Current lot of superheroes bad role models

August 16th, 2010 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

University of Massachusetts London, Aug 16 (IANS) Superheroes are bad role models as they promote violence and revenge as a way of life.
Watching them thrash villains on the big screen may not be the best image for boys if society wishes to promote kinder, less aggressive male behaviour, says a new study.

Unlike yesteryears’ comic heroes who were steeped in ordinariness and believed in social justice, the current lot of Hollywood superheroes are brash, sarcastic and seldom speak about doing good for humanity, reports the Telegraph.

Sharon Lamb of the University of Massachusetts, US, said current depictions of superheroes like Ironman are often playboy millionaires who are only ruled by selfish goals.

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” Lamb told the annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, according to a statement of the University of Massachusetts.

“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.”

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”.

Lamb surveyed 674 boys aged between four and 18 years, walked through malls and spoke to sales clerks and came to understand what boys were reading and watching on TV and at the movies.

She and her co-authors found that marketing managers take advantage of boys’ need to forge their identity in adolescence and sell them a narrow version of masculinity.

They can either be a “player” or a “slacker” - the guy who never even tries - to save face.

“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.”

She said original superheroes like Superman, who was a reporter by day, and the Green Lantern, who was a railway engineer, were invented to fight for social justice and were a reaction to the rise of fascism.

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