Rough Draft 1- Heroes and Superheroes

This topic submitted by Shiree Campbell and Jocelyn Haugen ( haugenjr@miamioh.edu ) on 4/3/06. [ Human Nature Team: Shiree Campbell and Jocelyn Haugen-Section: Blaisdell/Feister]

Background/Introduction-

Heroes have been a central part of myth since the beginnings of mythology. God, gods, demi-gods, angels, and super-humans can all be easily placed into the category of “heroes”. They are also strongly associated with myths across cultures in that “all cultures have developed a similar mythology about the heroic quest… Prometheus… Aeneas… even the lives of historical figures…” (Armstrong, pp. 36)
In the dictionary, a myth is defined as a story about gods who are the personification of a motivating power or a value system that functions in human life and in the universe; one that powers an individual’s body and someone’s nature. There are two branches of mythology and the one that we will be considering is the sociological one in which “the individual has to find an aspect of myth that relates to his or her own life.” (Campbell, 1990: pp. 3)
One aspect of myth that relates to an individual’s personal life is that it tells “them how the gods behaved, not out of idle curiosity or because these tales were entertaining, but to enable men and women to imitate these powerful beings and experience divinity themselves.” (Armstrong, pp.5) This strongly embedded link between the myth and imitation or life application of it truly depicts how Joseph Campbell says that what we are all really looking for is an experience of being alive, rather than seeking the meaning of life, that there are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life. These clues may be found within myths as individuals are attracted by these stories which teach morals and lessons about one’s life. (11-12) So not only are individuals offered the chance to experience divinity through imitating heroes but also allowed to see that those admired/imitated have human qualities and therefore can be studied to learn more about oneself.
Mythology is so deeply rooted in culture that “the material of myth is the material of our life, the material of our body, and the material of our environment, and a living, [and certainly therefore our human nature]… vital mythology deals with these in terms that are appropriate to the nature of knowledge of the time.” (Campbell, 1990: pp. 1) Just like every culture has its own mythology every time has had its mythology as well:
“On this immediate level of life and structure, myths offer life models. But the models have to be appropriate to the times in which you are living, and our time has changed so fast that what was proper fifty years ago is not proper today. The virtues of the past are the vices of today. And many of what were thought to be the vices of the past are the necessities of today… Main motifs of myths are the same. [However,] Every mythology has grown up in a certain society in a bounded field.” (Campbell, pp. 22)

