We’re all Wonder Women (or Men) inside, each with our own superpower. But sometimes, we daydream about being more than just a super-dad, super-banjo-strummer, or super-feminist. We want to levitate! Get the bad guys! Or maybe just become invisible to spy on our exes.
In the spirit of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (airing 4/15 on Independent Lens), we’ll share what the superpower of your fantasies could reveal about your personality. Before you read further, envision the otherworldly ability you most crave: Reading minds, time traveling, flying, invisibility, or teleporting? Close your eyes and picture your fiercest self.
Okay, now let’s see how you stack up.
A 2011 Marist Poll of Americans showed how we cluster according to our fantasies: 28 percent would like to mind read, another 28 percent want to time travel, 16 percent want to fly, 11 percent crave teleportation, and 10 percent desired invisibility.
The remaining 8 percent just weren’t sure. Maybe their answer was like Bill Gates’s: “Extending one’s lifetime would be a reasonable thing,” he said in a Q&A with University of Nebraska students. “Being able to read superfast, yeah, that’d be nice.”
Here’s what your choice might say about you.
Pop Culture: Charles Xavier and Jean Grey of X-Men, Yoda and the Jedi in Star Wars
Mind reading is empathy to the extreme. Delusions of telepathy can be found in certain forms of psychosis, such as the symptom of “hearing voices” in schizophrenia, which might be where humans got the idea for this superpower. The X-Men series “ushered in the era of mind-reading superheroes,” according to The Psychology of Superheroes: An Unauthorized Exploration. Fictional heroes with this strength are often depicted as god-like, benevolent geniuses. They are, after all, omniscient.
Pop Culture: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Star Trek, Dr. Emmett Brown of Back to the Future
Great Scott! This superpower is enough to tie your brain in knots. It is the fantasy of choice for the physics geeks who are willing to think through paradoxes to find their way home. Time travel also appeals to the eccentric brainiacs with the patience to fix a wonky flux capacitor.
Pop Culture: Superman, Storm and Angel Salvadore from X-Men, Iron Man, Amelia Earhart, She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Flying Nun
The power of flight evokes the hero in us. Flying overheard for all to see, it also involves a good amount of pride and showmanship. It might even attract suitors. As one interviewee said in a This American Life episode about choosing between flight and invisibility: “I would imagine, if it got around that I had the power of flight, and it was a rare type of thing, I mean, there would definitely be flight groupies. I would imagine. So there’s going to be this like, ‘Oh yeah, I just slept with a flying dude.’”
Pop Culture: Nightcrawler from X-Men, George Langelaan’s The Fly, I Dream of Jeannie
With a batt of your eyelashes, you could circumnavigate the earth. Teleportation attracts the globetrotters, the sci-fi aficionados, and those of us simply exasperated by gas prices. One of teleportation’s first appearances in fiction came from The Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights) written in the Islamic Golden Age between the 8th and 13th centuries. In it, the story of Aladdin shows genies who can bring whole palaces from China to Morocco in a flash. Hence, the 1960s TV classic I Dream of Jeannie.
Pop Culture: Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The least popular of the bunch, invisibility attracts the mischievous spirits, the thieves, and (dare I say it?) the pervs. “Invisibility leads you, leads me, down a dark path,” said one respondent on This American Life. “No matter how many times you’ve seen a woman naked in a shower, you’re gonna wanna see it again, because there’s always a different woman.” To be fair, invisibility has also been used by heroes such as Harry Potter, who wears his invisibility cloak to hurl snowballs at Draco Malfoy.
Unlike the superheroes in our pop culture, we often seek out powers for selfish reasons. While polling people about their superpowers, reporter John Hodgman on This American Life noticed: “Here’s one thing that pretty much no one ever says: ‘I would use my power to fight crime.’ No one seems to care about crime.”
Forget your ex … here’s to using your unique powers to save the world!
Don’t miss Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, premiering Monday, April 15 at 10pm (check local listings)! Also, stay tuned for Wonder City, an interactive game that helps you find your inner powers and the small acts of everyday heroism that define who you are, coming in May!