All the superheroes I like are angry.
Perhaps that's why my first reaction to seeing headlines implying that watching superheroes can increase aggressive behaviour in children was, "FIGHT ME! I WILL CRUSH YOU!" Or maybe there's another reason. Nonetheless, just as Batman donned the suit to defend Gotham, I'll put some gifs together and defend our caped crusaders (I know, the similarities between our situations are startling).
This is all happening because of a study called “Pow! Boom! Kablam! Effects of Viewing Superhero Programs on Aggressive, Prosocial, and Defending Behaviors in Preschool Children.” I'm going to go ahead and assume anyone who seriously thinks Batman's the main reason preschoolers aren't impeccably sociable beings, probably hasn't thought too seriously about the actual findings.
Of the 240 preschool aged children in the study, 10 per cent liked superheroes because they were defenders of good and 70 per cent just liked them because they could do things like flying around. Only 20 per cent mentioned violent characteristics and even then the answers varied. Yet here I am, defending Batman.
The study also found that the children focused more on the 'SMASH BAM KABLAM' that happens in movies and less on standing up for truth, justice and all that other stuff. (I don't think that's just limited to preschoolers. If we're being honest, no one went to see Deadpool for lessons on how to be a good person).
Not all superhero stories are for children
The majority of adults I talk to don't understand how intense and deep superhero plots can get. Most preschoolers are in an age group who are almost exclusively the reason we have choking hazard signs on toys because they're only just understanding consequence and action - Not because preschoolers are stupid, their brains just don't do that yet. So, it's a bit much to expect them to pick up on the nuances of a Batman vs Superman plot which explores the duality of human nature in the pursuit of justice, when people with fully formed brains can't always do it.
Setting aside the human condition, the Avengers Civil War story arc plots' confuse most adults.
Who is seriously expecting the people in our society who have just found out time exists, to work out there's a moral lesson in between explosions?
You are not Gotham, you get the superhero you need.
I'm a pretty aggressive person who did grow up with superheroes.
I don't just hulk out, I go full Targaryen and none of that is Batman's fault. Nor is any of it to his credit (or that jerk Superman's) that I don't express my rage the way Deadpool does.
If I'm angry, I don't use my fists on anyone because not-the-television (ie my parents) told me that's not the right way to do it. But I was drawn to the Bat as a kid because I saw a rage in him, that I knew I had in myself. I could never be that violent, but Batman isn't about controlling your emotions, he's not even about dealing with them properly. That's the whole story of Batman, not dealing with emotions and then hitting things. Superheroes aren't your Hogwarts House, they're your Patronus. They're not here to guide your way. They're a reflection of part of you who you are. And me? I've always liked the angry ones.
My point being that I think we choose the superheroes that appeal to us for reasons.
And maybe when you're in preschool and you just worked out you're in control of zero percent of anything in your life, a superhero who gets to punch people who get in their way, is the best thing ever. So maybe that's why you say you like their violent characteristics.
Professor Sarah Coyne who led this study has a pretty clear takeaway and it's not that superheroes are bad, it's that no matter what children watch parents have to keep an eye on it because it may not all be suitable or self explanatory.
Not all that is geeky is kid friendly. Superheroes aren't bad for kids, but not all of their stories are for kids either. If ever you want to know how not-kid friendly something is, you can refer to the rating of literally every movie, game and television show. But there are loads of kid-friendly geekery/superhero stories out there. You can start by going to your local book store or comic book store and asking for age-appropriate recommendations.
I desperately needed superheroes growing up and it's still nice to have them around when I need them as an adult. Whatever people do, I hope they don't use this as a reason to not allow superheroes, but instead as a way to use superheroes, to talk about real issues.
Just, don't expect Batman to teach people the right way to deal with conflict. That's not why he was created.
Wonder Woman on the other hand....
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