The classic comic book hero gave little boys someone to look up to, a role model that stood up for “justice, fairness and decency” against forces of evil. But are the heroes of today actually the villains?
A professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston is developing an argument that would certainly point in that direction. Professor Sharon Lamb believes the new class of superhero is far from a good role model, claiming that most stand for “mindless aggression and rampant sexism.” Are characters like Iron Man planting seeds of macho-aggression in the male youth?
Lamb, surveyed 674 boys ages 4-18… and concluded with her findings that these “hard-nosed heroes” may be damaging the social skills of teenagers and even affecting their performance at school.
Pointing the finger at the new generation of superheroes, exemplified in her eyes by Robert Downey Junior’s playboy Iron Man, of being bad role models for young boys. Lamb uses Superman as an example of a positive and acceptable superhero–who she argues is a good role model because he is an ordinary man (with flaws ) with extraordinary powers.
“Because outside of their costumes they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities,” she said. Lamb told the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Diego, California that young boys are being sold a “narrow version of masculinity” during a vulnerable and impressionable stage in their development. A time when they are searching for an identity for themselves. She went on to say:
There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday. 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. These men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.
Is today’s superhero rotting the brains of the youth… or trying to keep up with a competitive box office? There must be other outlets young boys can seek out when forming their identity. Could young men ever really use superheros as a template of the “masculine form?” We are talking about fictional characters with ripped six packs and flying powers!!! Right?
Tell us what you think about the Professor’s argument… maybe this is her audition for the next super villain in the Iron Man series!