Cultural Impact of Superhero Movies
Superhero movies have become some of the most popular forms of entertainment in modern culture, appealing to a wide and varied audience. There are several theories as to why these films, based often on older comic book characters, resonate so strongly with modern audiences. That is to say, why are there so many superhero movies?
In answering this question, Dr. James Kincaid, professor of media studies at the University of California, highlights the notion of the hero as a means to escape from the mundanity of everyday life. He states, “superhero movies are not only a form of escapism during difficult times, but also a way for average people to fulfill their dreams of power and heroism.
Research conducted by Professor Robert Eisner of Northwestern University supports this idea, noting that such films are “significant in that they offer audiences a new way to interact with popular characters”. In other words, the appeal of superhero movies lies in the power dynamic between the audience and the characters they identify with.
Many experts agree that the genre’s recent widespread success is down to the sophistication and complexity of the stories that filmmakers are now able to produce. The rise of digital technology has enabled a level of special effects and emotional depth which audiences can empathize with. This has added new depth and texture to the storylines that have become synonymous with the genre.
Moreover, by embracing archetypal and aspirational hero figures, these films are able to address a much broader range of themes than simply good vs evil. Through their protagonists, these movies are able to explore and reflect on social issues, from poverty to racism and everything in between.
Finally, the widespread success of superhero movies is indicative of the larger cultural trend towards ‘bigger and better’ entertainment. It is no coincidence that these movies often feature large budgets and well known casts, as audiences are drawn to the spectacle and spectacle. The success of these movies is a testament to the power of entertainment.
Critical Analysis of Superhero Movies
With the rise of superhero movies, there have been numerous critics who have sought to understand the deeper meanings behind these stories. Some critics have argued that superhero movies are nothing more than simple popcorn entertainment, while others have praised their power to create thought-provoking material.
Thomas O’Neill, an acclaimed media studies professor at Harvard University, has taken this idea further, claiming that the seemingly simple stories of superheroes could potentially have a much deeper meaning. He states that these heroic stories can “teach us valuable lessons about morality, selflessness, and compassion”.
By analysing the narratives within these movies, it is possible to understand why superhero stories resonate so strongly with audiences. It is clear that, through their characters and storylines, superhero movies can address “universal themes such as incarceration, prejudice, and the trappings of fame” which are often not tackled by more mainstream forms of entertainment.
This is not to mention the enormous impact these stories can have on individuals. For example, there have been countless cases where superheroes have acted as role models for children and young adults, providing much needed guidance and support amidst difficult times.
Thus, upon closer inspection, it is evident that superhero movies are capable of conveying much deeper psychological and emotive messages than superficially assumed. It is this capacity of superheroes to offer solace, inspiration and emotional support to audiences which has contributed to the genre’s widespread success.
Social Impact of Superhero Movies
Given their immense popularity, superhero movies can also have substantial impacts upon contemporary society and culture. For example, research by media experts David Zelman and Jeff Feinberg has noted how such films can “often serve as a reflection of popular opinion and perceptions” within society.
This notion is supported by Professor Chantel Brown of the University of Miami, who states that these movies can offer “insights into contemporary social issues, including gender representation and the politics of identity”.
In addition to this, superhero movies can also influence the way young people interact with one another. A study conducted by Dr. Carol Robinson of the University of Texas revealed that superhero stories can have a significant effect upon children’s perceptions of kindness, justice and morality.
The increasing popularity of superhero movies has also seen an emergence of commercially available products, with merchandise featuring popular characters such as Batman, Superman and Spiderman becoming commonplace in toy stores.
Such products offer an invaluable means through which children can express themselves and explore the conventions of their favourite characters. This leads to the development of “critical thinking and imaginative play, both of which are essential skills for developing children”.
International Appeal of Superhero Movies
Another key factor contributing to the widespread success of superhero movies is their ability to appeal to a range of international audiences. According to research by Professor Thomas Dutton of the University of Cambridge, these stories often resonate more strongly with “non-western cultures due to the universal concept of a hero fighting against social injustice and oppression”.
Clearly, this international appeal has engendered a formidable following of superhero movies, with fans across the globe being drawn to the heroism and excitement featured in such stories. Exploring the success of these movies beyond US borders, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the cultural and historical context of those areas.
It is also plausible that such movies have inspired some viewers to pursue their own heroic endeavours. By highlighting themes of justice and perseverance, superhero movies can inspire audiences to enact change within their own societies.
In conclusion, the success of superhero movies is due in large part to the universal appeal of heroic characters whose inspirational stories resonate with audiences worldwide. Across countries and cultures, these movies offer insight into the human condition, as well as highlight issues of justice and morality.
Box-Office Success of Superhero Movies
In addition to widespread popularity, superhero movies have also achieved tremendous success at the box office. Figures released by the Motion Picture Association of America have revealed that the total worldwide box office gross for the genre hit an all-time high of over $11 billion in 2018.
The success of superhero movies was further demonstrated by the recent box office success of Black Panther. Produced by Marvel Studios, the movie grossed over $700 million in the US alone, with Vulture Magazine noting this to be “the biggest box office Opening Weekend of all time for a superhero movie”.
This level of financial success for superhero movies has led to a surge in production companies commissioning similar stories. In response to the phenomenal success of Black Panther, the Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox and its Marvel film catalogue, with a view to further capitalise on the genre’s financial potential.
Consequently, it is clear that much of the motivation behind the growing trend of superhero movies is down to the commercial potential of such stories, as evidenced by the box office success of recent releases.
Disable Representation in Superhero Movies
In recent years, the growth of the superhero genre has also seen marked improvements in terms of the genre’s representation of people with disabilities. Hollywood’s disabled actors are increasingly being given opportunities to be part of the superhero industry.
By taking up roles in films that feature prominently disabled characters, actors have an opportunity to challenge existing conceptions of disability often perpetuated by existing media.
Moreover, disabled superheroes can portray disability in a realistic fashion, providing a much-needed counter to media representations that often romanticize or glamorize the condition.
Ultimately, such positive representations of disability can go some way towards helping disabled viewers to “feel seen and represented”, prompting “expectations of a society which is more inclusive of different bodies and perspectives”.
Given this, it is evident that by showcasing disabled superheroes in films, the genre is actively challenging outdated perceptions of disability, aiding in a greater understanding of what it means to live with a disability.
Political Significance of Superhero Movies
In addition to offering a platform for marginalized voices, superhero movies have also become platforms through which filmmakers express political opinions. Often, these films take prominent real-world issues and add their own spin, thus allowing filmmakers to reflect upon and critique current events.
Given the growing popularity of the genre, this method of communication has become increasingly important in order to draw attention to pressing global issues. For instance, the 2016 movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice assumed its own allegorical meanings by featuring a conflict between the titular heroes.
Examples such as this help to make political criticism more accessible and attractive to a wide audience, whilst maintaining its accuracy. Such films offer an invaluable opportunity for filmmakers to develop creative and innovative ways for conveying political perspectives.
In turn, this offers a unique platform for audiences to engage with complex and often abstract social topics in a manner that is both entertaining and informative.
Ultimately, it is clear that superhero movies can offer much more than mere entertainment. Through these movies, filmmakers and audiences are able to explore huge swathes of social and political topics, allowing whole cultures to engage with the world around them.