With Tony Stark doing a “I AM IRON MAN” all over the place, it’s hard to remember a time when a threat to reveal a secret identity could be the entire plot of a comic book. Nowadays no one seems to want to deal with secret identities, maybe it’s too implausible (sure, because otherwise super powered heroes are everywhere, *ahem*), or unfashionable as reality shows and social networks blur the line between public and private lives. On some level there is seems to be assumption that fame is desirable for everyone, even if the cost is a person’s privacy (or in the case of a superhero; the safety of loved ones).
Whatever the reason, the secret identity aspect of superheroes just isn’t a very big deal right now, but the superhero secret identity is a powerful metaphor on many levels, and one which ought to become an important device again soon. Primarily, the secret identity is an excellent metaphor for our own dual lives on and offline. There is increasing interest in reserving our privacy as we lose more and more of it to voluntarily to social networks, to (hopefully benign) NSA information mining, and to smart phone location-sharing. Moving on from these obvious correlations between online privacy and a secret identity, it is also a potent metaphor for the way a large proportion of people deal with an “invisible” long-term disease, like mental illnesses or chronic pain management. Continue Reading »