By Kevin Rogers
In comic book lore, superheroes occasionally walk the halls of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to testify on the issues that affect them.
In Marvel comics, the Fantastic Four, members of the X-Men and other heroes have gone to testify on a series of federal superhuman and mutant registration acts. One of the best scenes in 2010’s Iron Man 2 featured Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark making fools of business rivals and politicians at a hearing on his armor.
Real-world congressional hearings are rarely so exciting, but actors from superhero movies have been spotted in the halls of Congress, minus the form-fitting suits.
The Nerds of Congress now presents the actors, their causes and who put them up to testifying.
Superman testifies on spinal injuries
Reeve, suffering from a spinal cord injury and confined to a wheelchair, argued insufficient funding hindered the necessary research to assist people with similar conditions. Reeve’s push brought increased attention to the issue of spinal injuries, and he remained active in advocacy organizations until his death in 2004.
Daredevil speaks on genetic disease, Congo
Before Argo won the Oscar for Best Picture, director Ben Affleck was Marvel’s Daredevil in the critically panned 2003 film. Before that, he testified at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services hearing in 2001.
Affleck testified to raise awareness for ataxia-telangiectasia, a genetic disorder in children that attacks muscle control and the immune system. Affleck lobbied for additional funding for the National Institutes of Health to research the disease.
Affleck made other trips to Congress to give testimony on the conditions in the Congo in 2011 and 2012. The actor started the Eastern Congo Initiative, an organization dedicated to peaceful resolutions to conflict in the country. In his second testimony on the Congo, he called for U.S. leadership to assist peace efforts.
Elektra on Education
Affleck’s wife Jennifer Garner also made appearances on the Hill. Garner played Marvel assassin Elektra in Daredevil and the spin-off Elektra in 2005. Garner serves as an artistic ambassador for Save the Children, a non-profit dedicated to serving impoverished children and families worldwide.
Garner testified to the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families twice in 2010. Garner called for stronger education policy for impoverished children in the United States.
Pa Kent peddles oil cleanup technology
Kevin Costner, cast as Superman’s earthly father Jonathan Kent in the upcoming Man of Steel, took to Washington to push his oil-cleanup technology.
As oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged BP well in 2010, Costner testified on Capitol Hill to tout his oil-cleanup wares to the federal government. Costner owns Ocean Therapy Solutions, developer of a centrifuge to separate oil from water.
Costner urged against casting all blame on BP, saying, “We’re all at fault here.”
That’s a bit of a stretch. It should be noted that BP was in the process of testing Pa Kent’s centrifuges prior to the hearing and ultimately placed an order.
Punisher foe fights for Scientology, movies
In 1997 John Travolta, crime boss Howard Saint in 2004’s The Punisher, testified before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, staffed by members of the House and Senate, to protest Germany’s boycott of the Church of Scientology.
Travolta, a member of the church, took the opportunity as a chance to defend religious freedom and the arts, including his movies that fell under the boycott.
Though he spoke on his faith, he also had his movie audiences and potential ticket sales on the line.
Some of these celebrities had ulterior motives in their testimonies, be it profit or media exposure. That said, this smattering of superhero celebrities also addressed important problems. I’d lean toward excluding Costner, but even in his profit grab, he aimed to repair some of the wreckage of the BP disaster.
Pure intentions or not, these actors brought awareness to important issues, and some level of heroism lives in these testimonies.