Overheard at the Movie Theater: Recognizing the Superhero

by Ed Sizemore

I’m at the movie theater this weekend, and I hear a kid telling his dad there is a new superhero movie coming out. He then points to this poster:

Friday the 13th movie poster

The dad has to explain to the child that it’s a horror film, not a superhero film. This gets me to thinking about how the kid could make this mistake. I looked at some recent superhero posters, and it became all too obvious.

Punisher War Zone movie posterX-Men The Last StandWatchmen

This makes me wonder what our movie posters are communicating about superheroes, if you can’t tell the difference between a homicidal sadist psychopath and the good guys.

An additional note from Johanna: I thought this tied in with John Jakala’s recent post about gory violence in Marvel comics. He asks similar questions:

Is this just a fluke, or are scenes like this becoming more common in “mainstream” superhero comics? Is this the latest trend in superhero decadence, hardcore torture porn? … Are creators having to up the shock value ante in order to provoke a reaction — any kind of reaction — from desensitized fans?

Similar Posts: Rin-Ne Delayed § Joe Quesada on MySpace § The Worst Result of Superhero Comic Movies: You Lose Good Characters (Spoilers) § Avengers Movie Trailer Released § KC Talks About Previews for October 2011


15 Responses to “Overheard at the Movie Theater: Recognizing the Superhero”

  1. Charles RB Says:

    To be fair, the Punisher and Comedian are homicidal sadist psychopaths, so if the posters communicate that they’re doing their job.

    In general though I agree, superhero film posters seem to sell a lot of the same moody imagery ever since the X-Men film. It makes for some really dull and samey posters.

  2. Chris Says:

    Hey! But everybody knows Jason is the hero of the movie!

  3. Johanna Says:

    And a vigilante, too, so maybe the kid was right to confuse a serial killer and a superhero!

  4. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I should have included the Batman: The Dark Knight poster too.

  5. malveaux Says:

    I blame the parents. Saturday morning cartoons can only do so much. At some point, parents have to start springing for the comics, DVDs, and movie tickets that will help children hash this stuff out. It’s our cultural history at stake here, after all. If a kid gets to to be 8 without knowing that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and that ‘criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot’, then the parent has failed them. Hollywood provides some of the raw material but the parents have to interject the actual lessons. Granted, where R rated movies are concerned, it isn’t an issue until 12 or so when they start sneaking in and gain exposure despite parents best efforts.

  6. Don Vanni Says:

    I’m saddened, but not too surprised since the Joker apparently became the moral center of the DC Universe. DC’s increasing nihilism has been building up ever since the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Just look at what’s been happening lately in the Green Lantern books alone.

    As for Marvel: Spiderman may indeed embody the creed that “with great power must come great responsibility” but try telling that to the Hulk. (“Hulk SMASH great responsibility!!!)?

  7. kwaku Says:

    Maybe the kid isn’t old enough to automatically associate a guy in the hockey mask with a serial killer from R-rated slasher films.

  8. Dwight Williams Says:

    Or he or she’s seen too much hockey?

  9. Anun Says:

    Actually, I find the Jason poster being indeed imitative of the superhero stance, not the other way around. The upshot towards the mysterious figure whose posture is that of confidence and readiness towards defense is a pretty classic superhero pose. Homicidal maniacs usually get some types of half-hidden crouching posture. So yes, while it appears Jason’s become the hero of his own franchise, I would say his poster is using the language of the good guy, not vice-versa.

    But that’s just my view.

  10. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Anun,
    I agree that Jason is stealing the typical good guy pose. But recent superhero movie posters have also adopted the horror film aesthetics. They use dark tones, they emphasis violence and destruction, and the hero have grim menacing expressions. So the thievery runs both ways.

    Kwaku,
    We were all about 20 ft away from the poster when the child made his observation. We weren’t close enough to see the details of the figure. But least we forget, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a hockey mask wearing good guy and there is currently a new TMNT cartoon running on KidsWB.

  11. Hsifeng Says:

    Ed Sizemore Says:

    “The dad has to explain to the child that it’s a horror film, not a superhero film. This gets me to thinking about how the kid could make this mistake. I looked at some recent superhero posters, and it became all too obvious…

    …This makes me wonder what our movie posters are communicating about superheroes, if you can’t tell the difference between a homicidal sadist psychopath and the good guys.”

    Unfortunately, that makes sense. Either that or the child couldn’t tell the difference between a man on a poster and a specifically superheroic man on a poster? Now I wonder how young the child was, because the post reminds me a bit of another case of a young child, um, miscategorizing:

    Tim McDaniel Said on rec.arts.sf.written:

    “My sister was born while our father was overseas, so all she knew of
    his looks was a few small pictures of him in uniform. Came the day
    when he was coming home, our mother took her down to the train
    station. My sister saw her first man in uniform and cried out “Daddy!
    Daddy!”. A very black soldier turned around and gently said to the
    little blonde girl, ‘I don’t think so’.”

  12. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Hsifeng,
    The boy was about seven or eight. So I would say old enough to know a superhero from a villain–if the image is unambiguous.

  13. Hsifeng Says:

    Yeah, my guess is that McDaniel’s sister was way younger than 7 or 8 when their father came home.

  14. odessa steps Says:

    I’ve thought for quite a while that the violence/gore level in the Big Two has been on the rise. And I think one of the chief proponents is DC #1 gun, Geoff Johns. People always seem to be getting disemboweled or beheaded or having limbs removed in his stories. And if he is the lead dog, surely others will follow suit.

    I think the “evolution” of the hero has been going down this road for at least a decade. I remember moderating a panel about a similar topic at SD one year. In the 90s, there were a whole host of villains who “became heroes” (Venom to name one) that never changed their bevahiour.

  15. Jim Perreault Says:

    I think what the level of violence has shown is that the Big 2 have given up all pretense of making comics for kids. Its obvious that comics are now squarely aimed at an adult audience and you wouldn’t dream of giving any to a kid. ( Except for comics from an “Adventures” line.)

    I think this has gotten worse since the success of the “Authority”, but the origins of the trend probably go back even earlier to Claremont’s X-men. That book always had more realistic violence than other titles, although nowhere near the levels we are seeing now.

    Regarding Johns, I did find it interesting that despite all the gore and death in Green Lantern, Hal Jordon refused to kill Sinestro. That gave the whole storyline a beacon of hope.

    Jim

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to comment feed.




Categories:

Pages:



Meta:

Most Recent Posts: