This is the first of a two-part article, based on two articles I learned of at Bleeding Cool. I decided to go with the negative one first in order to end the week on a happier note. Today we look at a bunch of headshrinkers who have decided that superheroes, or at least “today’s superheroes”, may be bad for kids. After reading the article, I have mixed feelings on their perspective.

In the linked-to article, psychologists at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association spoke about superhero depictions in the media. Specifically, they claimed that “watching superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors”. I wonder if they felt the same way about action heroes?

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. “Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns. “

Actually, that’s pretty much in keeping with Stark’s personality. (By the way, it’s “Iron Man”, two words not one.) I saw and enjoyed Iron Man 2 and you know what? These were considered negative aspects of Tony’s personality, as we watched the hero fall from grace, only to get back up again at the end of the movie to be the hero he was at the end of the first movie. So if she saw anything besides the trailer, then Dr. Lamb still missed the whole point of the movie’s theme.

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, “but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities,” she said.

Well, she at least got this right. Lately, the superheroes in the comics haven’t spent much time out of costume, the supporting cast has been mistreated or totally cast aside, and a number of their actions since Infinite Crisis and Civil War have been less than heroic.

“In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have,” said Lamb. “Boys are told, if you can’t be a superhero, you can always be a slacker. Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don’t like school and they shirk responsibility. We wonder if the messages boys get about saving face through glorified slacking could be affecting their performance in school.”

OK, there are in fact “slacker movies” out there, but I don’t think that’s any kind of majority. This also goes against her claims elsewhere in the article that the media “promotes” macho men. If anything, most of the male characters are kind of whiny and girly, unless they’re being total @##holes. The “badass” characters are few and far between. But said “slacker movies” don’t tell you that you can’t “be” a superhero. That’s reserved for people like Dr. Lamb.

Researcher Carlos Santos, PhD, of Arizona State University, examined 426 middle school boys’ ability to resist being emotionally stoic, autonomous and physically tough — stereotyped images of masculinity — in their relationships. He also looked at how this would affect their psychological adjustment.

Merriam-Webster, please tell us the definition of “stoic”.

1 capitalized : a member of a school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium about 300 b.c. holding that the wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law
2 : one apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain

I’m not sure that’s what we get from a sex-crazed, angry media. I certainly haven’t gotten this from the superhero movies I’ve seen recently, so I would love to hear some more details. Actually, I have that same thought reading a few of Dr. Santos’ comments.

“If the goal is to encourage boys to experience healthy family relationships as well as healthy friendships, clinicians and interventionists working with families may benefit from having fathers share with their sons on the importance of experiencing multiple and fulfilling relationships in their lives,” Santos said.

“Multiple and fulfilling relationships”. Am I just lost in psychobabble or am I just that tired today? Also, there seems to be a lack of “pro-father” material in the media lately. Name me one sitcom currently in production with a competent father. Eggo recently had a series of commercials where a father is trying to steal his little girl’s waffles. The traditional family as a whole is treated as “outdated”. What does this have to do with superheroes?

See, in moderation, autonomy and “being a man” is a good thing. Lately, men are “told” to act more feminine, to the point where we have movies where women fall for gay guys as a better alternative. Not every “manly man” is a bully or arrogant jerk–except in the media.

If I’m coming off as disjointed at this point it’s because I’m having difficulty understanding what they’re saying here. Seriously, does any of this make sense to anyone, because I’m just confused now. Maybe tomorrow’s article will be better. It defends comics as good reading. (Which kind of circles back to Monday’s video game article.)

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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