Stupid Psychologist Sending Wrong Message about Superheroes

August 22nd, 2010

I saw this person, Sharon Lamb, being interviewed on CNN or MSNBC last week.   This article, “Superheroes send out ‘wrong message’ to boys,” covers the same things she said on tv.   For instance:

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” Dr Lamb told the annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

“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.

She’s a moron, plain and simple.   It sure sounds like another case of, “Gee, things have gone to hell today compared to my generation when everything was better.”   Including the superheroes apparently.   You know how she did her research?

To understand how the media and marketing managers package masculinity to boys, Lamb surveyed 674 boys age 4 to 18, walked through malls and talked to sales clerks and came to understand what boys were reading and watching on television and at the movies.

She “walked through malls.”   I don’t see her analyzing comic books or movies.   I don’t see her actually doing any tests to see if boys exposed to current superhero movies change their behavior in negative ways compared to those that don’t.   I call bullshit here.   But I have a bigger bullshit to call later, again indicating that she’s not doing science, she’s projecting her own view about the world and how she doesn’t like some of the changes.   Tough shit, lady.

She and her co-authors found that marketing managers take advantage of boys’ need to forge their identity in adolescence and sell them a narrow version of masculinity.

They can either be a “player” or a “slacker” – the guy who never even tries – to save face.

“In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have,” said Dr Lamb. “Boys are told, if you can’t be a superhero, you can always be a slacker.

“Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don’t like school and they shirk responsibility.

“We wonder if the messages boys get about saving face through glorified slacking could be affecting their performance in school.”

WTF?   Why is she going on about slackers now?   Iron Man is a bad influence because he helps make boys into slackers?   And I totally think she is creating a false dichotomy.   Superhero or slacker.   That’s it?   Are you fucking kidding me???   It’s like Donnie Darko, but replacing the fear-love spectrum with a superhero-slacker spectrum.   Right.   And the idiot media apparently creamed their jeans to put her on tv with this nonsense.   But let’s continue to the old fogey proof.

She said that original superheroes like Superman who was a reporter by day and the Green Lantern, who was a railroad engineer, were invented to fight for social justice and were a reaction to the rise of fascism.

But the new breed of superheroes only thought about themselves.

She said boys need to be taught from an early age to distance themselves from these images and encouraging them into finding the lies in the messages can help.

Yeah, she’s going back to the 1940s.   Golden age Green Lantern, for instance.

This is basically a message that comic book movies are for boys only — no adult or females allowed — and that such movies should only have good wholesome messages approved by her and her ilk that are not “lies” like people act selfishly sometimes, guys like women, and use their money for big toys that go boom.   Fuck her.

I had a girlfriend really upset when the Ralph Bakshi movie Cool World came out in the 1990s.   It’s an adult-themed movie, but because there was animation (aka “cartoons”) the movie was for kids and had to be kid-friendly.   Fuck her, too.   We didn’t stay together.

Let’s take a look at things a little more carefully…it seems to me that the development of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies was to move away from being a arms dealer and to use his wealth for the public good.   Did she totally fucking miss that?   YES.   Because she’s a hack.   A faker.   A moron.   And Iron Man, seems to me, has a drinking problem that he struggles with.   Seems like a huge personal weakness to me.

And the movie superheroes of today…including Superman and Batman, and forthcoming is Captain America.   Seems like the new superheroes are the same as the old superheroes designed to fight fascism!

And the ones with the big guns out for vengeance…   The last Punisher movie I saw was rated R.   If “boys” are seeing that it isn’t because it was targeted at them.

What I really hate is this false outrage designed to bring attention to further oneself.   Politicians do it all the time, and some hack “scientists.”

What we’re seeing, if anything, is a wider range of superheroes today because they’re popular.   And they’re not identical, so the more you have, the more you’ll have that don’t act like the boy scout known as Superman.   Did she actually do any real analysis?   Here’s what one smarter guy commented on

I am taking “todays” superhero films to be 1990s and 2000s.

Today’s superhero films[1]:
1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Darkman, Captain America
1991: TMNT2, Rocketeer
1992: Batman Returns
1993: TMNT3
1994: Fantastic Four, The Shadow
1995: Batman Forever, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Darkman 2
1996: The Phantom, Darkman 3
1997: Turbo, Batman & Robin, Spawn, Steel
1998: Blade
1999: Mystery Men
2000: X-Men, The Specials (which was awesome, by the way), Unbreakable
2002: Blade 2, Spider-Men
2003: Daredevil, X-Men 2, Hulk, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
2004: Hellboy, Punisher, Spider-Man 2, Catwoman, Blade 3
2005: Electra, Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, Sky High, V for Vendetta
2006: X-Men 3, Superman Returns, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Lightspeed, Zoom
2007: Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, FF: Silver Surfer (SHUT UP! I’m only including it to be thorough!), Underdog
2008: Superhero Movie, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hancock, Hellboy 2, Dark Knight, Punisher: War Zone, The Spirit
2009: Watchmen, Wolverine
2010: Kick-Ass, Iron Man 2, Jonah Hex
Total Number of films listed: 61

TFA’s list of undesirable patterns of behavior, and films from the list above that could arguably[2] be categorized into one or more of these patterns of behavior:
1. aggressive (assuming aggression beyond typical “right hook to the bad guy’s jaw” level of superhero violence)
2. sarcastic
3. rarely speak about the virtue of doing good for humanity
4. exploit women
5. flaunt bling
6. convey their manhood with high-powered guns

Darkman 2
Darkman 3
Mystery Men
The Specials
Blade 2
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Punisher
Blade 3
V for Vendetta
Ghost Rider
Iron Man
Punisher: War Zone
The Spirit
Iron Man 2
Total Number of Undesirable Superhero Films: 21 (34.4%)

So, by my estimate, the number of films that portray superheros as sufficiently virtuous and/or altruistically-motivated is right around double the number of films that portray superheroes as insufficiently-virtuous.

I’d go a bit further.   We shouldn’t include R-rated films which are targeted at older audiences.   Take out Watchmen, Punisher, etc., and the statistics skew even more.   Spider-man is about great power bringing responsibility, or maybe the Spider-man films don’t count.   Fantastic Four?   The human torch usually burned his bling, and Mr. Fantastic nearly sacrificed his relationship to do the right thing.   Daredevil…Batman…yeah, I remember how they decided not to take vengeance in the end, or adopt bling, sarcasm, or playboy lifestyles except as cover.

Geez, WTF is this insane woman actually talking about?   Is it about movies/tv?   Which ones?   Or is it about what comic book store managers told her?   Because that’s totally scientific.   Comic Book Guy is always right and reliable!

There are some good psychologists out there.   I know a few, and have read some good research.   This doesn’t belong in that category.   This is Crap.

Bite me, Dr. Lamb.   I’m being aggressive, but not sarcastic, ok?   You’re a hack and should quietly retire before you have any more effect on the world that you already do.   Everyone with a brain hates you, old fart.   In your day Green Lantern’s “real personal problem” was wood.   Seriously.   That’s a good lesson for the boys.   It won’t be much better with the new Green Lantern (yellow), but they’ll probably add on some kind of characterization so he’s more interesting than the pieces of wood you think boys should be watching and emulating.   You don’t have a clue and should quit before all your peers realize it.   Because now, with the media attention, they just might.


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