So a very pertinent question is what is our mythology today? Who are our gods, demi-gods, angels, or heroes that we try and imitate to experience divinity? Heroes are “designed to help us cope with the problematic human predicament” (Armstrong, pp. 6)
At the beginning of myth, “when these early people looked at a stone... it embodied strength, permanence, solidity… from the vulnerable human state” (Armstrong, pp. 16) and therefore, that stone could very well be a hero/something that exhibits qualities that one wishes to have or imitate for personal benefit. It is true that “human nature does not change [drastically] much and that many of these myths devised in societies that could not be more different from our own still address our most essential fears and desires” (Armstrong, pp. 11) shows that despite what the names of the gods or heroes that there are underlying themes in what humans think they should imitate or improve on in their own lives. One example of one of these apparently constant themes is the desire for “an experience of transcendence… lifted momentarily beyond ourselves” (Armstrong, pp. 8)
Modes of achieving this transcendence in our modern society can involve religious organizations, meditation, music, books, movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. Heroes and even superheroes have been a very large theme in throughout modern entertainment particularly through books, comic books, movies, and television.
However, it all began with real life heroes, evolved into fictional heroes (Buffalo Bill and The Shadow), but directly came from “biblical and mythological heroes” (Fingeroth, pp. 16) The creation of the Superhero was at the same time the “comic book world really exploded, however, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a couple of Jewish kids from the Midwest created Superman, ushering in a new tradition in heroic story telling.” (Weiner, pp. 2) When Siegel was telling the story of how he co-created Superman he mentioned Hercules and Samson and “in connecting his creation to universally known and respected-if not necessarily admired-heroes of religion and mythology, Siegel tells us it’s no accident that Superman and the myriad heroes inspired by him are seen as godly figures.” (Fingeroth, pp. 13) Superhero comic books were all originally for entertainment only, but during the “second world war, comic books featured decidedly patriotic heroes” (Weiner, pp. 2) as a type of propaganda for the United States military efforts.
The use of superhero comic books as propaganda tells us that someone understood that superheroes hold the potential to be role models for their admirers. After the war, however, and “as the 1940’s drew to a close, interests in superheroes waned” (Weiner, pp. 4) as there was no foreign evil to fight or spy upon anymore in the real world, the government had no need for outlandishly patriotic myths, heroes, or citizens any longer. The comic book industry did not give up. They still wanted to make money. “DC comics had revived The Flash … more superheroes followed… (Weiner, pp. 9) and soon superheroes were brought back and re-vamped with different motivations, back stories, plots, and villains.
Now it was no longer a dichotomy of self vs. other or self vs. higher power, but now there was a self vs. self thrown in the middle for good measure and the creation of a whole superhero continuum. “This meant that these heroes would experience the problems everyday people face as well as the problems that went with battling a super-villain.”(Weiner, pp. 10) Giving superheroes more and more human qualities (specifically weaknesses) increased comic book fandom dramatically not only were young kids coming into the stores to purchase the books, but soon writers “reworked their heroes to better fit the mood of the current store clientele… adults.” (Weiner, pp. 29)
With this ever-increasing interest in superheroes it is no wonder that there have been so many movies and television shows that have spawned off of the comic books and become incredibly popular among children, teenagers, young adults, and older adults who have loved the stories since they were kids reading them in the comic book shops. It is in this shifting from comic book to film that the mythology is constantly changing around us to fit the times and culture. Now while the mythology around the superheroes changes, it is evident that “for superheroes, change is tremendously slow, and more often, nonexistent. Superman may have to keep his secret identity from Lana Lang in the Smallville TV series and other incarnation of the young Clark Kent, but we all know that, as he grows up, he will be keeping his secret from Lois Lane.” (Fingeroth, pp. 35) Other changes are made in the stories to keep audiences happy such as changing the frustration and sorrow of separation between Lois and Clark or Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson into them being married couples.
Different “aspects of our society are reflected by the various heroes.” (Fingeroth, pp. 45) First there is the dual identity kind of hero. Superman is the primary superhero that embodies this type. Other familiar examples include The Scarlet Pimpernel, Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, the TV show Alias, The Mask of Zorro, and another superhero: Spiderman. These characters are usually immigrants or outcasts too. This type allows people to say “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be who you think I am.” (Fingeroth, pp. 60)
Next, there are the orphans: Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. Other examples are Oliver Twist, Annie, and Cosette from Les Miserables. With these heroes not only does being an orphan motivate them (in different ways), but it means that the “possibilities are endless” (Fingeroth, pp. 67) and so many of those possibilities have the possibility to be really interesting: “our real parents-who were no doubt royalty, or superspies, or disease-cure-discovering Curies-were killed by criminals or kidnapped, or perhaps put in the witness protection program.” (Fingeroth, pp.67) You never have to end a story that has an orphan in it and who doesn’t want to find out that they are and heiress?
Then there is the Amazon Grace, or the super-heroine like Wonder Woman, Xena, Buffy, Princess Jasmine, or Mulan. In many older mythologies there used to be the mother goddess who had three phases of maiden, mother, and crone. She embodied womanhood in all its glory and strength. One American heroine is Rosie the Riveter who is also another example of governmental propaganda during the war. Many predominant feminist figures have been inspired by heroines such as Wonder Woman. One such fan is Gloria Steinem who “says in her introduction to the 1995 Wonder Woman: Featuring over Five Decades of Great Covers: The lesson [of Wonder Woman] was that each of us might have unknown powers within us, if we only believed and practiced them… Perhaps that’s the appeal of Wonder Woman… an adult’s need for a lost balance between women and men, between humans and nature. -7, 19” (Fingeroth, pp. 87) The number of heroines present in movies and television is ever growing and it is optimistically a reflection of how our society is getting better and better at recognizing the strengths of women as equal to those of men.
The thermonuclear families are next. They include the Justice League, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. Other examples include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Armaggedon, The Boxcar Children, Harry Potter, or The Babysitters Club. These are all groups of people from completely different backgrounds who are forced to work together. Sometimes they get along and sometimes they do not. “Much as members of the same racial or ethnic group may find themselves lumped with and forced into common cause with others who may have no other connection to them besides the commonalties of chance, so mutants find themselves pushed into social units with those with who they have nothing in common except the Cain-like mark of the mutant, sometimes visible, sometimes not.” (Fingeroth, pp. 106) These families can be interpreted as microcosms of the world.
Finally there are the angry superheroes: The Hulk, Judge Dredd, and Wolverine. Other examples are Jo in Little Women, Mike Tyson, Winston Churchill, Dracula, Theodore Roosevelt, and Jocelyn’s grandmother. Rage and destruction are definitely what are appealing in these types of heroes. They have good intentions and do good things but oh… how they can be so bad at times too. “We’re sure glad” (Fingeroth, pp. 137) that these guys are on our side. They are like our big scary brothers who can scare away the bullies on the playground.
It is obviously the heroes’ human qualities that draw the fans to them and it is the same that draws people to certain movie stars or other television or movie characters. Is there any correlation between the qualities possessed by a hero and the qualities that their fans see or do not see in themselves as strengths or weaknesses? Is there “no ontological gulf between the world of the gods…” (Armstrong, pp. 2) and our world?
Part of human nature is to strive to be better and stronger individuals in our everyday life. We are motivated to achieve this calling by finding heroic real-life personalities or even fictional superheroes and matching our behavior to theirs. This trait of our human nature is the desire to imitate those around us who appear to be more successful, possess greater strengths than us, or are more popular and looked up to by the general public.
This addresses the notion that humans are insatiable beings. Everyone is always wanting more than what they own and possess. In a world that is limited by time and available resources, people will often go to great extremes to reach their personal goals. In our project, we will question what it is that pushes people to expect and want more for themselves. We also plan on determining what causes us to identify with certain heroes and superheroes, thus identifying which traits are the mostly sought out: strength, intelligence, popularity, or versatility, amongst many others.
Basically we are looking at the notion of heroes and superheroes in the human species, and how it is within our human nature to look for those we can imitate, strive to be, or admire greatly from afar.

