Yes, I know this shit is irresistible to us. I know Real-Life Superheroes are an easy way to get tons of pageviews. Hell, I've written about them before. I've even written about the new batch of Seattle superheroes and their weird soap operatics. But now that the same story is making the rounds for a second time—remember the first time, way back in November?—I'm done writing about them, and you should be, too. Here's why:
Like 9/11 Truthers they're attention whores who will stop at nothing to get a couple inches of print, or a few seconds of air time. Every time I write about RLSs, I get tons of e-mails from other RLSs playing up inter-hero squabbles like penny-ante pro wrestlers, begging for me to write the "real story," which happens to be their story.
But the basic truth behind RLSs is this: There is absolutely no good reason for them to dress up like superheroes. Why don't they just vow to be better people? All around the world, all the time, average citizens are pushing their fear aside and getting involved when they see some way they can help their fellow citizens. They don't put on a rubber-nippled chest plate and claim to be tools of justice incarnate. So what makes RLSs different? They're doing this for the attention. What they really want is to be adored, the way people adore comic book superheroes. But if they can't be adored, they'll take a snarky, condescending glance from the media, too. They'll pose for pictures, do silly things like strut down a dark alley over and over again for TV news footage, and tell the stories of past exploits in the hopes that they'll be retweeted a few hundred times. And then after the attention fades, they try to figure out how to grab the spotlight again.
If you are going to cover RLSs, bloggers, at least do me this favor: Do your job. They tell you a story about a crime they've stopped? Substantiate it. Get the police reports. If they don't have the facts, assume that they're lying. They tell you they're wearing a bulletproof vest? Ask to see the receipt. Don't just take the word of this grown man in spandex telling you wild stories. Don't assume he's telling the truth. The only thing you should assume is that he's looking for momentary fame. And if you just give it to him without asking the basic questions, you're being a schmuck. That is all.
Paul Bobby Constant