Do Today’s Superheroes Send the Wrong Messages To Boys?

Image: Warner Brothers

While Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man might be impressive and powerful at the box office, they aren’t so good for today’s youth say psychologists. During last week’s Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (Psy-Con?) mental health professionals said that, while yesterday’s heroes fought crime and made better role models, today’s superheroes are too violent and send the wrong messages and images to young, impressionable boys.

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” said psychologist Sharon Lamb, EdD, 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 Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns. “

By contrast, Lamb says, superheroes of days gone by allowed boys to learn from them because they had vulnerabilities when the capes were off. Lamb came to these conclusions by interviewing nearly 700 boys between the ages of 4 and 18. She and her team concluded that marketers convince these boys they can either be players or slackers – in her words, a “narrow view of masculinity”. One of Lamb’s colleagues says boys are better adjusted when they resist internalizing macho images.

You can read more about Lamb’s study here or read her book on the subject. But we’re curious: what do you think? Are today’s superheroes worse than those from the past? Is being exposed to macho stereotypes a bad thing for your son? Do we need to return to the days of Adam West and George Reeves? Let us know in the comments!

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