I’m certainly not the first person to complain about this, and I definitely won’t be the last. The idea of a secret identity is the best and worst idea to ever be conceived in the Super Hero and Comicbook Mythos. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that hiding your identity serves a purpose. But the downsides of hiding it seems to often outweigh the benefits.
So, what do you get out of hiding it?
Not everyone has the luxury of being a Tony Stark, where you have all the money and power to protect yourself from whichever arch nemesis is knocking at your door this week. So hiding your identity is a great way to not only protect yourself but those around you as well. As long as your identity isn’t discovered, you’ll never have to worry about being attacked on your day off, or that someone is going to threaten your loved ones as a way to hurt you.
On top of that, as long as your identity is a secret you never have to worry about the Media dragging you through the mud for things you have done outside of your superhero identity. Imagine if J. Jonah Jameson knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Everything that Peter did in his personal life could be used to taint the image of Spider-Man. He already had it hard enough, so there’s not a need to add more fuel to the fire. You also don’t have to worry about the mistakes your loved ones may potentially make impacting your reputation as well.
Should you tell anyone?
Not telling your friends and family about your top secret superhero job does have some benefits. By not telling them, you save them from worrying each time you put on your suit. You also avoid the chance of someone accidentally outing you. I have a horrible poker face, so I wouldn’t be able to contain myself if someone I knew was a superhero. The whole world would know within the hour.
Why you shouldn’t hide it.
Hiding who you are never really made a lot of sense to me. Sure, the above reasons are valid but think about the impact of keeping it a secret has on your loved ones? You could be in the middle of dinner and suddenly bolt out the door mid-conversation. It’s almost more worrying for them to have to go through the flaky behavior and deal with you ghosting them at random than it would be to be worried if something happens to you while you’re out on the job.
In addition to sneaking around, you also wouldn’t need to hide your gear, weapons or even find a secret stash house or lair to conduct business out of. You could operate freely from the comfort of your own home. We’ve all seen the awkward conversations superheroes have in movies, TV shows and comics where they have to explain why they have a certain weapon in their room, or a mask, or why they can’t make dinner for the fifth night in a row. A little transparency would go along way to save their relationships.
Seriously though. Imagine that you find out that Super Hero X died, and then you find out that the superhero was actually your sister, husband or close friend. How would that affect you? Death is already something that is hard to deal with but imagine adding the layers to it where their death is a secret or covered up, and just overall coming to terms with this side of them you never knew existed?
Personally, I think about it with my own brother. He is currently serving in the military and I would be absolutely heartbroken if he died in the line of duty. Every time he gets sent out on tour, there’s the dreadful thought that he may not return one day. It’s easier to prepare for the worst case scenarios, and it’s a bit of a luxury to know some of the information ahead of time. Knowing the facts ahead of time would certainly make things a bit easier to cope with, because it’s 1 less secret to find out about, and it’s 1 less thing to shock your system during a difficult time.
It’s safe to say that most heroes, and even some of the villains, probably believe that they’re doing everyone a favor by hiding who they are under the mask. But let’s be honest, keeping a secret has hardly ever been a good thing.