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The Superhero Today

May 16, 2009

Yesterday I read an interesting article on the Superhero culture in the movies on another blog. 

The author was talking about how in recent years Hollywood hasn’t made any movies about the Iraq war or the new “enemy”, Islamic terrorists. Instead, he argued that they’ve focused on the Superhero. 

One his problems (which he didn’t mention til the end) was that there aren’t any stories about normal joes become heroes anymore—that is heroes without powers or ridiculous amounts of money. You’re not getting the war stories with heroic acts by the guys on the ground anymore. 

He also said some rather egotistical things in saying that most movie-goers won’t notice the deeper themes in Superhero movies (he thought that there shouldn’t have been deeper themes in the first place).

The reason that I didn’t post about it yesterday, was because I was angry before I was reasonable about his article. As a comic fan, I know that there are deep stories that can be told in comics. Superhero comics can be representative of so much, they aren’t always but it’s another case of “high art” versus “low, pop art.” 

It’s an attitude that I hate. It’s shallow and makes that person’s point of view essentially moot because of their ignorance and judgement. 

Let’s split my response into two bits, agree and disagree, because I don’t think that the author was totally wrong but I don’t think he was totally right either. 


I do agree that Hollywood hasn’t released many movies about the Iraq war recently but it has a slight disagreement as well. 

However, I do want to note that most movies that are popular feature heroes that are above and beyond the “normal Joes.” Even the summer blockbusters of the 1990s which were famous for the “normal Joes” didn’t really have it, it was more like normal guy falls into company with crazy gadgets or groups of ridiculous people. So it’s not like the normal guy hero is or has been common in Hollywood for some time. 

His point towards the end about Superhero movies not having deep themes is both true and untrue. Most of the Batman movies of the 1990s were essentially theme-less. Even some of the more recent ones like the new Hulk (not that shitty Ang Lee one) and the Fantastic Four movies. 

Okay, I’m out of agreements.


– It’s not true that Hollywood (or American companies) haven’t been making movies and shows about Iraq, or Islamic terrorists in general. You have Syriana, the mini-series Generation Kill, Redemption (I forget the title but it had Jake Gyllenhaal, and was about terrorists in the Middle East kidnapping Americans, and the CIA kidnapping American middle easterners). 

Those are just a couple that come to my mind right away, I’m sure I could look up some more. And what about Iron Man? Was that not blatantly against terrorists (at least in the beginning)?

– I think that more recent Superhero movies do have deeper themes or blatantly obvious ones that can be seen as reflections of culture, critiques on the world, or just discussions of humanity. 

The Batman and Spiderman series were definitely about humanity and the decisions that people must make. The strange comparisons between Bush and Spiderman were/are very stupid. The Spiderman origin story has been relatively the same for years, you can’t seriously say that that story equals Bush. 

Iron Man and the Dark Knight Returns were about terrorism (and humanity). I could find more thematic comparisons but I’ll move on.

– The author of the post seems to think that the story-telling from Hollywood is bad. Most critics and frequent movie-goers think that Hollywood is the worst thing to ever happen to movies, that no good movies ever come out of Hollywood. 

It’s an elitist stance that discounts many good movies that come from the major American movie companies. Not every movie that comes from Disney, Paramount, Tristar, etc, is terrible, it’s not possible. At least one good one has to make it out eventually. And they do. 

I think I’ve laid out a decent response to the article in question, perhaps I misread it but here’s the link and you can decide for yourself:

See you guys on Monday, hopefully.




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