Relevance of Research Question:
Armstrong, K. (2005). A Short History of Myth. Canongate Books. Ltd.:Edinburgh, Scotland.

This very helpful book covers mythology all the way from c. 20000 BCE to modern day. It is helpful because heroes have been around about as long as mythology has been. The idea that myths “told them how the gods behaved, not out of idle curiosity or because these tales were entertaining, but to enable men and women to imitate these powerful beings and experience divinity themselves” (5) forms the basis of our project historically. This book also confirms that “all cultures have developed a similar mythology about the heroic quest” (36). Which makes mythology centered on heroes for the sake of humans’ abilities to imitate them a universal occurrence and therefore an intricate phenomenon that is part of human nature.

Berger, A. (1970). The Comic-Stripped American. Walker and Company: New York.
America discovered pop-culture and with it, came upon comic books and the potential that lay within their pages. “Although comic strips do not have the psychological impact of television, numerous studies have demonstrated that comics do play an important role in the lives of the people who read them- as sources of diversion, escapism, and information about life.” (6) It is these key terms of diversion and escapism that we chose to focus on in our project. Escaping from one’s daily life is yet another way of dreaming or fantasizing about other places. Therefore, this helps us state that comic strips are means of leaving one’s real life and identity behind in order to done that of another.

Bongco, M. (2000). Reading Comics: Language, Culture, and the Concept of the Superhero in Comic Books. Garland Publishing Inc.: New York.

