography, but I think there are universal truths to be found in the film. Everyone, in some fashion, believes themselves to be bigger than they really are. They do this by projecting a certain image out to the world. The irony is that the projected image is just a mask and, in fact, sometimes the least interesting part of a person.
posted by Bryan Keplesky