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Characteristics of the Superhero Genre

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Jayson Quearry

on 17 April 2015

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Transcript of Characteristics of the Superhero Genre

Characteristics of the Cinematic Superhero Genre
American Monomythic Structure
A community...is threatened by evil;
normal institutions fail...
a...superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task;
aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisaical condition;
the superhero then recedes...
Outlined by Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence
Threatened by evil
Normal institutions fail
A superhero emerges
Victory restores paradise
Superhero recedes
Liminal Ritual
Victor Turner, anthropologist, saw ritual in many cultures.
Follows Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Separation - Margin - Aggregation
Origin Narrative
Answers question: "Where does this character come from?"
And why they do what they do.
Like folktales that reveal the genesis of a world, religion, hero, or culture.
Through seeing these origin stories, viewers and cultures are revitalized, remembering their own origins.
Serialized Storytelling
Like oral storytelling tradition of old.
An element that creates fidelity to source structure.
Comics are myths that continue to build, get retold, and revised.
Comics released monthly; films released on fairly regular schedule.
Seen before in sequels and prequels. Also a similar episodic nature to that of James Bond.
More prominent in an inter-franchise way with superhero genre.
Elements of Fantasy
Not fantasy like
Lord of the Rings
Proposed by Slavoj Žižek in
Seven Veils of Fantasy
Overcomes a social anxiety through a fictional construct.
Reminds the audience about the anxiety while overcoming it.
This is called a
Trans-ideological Kernel
Retold as means of asserting cultural desires.
9/11 Referencing
Typical examples include foreign invader villains, cataclysmic destruction, and images of police and firefighters.
Acts as Žižek's trans-ideological kernel.
Mythic means of vicariously retconning history.
Social Commentary
Anxieties extend past 9/11 to other social issues.
Corporations and government are primary examples.
Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are idealized businessmen.
Evil governments defeated in
Winter Soldier
Iron Man 3
, and
Reassures America that we have the skills and power to overcome these problems.
Reasserts our nationalism.
Costume Symbolism
Characters' costumes are rich symbols.
Roland Barthes.
signifier + signified = sign
form (sign) + concept = signification
Symmetry and chevron house symbolic meaning.
Overlaying with Other Genres
Political Thriller
Intertextual Continuity
Ancient myths like
The Odyssey
used it, too.
Not an homage or a reference.
Expects the audience to understand without any exposition.
Creates an interlocked universe.
Post-credit scenes are major sources.
Full transcript