Superhero Shows and Its Effects on the Behavior and Thinking of Audience
Since childhood, people had been exposed to different forms of media, which can be in the form of broadcast (radio and TV), print, and film media. Of all the forms of mass-communicated media, television and print are the most popular forms to children, since they contain audiovisual (for TVs) and visual (print) entertainment. The most prevalent form of entertainment in broadcast and print media re cartoons and comic book heroes, which are not visually-stimulating for the audiences, but also full of stories that provide children room for make-believe and fantasy thinking in their imagination. Why do comic book heroes proliferate, and what exactly do these superheroes bring to their audience that makes them more appealing than any other forms of media entertainment? These questions will be answered in this paper, which will conduct a critical analysis of the roles that superheroes play in the world of media and society, and how these superhero shows affect the thinking and behavior of the audiences.
In the study of the superhero persona, it is imperative that a definition and concept of what a hero and superhero is needed. There are differences between the term "hero" and "superhero," since the word "hero" illustrates a sense of reality for an individual possessing brave characteristics while a "superhero" is an individual that has super powers, extraordinary abilities that are beyond human nature to achieve. Technically defined, a hero is defined as follows: (1) remarkably brave person; (2) somebody admired; and/or (3) main character in a fictional plot, while a superhero is defined as "a fictional character, for example, from a cartoon, who has superhuman powers and uses them to fight crime or evil" (Microsoft Encarta Library 2002). These definitions show that the main difference between a "hero" and a "superhero" is that a 'hero' can be applied to real and fictional situations, while superheroes, because of their superhuman strength and abilities, can only be applied to fictional stories, such as comics and myths.
The primary focus of this paper will be on the portrayal of superheroes on television and print media, particularly the image of superheroes in cartoon shows and comic books that children often gain access to watch and read, respectively. To analyze the portrayal of superheroes in TV and comic books and to analyze the behavior of audience reception in each mass communicated medium, the characters of Batman, Spiderman, She-Ra, and Wonder Woman will be used as units of analysis. More particularly, several elements of the each superheroes' character will be studied, which are enumerated as follows:
History of the superhero's character and his/her show;
Character portrayal of the superhero (i.e., physical appearance and image of the superhero in the TV show or comic book);
Presence/absence of underlying message in the TV show or comic book; and Positive or negative meanings of these messages.
Analysis of the Superhero Characters
History of the Superhero's Character and his/her Show
The first unit of analysis is Batman, who was created by DC Comics (Detective Comics) in 1939, a few years after Superman was introduced through the DC comic books (Microsoft Encarta 2002). Batman was the name of superhero Bruce Wayne, who is a billionaire that was orphaned at an early age because his parents were murdered when he was still a child. His primary motivation in becoming a superhero is to avenge the death of his parents, whose murderers' identities are still unknown. Unlike other superheroes, Batman is the only character who does not have any superhuman powers, which makes him a hero not because of his superhuman powers, but because of his extraordinary diligence and knowledge in learning combat and fighting skills in order to fight the criminals and bad elements of justice in Gotham City, Batman's birthplace and residence. Batman was launched initially as a comic book character by DC Comics, but his popularity resulted to the creation of a TV show and movie series that showcase Batman's pursuit for his villains that torment Gotham City with their crimes and deviltry. In order to compensate to his shortcomings in superhuman powers, Batman/Bruce Wayne developed in him numerous combat and fighting skills that enabled him to fight his enemies; also, his money had afforded him to create the Batcave and the Batmobile. The Batcave is Batman's lair, where most of his operations are located, while the Batmobile provides Batman with mobility in fighting and following his villains during his operations in Gotham City. Batman's real identity is not known to the people of Gotham City, except for close people to Bruce Wayne, such as his household help, Robin, his famous sidekick, and Batman's enemies (Batman's Bio 2003).
Spiderman, known as Peter Parker, has also a history of injustice that happened to him, and took advantage of an incident that happened to him when he was only a teenager. When Peter Parker's uncle was killed by a burglar in their home, he also felt vengeful because of this injustice; thus, Peter Parker sought to keep his city criminal-free through his help by being Spiderman. Peter Parker's extraordinary powers were acquired by accident when he was bitten by a radioactive spider in an exhibition on safe nuclear power (Spidey's Web 2002). In order to prevent his uncle's death from happening to other people again, he developed himself into Spiderman, and armed with his extraordinary spider-like powers and concealed by his Spiderman costume, he began rescuing people in dire need of help in the streets of New York. Spiderman was introduced by Marvel Comics (Marvel Enterprises, Inc.) in 1962, and like Bruce Wayne's fate, Peter Parker/Spiderman was immortalized not only in comic books, but in television and film as well, with its recent film version of Spiderman shown on 2002 (Microsoft Encarta 2002).
The third superhero character is She-Ra, which was created in 1985, in an attempt to create a "female spin-off" of the famous superhero character He-Man and the Masters of the Universe TV series. She-Ra was an original conception created to make a female counterpart of He-Man in his TV series, by Filmation and Mattel Inc. also pushed through with its plans to perpetuate She-Ra's character to children by producing a She-Ra toy line for female children while enjoying the She-Ra TV series (Bandwidth 2000). She-Ra is also known as Adora, jus as her brother He-Man was known as Adam in his TV series. She-Ra, in her debut as the new female heroin of the Masters of the Universe series, was introduced as He-Man's long-lost female twin sister because she was kidnapped by Hordak, one of Skeletor's (He-Man's nemesis) aides in destroying He-Man and his sister. While Batman and Spiderman are superheroes that aim to protect planet Earth, She-Ra was the protector of the Kingdom of Greyskull along with her brother He-Man. They possess extraordinary powers because in their planet, superpowers do exist and She-Ra's bravery is the main reason why she was chosen to be partnered with He-Man as the protector of planet Greyskull.
Wonder Woman is a DC Comics character who initially appeared in the 1941 issue of All-Star Comics, and was fully launched as the new female comic book character in Sensation Comics in the year 1942 (Wonder Woman Pages 2003). Like She-Ra, Wonder Woman was not a human character that developed into a superhero, but rather, she is a member of an alien planet called the Amazon world where women reign as the powerful, brave, and beautiful inhabitants of the said kingdom. Wonder Woman's power was bestowed by the powers of the deities or gods of the Greek mythology, and became involved with planet Earth and a member of the Justice Society when she was banished and became an outcast in the Amazon world. On Earth, Wonder Woman served as the secretary and the first female superhero member of the Justice Society, and had performed her duties as protector of the good on planet Earth. Like all other superhero characters, Wonder Woman received acclaim not only in comic books, but also in a TV series where her friends in Justice Society are featured, and a film about her character played by the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Character Portrayal and Image of the Superhero
The portrayal of Batman's character is purely fictional, since he is portrayed as an ordinary human being who happened to be a billionaire, and with his wealth Bruce Wayne was able to learn new skills in fighting and immense knowledge about the criminals and villains of Gotham City. His wealth also enabled him to assume a dual role, one role where Bruce Wayne is portrayed as a rich business of Wayne Enterprises and the other role being as Batman, whose lair, Batcave and his Batmobile enabled him to move about Gotham City at night and fight the elements of crime that constantly plague Gotham City. However, despite the fictional character of Batman, he is also, in a true sense, a hero, because of his remarkable ability to…