Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. Low stakes, free candy and the chance to explore a totally different identity.
But as demonstrated in “My Heroes,” directed by Almog Avidan Antonir and produced by Landwirth Legacy Productions, it can also be a chance to explore the identity that feels most true to you.
In the two-minute PSA, an ordinary family gets ready for Halloween, pumpkin-carving and all. When Mom whips the costumes out, to the kids’ delight, Dad’s face fills with chagrin.
Do you know what’s coming next?
It isn’t hard to guess. The costumes are Batman and Wonder Woman. The children are a boy and a girl. As they scout the neighborhood, eagerly pushing doorbells on that insatiable quest for candy, the parents linger close behind, Mom holding Dad’s arm in a way that’s supportive. When he sees how kindly the kids are treated, he relaxes.
While we can imagine why, the reason is ultimately revealed only at the end, when the kids are finally tucked in and we can visibly see it was the girl dressed as Batman and the boy dressed as Wonder Woman.
As he shuts the door to their shared bedroom, Dad gives them one last, long gaze and whispers, “My heroes.” We conclude with the words, “Whoever you want to be.”
The emotional piece was written by Alexander Day and Brian Carufe. It’s intended to challenge gender stereotypes during a holiday that, despite the many freedoms it affords, also has a funny funny way of reinforcing them.
Of late, gender equality is a subject that’s heavy on our minds, partly because of all the sexual harassment madness that’s in the air. It takes a lot to change ingrained systems that valorize—often quite literally—one sex over another, and it’s a problem that must be attacked on multiple fronts.
The workplace is one such front, but the norms learned in childhood are another. By the time they are 6, girls have internalized the idea that intelligence is a male trait, an idea subtly reinforced by everything from the way teachers treat them to what they’re expected to play with.
Boys, on the other hand, quickly learn there’s something inherently weak about wanting to play “as girls do,” and associate feminine qualities with shame. (Honestly. Do you think the dad in this ad is cripplingly upset because his daughter wants to be Batman? There’s a reason why it’s the boy’s face, and not the girl’s, that appears in the ad’s thumbnail.)
French grocer SuperU has used Christmas to promote the notion of gender-free play. What’s lovely about this PSA is that it takes on Halloween—another holiday where gender tensions take center stage among kids—while demonstrating how heartbreakingly difficult this process can be for parents, which explains why it’s often so much easier to force children to conform.
Nothing about the father tells us he doesn’t accept his children as they are. What we find instead is fear—that a child who is different won’t be accepted, that he will be hurt.
But acceptance is a series of baby steps. The first start at home; the next begin, little by little, among loved ones and in the wider community. The kids featured here are certainly heroes. But those parents, fighting their fear with both hands while recognizing it’s a gamble in an unstable world? They’re heroes, too.