Before we go any further, let’s be clear. We do not endorse the idea of social workers as superheroes. We firmly believe our practice, while very much a vocation, is no great super heroic endeavour. That being said, we’ve taken a look at how some traits from our favourite team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes might come in handy in a social work setting. Social workers aren’t superheroes, but perhaps, a mixture of certain superheroes could make quite a good social worker. (And yes, this article is just our excuse to discuss Endgame to no end in the office, but I’m sure all you Marvel fans can appreciate that…)
You can’t deny the good old Avengers are far from perfect, and at times their flaws are deeply problematic (looking at you Hulk) but overall, the good in their characters outweighs the destructive. They are heroes for a reason, and sometimes, that exact reason is what would make them suited to a life in the social work sector. We’ve therefore picked out some of the traits that make our heroes heroic and examined them with a social work eye. Ideally, we could pick and choose these characteristics to craft one complete social worker (not in a Frankenstein way though).
Allow me to expand…
Captain America aka Steve Rogers aka “The First Avenger”
There’s a reason he is chosen above all other candidates to receive the super serum. Cap’ has a pure heart and is committed to supporting others. While Steve Rogers focuses that commitment on his country, it shows the honourable nature that is needed to be a social worker. In our profession, it’s vital to approach every situation with good intentions in your heart, and Captain America has that by the bucketload.
He also has a snazzy outfit and shield that we know we all want to borrow…
Iron Man aka Tony Stark aka “Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist…”
The token tech genius is useful in many settings and saving the World is definitely a good use of his skills, but it’s undeniable that his remarkable brain could come in handy in social work. His uncanny ability to break down complex algorithms with very little evident difficulty is the level of ICT knowledge needed to adapt to social work systems like Liquid Logic!
Plus, his vast wealth would definitely be an asset when restructuring teams and raising any funding problems. He’d kit everyone out like he did Spider-Man in no time, making the team the most high-tech in social work history!
Thor aka Thor Odinson aka “Point Break”
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
That pretty much sums up the fact that yes, Thor is powerful and capable of greatness, but he must earn that power. This inherent determination to prove inner strength is a very good characteristic for a social worker. It’s also really good for practitioners to be able to keep their cool in stressful situations, like Thor manages to do time and time again with even a decent sense of humour (“He killed 80 people in 2 days” “He’s adopted”). Being able to see the bigger picture during a crisis would serve him very well as a social worker, and definitely a trait we would choose for a social worker.
Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow aka Super Assassin #1
She is the epitome of feminism in such a male-dominated team. The Avengers are almost entirely men, and it would be so easy for the female character to let the demi-god, serum-enhanced or tech-ified beings do all the heavy lifting when she has no extraordinary powers to note of. Instead, she holds her own in the team and showcases that gender equality exists even in the most radical of spectrums. She puts her life on the line just as much as everyone else; and does it all with a strong will and sense of duty to “get the red off her ledger”. She wants to make things right, and (while making reparations for mass murder is not the best context for a social work comparison), her core drive is a great asset for practitioners.
Plus, she brings a level of common sense to the situation regularly when the rest of the team get caught up with weird and wonderful ideas – yet another good characteristic for social workers.
Peter Parker aka Spider-Man aka Your Friendly Neighbourhood Hero
Peter is the Marvel version of a newly qualified social worker, who emerges into the sector with bundles of energy and an unquenchable thirst to do good. This is not always a sustainable approach to your practice but is undeniably beneficial and everyone could do with a bit more NQSW/Spider-Man persona to lift spirits in a team. He’s able to re-energise people with a fresh-faced attitude and sometimes, his youthful and optimistic perspective helps the rest of the team see things from a better viewpoint.
T’Challa aka Black Panther aka Wakanda Forever
Bringing a real sense of “cool” to the superhero spectrum, T’Challa joins the Avengers as a fearless King of an advanced, but hidden, country. However, unlike other leaders, Black Panther is never afraid to get stuck into the drama in order to protect his people. After all, that was the main creation of the Black Panther mantle: a way for the royalty to safeguard their nation. This translates perfectly into social work (without the cool suit) because the best social workers know that they will need to support each other. In particular practitioners need to be able to prove themselves as actively involved leaders, as otherwise they will never receive their staffs respect. No social worker is an island, and T’Challa’s courage and lack of superiority are excellent qualities to bring to the social work table.
Dr Stephen Strange aka Doctor Strange aka Worst Named Magician Ever
Moving past the ridiculousness that his actual name is also his superhero name, and on top of that, it’s STRANGE; our resident wizard doctor is observant, intelligent and calm. All key traits for a social worker, but more importantly, he proved in Infinity War that he was willing to put the safety of others before himself time and time again. He’s able to evaluate a situation with great clarity, meaning he’d be able to spot safeguarding issues, signs of abuse or mental health triggers and suitably support vulnerable people.
SHIELD aka Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Phil Coulson aka The Suits
We refuse to overlook the SHIELD team when looking at the Avengers. Sure, they’re not the most integral characters and boast no superpowers that make them stand out of the crowd too much (though Coulson’s humour is extraordinary for sure…). But they are the representations of commitment to their structure and programmes. They work to ensure the ideals of the Avengers is upheld beyond the core team. The spinoff TV show Agents of Shield shows how Coulson expands the network of protectors for Earth, which translates well to social workers and the need for a legacy for our sector. Individual practitioners don’t necessarily need to be imprinted in society’s memory, but the values of good practice and protecting those in need requires a structure to continue it for years to come. SHIELD are that structure and would ensure that good practice was promoted, celebrated and protected globally. (Just keep an eye out for Hydra….)
Contributed by Elena Jones, One Stop Social Team.
While you're here...
Evaluating Avengers or Game of Thrones characters is an important part of any fans day, but our social work community spends its time discussing the slightly more impactful dilemmas facing practitioners in modern social work. We work to bring together the voices of our collective so that we can champion the change that really matters to those on the front-line. Join us in our mission and shape social work into what you want it to be.