Psychologist: Today’s Superheroes Are Bad Influences On Children

Psychologist Sharon Lamb conducted a study on the influence of superhero role models on young boys, and thinks that the current crop have a generally bad influence on children:

"There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday," said psychologist Sharon Lamb,

PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. "Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns."

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, "but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities," she said.

Susana Polo of Geekosystem wrote a lengthy response to Lamb, noting the psychologist wrongly assumes that superhero narratives are primarily aimed at children:

While the superhero genre has well established tropes and rules, any genre can accommodate tonal shifts. No one would imply that Animal Farm represents a corruption of the talking animal genre of children’s literature. Fantasy doesn’t get called out for telling morally ambiguous stories.

There are comic book superheroes for kids, yes. Captain Marvel has had a kid oriented series lately, and then there’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and others. But the majority of comic book superheroes haven’t been written for small children for twenty years now.

Precisely. It's improper to assume that while the tone has shifted, the the intended audience has remained static. Parents should shield their children from superhero comics and movies that would do them emotional harm.

A few weeks ago, I extolled the greatness of the movie Kick-Ass, and a Facebook friend asked me if she should take her kids. I told her absolutely not. It's about kids being heroes, but it's not for kids at all. via Geekosystem | Image: kamillyonsia

Previously: Why Iron Man Is the Gen Y Superhero

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I absolutely agree with the person who rightfully pointed out that many comics aren't for kids. They do exist, just as cartoons for kids exist, but that doesn't mean every cartoon is a kid's cartoon. I think that study is hokum mostly because my father, a pacifist, grew up with Tales from the Crypt (which he called cry-pit, amusingly enough), superhero comics and war comics. I grew up watching his movies like the Shining, and reading his comics plus my own. I'm very well adjusted and even though I idolize superheroes (still do, kind of), I'm not macho. I think parental units have more to do with boys and girls than fiction.
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I always find it strange that toy makers produce toys for rated R superhero movies, like The Dark Night and advertise them on kid's programs. I think these movies are great adult movies, but it sends a strange message when they're advertising them to people too young to watch them.
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