‘Moon Knight’ Is The Superhero Whose Mental Illness Is His Superpower

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I love Marvel’s movies and series. I love that they can transport you to other worlds, have you believe the good in everyone, and, yes, I am a sucker for the occasional shirtless superhero. 

But one thing I’ve grown tired of, in the past year, is how repetitive Marvel has become. The main character is always attractive, smart, lucky, and generally boring. While I’m never upset about a shirtless Hemsworth on my screen, there are only so many storylines that we can pull from the same archetype. 

I’ve always felt like Marvel did a great job of pulling people out of their mundane lives and transporting them to a world where anything is possible. But lately, opportunities only seem possible if you fit the aforementioned superhero criteria. 

There is a severe lack of mental illness representation in Marvel. It’s not that it’s glossed over – Doctor Strange goes to a monastery for years to deal with grief, Wanda creates an entire alternate universe to get her love back, and Bruce Banner has so much rage that he turns into a whole new being when he gets angry. But I believe Marvel can do so much better at showcasing mental disorders. 

So, I settled in to watch Moon Knight on Disney + and finally found the hero I believe we’ve all been waiting for.

Moon Knight

I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Moon Knight. My partner is a huge Marvel nerd and often fills me in on anything I don’t feel like investing time in. He had already marked this series off as a ‘no watch’ because it was full of things that might trigger my PTSD. But on Friday night, we had nothing else to watch, so I decided to give the series a go.

I have never fallen in love with a character as fast as I fell in love with Steven Grant. 

At first glance, he’s weird. The audience first meets him when he’s just waking up and going through his morning routine. But instead of skincare and workouts, he’s undoing his ankle straps in bed, checking to see if the sand ring around him was disturbed at night, and peeling tape from his door. 

Okay, so he lives in London and he’s really concerned about safety? He, then, goes to his job at the museum where he seems to know way more about Egyptian gods than anyone should, especially a gift shop attendant. Again, not crazy, but a little weird. Maybe he suffers from OCD or a social disorder. But parts of his story begin to fall apart.

He doesn’t remember some key interactions that others do, his one-finned goldfish grows its fin back, and his night routine includes pouring sand around his bed, re-taping his door, ankle braces, and listening to podcasts that encourage him to stay awake.

The next morning he wakes up in a field with men shooting at him. Oh, and he has the voices of an Egyptian god and an ex-U.S. Marine in his head.

Steven Grant has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The History of DID

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) isn’t often shown in movies and television as a good thing. If you’ve seen the movie Split, you’ll know how easily villainized this condition can be. 

DID was previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder or Split Personality Disorder and occurs when a person has at least two distinct identities. These separate personalities are, literally, separate people sharing the same body. When one is in control, the other isn’t aware of what’s going on because they are no longer ‘fronting’ or in control of the body. The alternate personalities are called ‘alters’ and the ‘core’ identity is often the person whose body the alters are in. 

Moon Knight takes this very real disorder and doesn’t villainize it. In fact, the only reason Steven Grant is a superhero is not in spite of but because of his DID. 

The character of Moon Knight was always supposed to be two different personalities. When the character first debuted in 1975, the writer, Doug Moench, and artist Don Perlin envisioned Moon Knight as a kind of werewolf: a nighttime mercenary wrapped in white, and a daytime regular man. 

When Moon Knight got his first solo comic in 1983, the creators decided Marc Spencer, a man killed on a mission in North Africa but resurrected by the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu, would be the main character. He would serve the city of New York under the alias of Steven Grant. 

As the character continued to form, the writers decided to make Marc the host and Steven Grant his alter. 

Why Moon Knight is Important

Moon Knight did something that not many Marvel stories do anymore: it surprised me. 

People often see mental illnesses and disorders as a disadvantage in life. I’ve personally crossed out ‘superhero’ on my dream job list because my mental illnesses disqualify me from saving the world. But that’s not the case with Moon Knight. 

I don’t suffer from DID, but I can imagine that it’s sometimes crippling to struggle with the disorder. It leads to blackouts, memory loss, and a general sense of confusion. But not in Moon Knight. In fact, the only way worried, timid, socially awkward Steven Grant can survive is to give in to his host and surrender to him. 

Yes, this is a little dramatic. And while I doubt many people (dear God, can I say anyone) who suffer from DID need to surrender their bodies to an alter in order to survive an attack from Egyptian gods, the superhero shows audiences something they don’t see often on screen. 

They see the hero leaning into his disorder to become who he needs to be. 

I turned off the first episode of Moon Knight and couldn’t get over how wonderful the story was. This new superhero’s powers didn’t come from money, or smarts, or privilege, or his abs. The power came from what many people would define as a handicap. 

Moon Knight is the hero we need right now. He helps us see that disorders don’t disqualify us from saving the world and, sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone is to celebrate every part of them.


Have you seen Moon Knight? Are you going to now? Comment below!

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