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Sexy Superheroes and Damsels in Distress: Sexism in Superhero Media

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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

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.

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2016-05

A Psychological Analysis of the Modern Superhero and Its Influence on Adolescent Popular Culture

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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

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.

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2020-05