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This dissertation examines the influential relationships between popular culture depictions of superheroes and the substantive, malleable, and real possibilities of human body transformation. Cultural discourses condition and constrain the ways in which identity and bodies are formed and expressed. This includes popular culture texts that, through their evocative narratives, provide guidance or solutions for dealing with real world problems. From the perspective of communication studies, this project involves examining ways people project and perform fantastic future versions of humanity in relation to popular culture artifacts, like superheroes, but also examines how such projections are borne out of and get expressed through our everyday, less than extraordinary experiences. Key theoretical tensions regarding identity and culture are elucidated. These tensions are then developed discursively into a genealogy of body transcendence that features the historicizing of social functions to determine from where such tensions and changes manifest, and how they ultimately affect us. Several key artifacts are introduced to help inform the investigation, including eight specific superhero body types that provide an ideal perspective through which transformative power can be observed. The superhero discourse is particularly relevant because it offers a utopian/dystopian tension regarding how the splendor and seduction of the discourse materializes in both liberating and problematic ways. Another aspect of this embodied approach involves adopting the alternate superhero persona of Ethnography Man. By undertaking my own identity transformations, I am better able to investigate spaces that encourage such identity slippage and play, such as the annual San Diego Comic Con International. The once strongly held perception that our bodies are fixed and stable is fast disappearing. In bridging the body with culture through a genealogy, it becomes much more apparent how body transformations will continue to manifest in the future. Therefore, from the experiences and analysis contained herein, implications regarding powerful discursive conditions and constraints that influence our ability to change take form in revealing, problematic, and sometimes unexpected ways. More specifically, implications of who has power, how it is exercised, and the effects of power will materialize and indicate whether or not everyday humans have the potential to become superheroes.
This thesis aims to explore the limitations for the definition of ‘human’, through analyzing augmented superheroes. A diagnostic tool was developed to measure these superheroes’ humanness through the criteria of the biological, social, and metaphysical definition for human. Augmented superheroes were selected due to the rise of scientific/technological augmentations and their effect on our understanding of ‘human’ within the three criteria. A general consensus of traits that made up human within each criteria was determined and used to assess each superhero. The six, permanently augmented, non alien heroes chosen to be analyzed were Ironman, Spiderman, Captain America, Wolverine, the Hulk, and Vision. Through their origin stories, their personal interactions with others, others reactions to them, and how they dealt with situations, the superheroes were judged on if they fit the current definition of human using the diagnostic tool. It was found that the Hulk and Vision failed to pass the definition using the tool while Ironman, Spiderman, Captain America, and Wolverine all met the majority of the requirements and thus passed as human by the current definition.
Both Superman and Captain America are the ancestors of modern superheroes and, through the lens of superheroes and popular culture, following their journey from their comic-book inception to their modern-day film incarnations gives us an idea of how American values have shifted. Superman and Captain America are very significant to American popular culture simply because, in a way, they both have shaped much of popular culture with respects to American identity. Because they were created when America needed heroes to look up to, they have helped mold the image of what an American hero truly is. The most important aspect of these two individual characters is how they have remained popular through the many changes that have plagued and molded American culture since their inception. This endurance can be attributed to the rhetoric that each hero has embodied, and the ways in which this rhetoric has or has not changed. By exploring both their comic book origins and their current, most popular feature films, we can discover how what they have had to say not only mirrors American values, but also illuminates these values within popular culture.
This thesis aims to analyze and explain the resurgence of the superhero genre, particularly in recent cinema, directly following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It will also deconstruct the current American political landscape and define how popular culture has historically reflected real-world issues. The study draws heavily on the political ideology of neoliberalism and Henry Jenkins' media theory of convergence culture. I ultimately argue in the course of the analysis that viewers of these superhero films, regardless of their interest in comic books, cathartically release their fears and post-9/11 anxiety through cinematic escapism. It will also relay the evolution of the superhero in the last seventy years as a way to show the effects current events have on popular culture and history, using Captain America and Iron Man as examples of shifting American values.
Fifty years after the beginning of the modern feminist movement, there is still much to criticize when looking at female representations in all types of media through a feminist lens. With the enormous popularity of the superhero genre in so many media \u2014 comic books, films, television, comic-cons \u2014 now is the time to ask: how much has the depiction of female superheroes changed? Due to the huge amount of superhero media, there is a wide range of depictions of female characters. Will new audiences be presented with empowering female protagonists or simply new variations on the same basic character types? This thesis will explore that question by, first, presenting an historical overview of superheroes in their various media. It then turns to the history of female superheroes, comparing them to their male counterparts to trace the ways in which they were presented as characters in their own right, or as merely appendages to the male characters. Some female superheroes represented a new type of female protagonist: powerful, independent, and committed to fighting justice. In others, the female superheroes were simply retreads of already existing perceptions and expectations of women. They were less powerful than their male counterparts, dependent and clingy, and fighters of injustice only because it made them better girlfriends, wives, or prospective wives. The thesis also looks at the visual depictions of women, who never seem to have fully broken away from the oldest dichotomy in Western culture: the virgin or whore. Female superheroes have, for the most part, been drawn as either demure, modest, girlish figures, or as highly sexualized, sometimes borderline pornographic, figures. After completing this historical overview, the thesis turns to an examination of what many have hailed as the most progressive contemporary depiction of the female superheroine: the recent television series Jessica Jones. For many fans, the character breaks important ground in the superhero genre. Jessica is a realistic, multi-dimensional character who channels strength by overcoming her PTSD and defeating her former abuser. She is not dependent on male characters, and her interactions with others show that she is a self-sufficient, compassionate person who can both control her own sexuality as well as pick up a minivan. While the character herself is not overtly feminist, her characteristics, interactions with others, and the story itself have feminist overtones. Jessica Jones shows us that it is possible to have a multi-dimensional, lead female protagonist in a superhero show.
DescriptionA creative project was made in the form of a movie. The video portrays the corruption of children through media and pop culture's influence. From this, we created the ideas of the Superhero Complex, Princess Complex, and Quasi-fairytale life.
For the sake of this thesis, two scholarly collections edited by Dr. Robin S. Rosenberg – Our Superheroes, Ourselves (2013) and The Psychology of Superheroes: An Unauthorized Exploration (2008) – were reviewed. From these two collections and the multitude of psychological theories they cite, those most relevant to adolescent character development are considered. Three broad theories are examined first: positive psychology, equity theory, and attachment style. Then, six additional specific theories that define temperament (behavioral activation system and behavioral inhibition system), personality theory, duel identity, media identification, parasocial interaction, and comparison theory are reviewed. After reviewing each theory, Heroes in Crisis (2019) , a recent bestselling DC offering that addresses superhero trauma, is analyzed through the lens of these psychological theories in order to provide insight into the psychology or both superheroes and their adolescent fans.