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Academic Bulletin Freshman Tutorials - 2009-10 - 9 FT 9

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FT 09-F Men in Tights: Superheroes and Gender

A man gets angry and turns into an inarticulate green monster with unlimited strength. A woman is imbued with psychokinetic powers strong enough to rip apart the fabric of the universe. A young boy cannot speak, even whisper, without unleashing sonic energy equal to the detonation of a nuclear bomb. An Amazon woman with lightning reflexes blends into the North American “society of men,” and only when there’s injustice, does she reveal her true self: a Wonder Woman with a golden tiara and a lasso that she uses to force men to tell the truth. What do all of these fictional characters tell us about societal perceptions of gender? This course will investigate the contemporary fascination with superheroes to show how they express changing ideologies about men and women. What do superheroes tell us about our gendered society? How do superheroes shape how we see our bodies, influence how we communicate or what we perceive as normal? Topics we’ll investigate will include but are not limited to use of iconography, embodiment of Ideology, social construction of idealized male/female bodies, use of language, gazing, and superheroes as rhetorical tropes (metonyms or metaphors). To help in our investigation, we will read some theory such as Peter Middleton’s Boys Will Be Men: Boys’ Superhero Comics, Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and analyze superheroes in a variety of media, including comic books, literature, film, and video games.

Freeze, Eric
Credits: 1