James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for March 18th, 2009

Can a Christian lesbian Latina superhero save us?

Posted by James McPherson on March 18, 2009

An interesting report today discusses the value of comic book superheroes for the American psyche in dealing with tough times such as economic depression and war. “In our own times, the public is turning to costumed heroes again in record numbers,” CNN reports. “Movies based on comic books are box office leaders; comic books themselves remain a strong and growing industry.”

Well, maybe. But you may have noticed that just a week after a big opening, “Watchmen” dropped by a somewhat remarkable 67 percent, falling faster than Superman if he’d smacked into a plane full of Kryptonite.

“Watchmen” was bumped from the top spot in the ranking by a Disney remake of “Race to Witch Mountain.” Considering that film, and the fact that the comic book characters who have been popular in recent movies are old favorites, it seems to me that moviegoers are seeking comfortable nostalgia more than reassurance from superheroes.

I have to admit that I haven’t read a comic book since I was a kid. I don’t read graphic novels, and know next to nothing about Manga. But if we really need superheroes, perhaps its time to update them. Maybe they should be multi-racial, not just multi-colored. Maybe more women (though Congress and the superhero community seem to have the same shortcomings in that regard). Maybe crime-fighting Christians. Or lesbians. Or, considering the state of the economy, accountants. Or all of the above.

Since inordinate numbers of old superheroes seem to have derived their powers from nuclear accidents or scientific experiments gone awry, perhaps the return to science by the federal government–and the effort to reduce reliance on oil–also provides new hero-creation possibilities. Somehow I don’t see a superhero being created from wind or solar technology, however, or even “clean coal.” But maybe I just lack comic imagination.

On the other hand, maybe the misadventures of the Bush administration should have taught us that traditional superheroes can’t always save us, that might can’t always make right, and that it’s time for us to put away the comic books and grow up.

Friday update: Come to find out, a Christian lesbian Latina superhero already exists in comics: Renee Montoya, aka “The Question.”

Posted in History, Media literacy, Science, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »