This dissertation defines and explores the concept of superhero monstrosity through an analysis of the character Superman, the television series Smallville, and several other post-2000 superhero films and television shows. "Monstrosity" is my term for the superhero's corruption by internal or external forces that overturn his role as a protector and reveal the anxieties at the heart of the genre. The genre foundationally counteracts anxieties regarding the corruption of the powerful and the impotence of the average person by creating superhuman figures who protect the weak, seem incorruptible, and allow the audience to experience power vicariously. However, these anxieties constantly reappear in the form of stories featuring monstrous superheroes. I do a historical overview of the genre to show that, though monstrosity is a component from the beginning, it does not become a central aspect until after 1960 in comic books and 2000 in film and television.
Most of the dissertation is focused on the television series Smallville because it embodies the post-2000 shift to monstrous superheroes in mainstream media, as even Superman, the first and most unchanging superhero, struggles with destructive tendencies. Specifically, I look at how the program's pre-Superman Clark Kent goes through a super form of puberty that results in him repeatedly losing control of his body and exhibiting potential to grow into a villain. Moreover, I analyze cases in which the superhero turns into a completely immoral monster (a "superhero-gone-bad") on Smallville and in several superhero films. These totally corrupted superheroes engage the genre's anxieties and fantasies in an exaggerated way.
In proving my argument, I do close analysis of formal and narrative elements of various episodes of Smallville, as well as several other films, TV shows, and comic books. In addition, I look at fan reactions (primarily on the internet) to gauge what makes monstrous superheroes appealing and frightening, and what a successful depiction demands. In the end, what I hope to show is how changes in cultural sensibilities and the superhero genre result in renditions of protagonists who are both heroes and destroyers on Smallville and in other post-2000 films and TV shows.
|Commitee:||Hatch, Kristin, Johnson, Victoria E.|
|School:||University of California, Irvine|
|Department:||Visual Studies - Ph.D.|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American studies, American literature, Mass communications, Film studies|
|Keywords:||Cultural studies, Genre, Monstrosity, Smallville, Superhero, Superman|
Copyright in each Dissertation and Thesis is retained by the author. All Rights Reserved
The supplemental file or files you are about to download were provided to ProQuest by the author as part of a
dissertation or thesis. The supplemental files are provided "AS IS" without warranty. ProQuest is not responsible for the
content, format or impact on the supplemental file(s) on our system. in some cases, the file type may be unknown or
may be a .exe file. We recommend caution as you open such files.
Copyright of the original materials contained in the supplemental file is retained by the author and your access to the
supplemental files is subject to the ProQuest Terms and Conditions of use.
Depending on the size of the file(s) you are downloading, the system may take some time to download them. Please be