In the 1970’s, “new demands for a broader and more penetrating approach to communication and media studies [appeared]: how ideas, images, attitudes, forms, and contents of specific medium can exist within texts and reproduce themselves in readers.” This is when comic books as an art appeared on the forefront of society. Although widely criticized as ‘superficial’ because the common belief was that those who read such material were marginalized individuals, comic books responded to increasing popular demand, giving readers an accessible medium for interacting with what they were reading.
In this new modern age, Martin Barker is named for creating a “new breed of comics”. Through his work and analyses, he “uses comics as a case-study to reveal the ways critics have investigated the mass media for possible ‘influences’ while calling attention to the fact that there are literally thousands of works on how comics affect children.” (10) As the new form of mass media and means of communication, comic books are now included within pop-culture. Their rise of popularity is explained through Bongco’s assertion that “commodities like mass-produced texts are selected, purchased, constructed, and used by real people with previously existing needs, desires, intentions, and interpretative strategies.” Through this sentence, Bongco outlines the basis of our human nature. In order to insure our survival, our basic needs of food and shelter must be met. However, we are all insatiable beings and will not stop wanting more than we already possess. It is part of our nature to desire more, honestly believing that once these wants fulfilled, we will be satisfied.
This addresses our main theory that as human beings, we will never be satisfied with what we possess or with who we are. Although we may be comfortable with certain traits of our personality or our physical appearance, there will always be something that we wish we could do better in or something that we could master. Comic books provided their readers with the means to such identification, “the heroes also had all the traits a child could dream of: speed, strength, power, and knowledge. The recurrence of this sight and theme in the minds of thousands of children and adolescents must have helped the youths to a better understanding or recognition of their fantasy goals as they related to their personal ideals.” (86)
We are all seeking and tracking a perfection we believe is available somewhere in society. Through self-introspection, we can identify those traits we wish to better and then seek those who seem to have developed or mastered such traits. It is our belief that we have identified our own personal “heroes” that we choose to look up to and imitate. These “heroes” can be a close relative or friend, a historical or mythical figure, or even a superhero. All, however, possess particular traits that attract specific individuals who wish to imitate them.

Brozik, M. & Weinstein, J. (2005). The Government Manual for New Superheroes. Andrews-McMeel Publishing.

This little book offers a comical approach on how to “become” a superhero. It lists strengths, skills, and ensembles that should be targeted in order to be competitive on the superhero market. Also, it helps you pick names, costumes, supertools, and superpowers for your newly created superhero. This source will prove useful for our project because it seems to identify the main aspects of a superhero and those that are really important in understanding their identities. Also, in our surveys, we asked our participants to come up with a name and a power that they would pick to possess if they were to become a superhero. We hope to draw meaning from the choices that they made by linking their names to the advice given in this book, “You are about to assume another identity. Unlike you first, that is civilian name, your nom de combattre le crime is for you to choose.” (1)

Cohen, J. (2001). Defining Identification: A Theoretical Look at the Identification of Audiences With Media characters Mass Communication and Society. 4(3), 245-264.

This journal article explores the idea of identification and how people identify to media characters. It thoroughly discusses the difference that exists between identification and imitation and proposes that imitation is part of/a consequence of identification. Identification and imitation are similar but separate responses an audience member may have to a character in media. Identification is more of an internal process while imitation becomes an outward action. The article sites many other articles regarding how much is learned about self-identity and social roles through identification with characters. “Huesmann et al. (1984) found that identifying with aggressive characters on TV increased the learning of aggressive behavior by children. Basil (1996) found that identification with celebrities who were promoting health messages increased the adoption of these messages” (246)
The role of heroes is also mentioned: “the importance of children’s tales to child development. He argued that by identifying with the hero of a tale, children psychologically experience the triumph of good over evil and learn that being good pays” (248) It is clear in this article that identification/imitation of heroes in the media is greatly imbedded in our human nature and plays a significant role in forming who we become. This journal can become even more relevant when we start watching movies/TV shows involving heroes.

Fingeroth, D. (2004). Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society. Continuum: New York.

“What is there about the human condition that makes superhero tales so compelling to us? Why must we constantly reinvent the more-than-human heroic ideal?” (10) These important questions are key in the development of our argument. We are working from the assumption that there are specific aspects of our human nature that cause to us to turn toward others in search of greater performance levels, or greater strengths. We seek out those who represent what we idolize and consider to meet the standards of perfection. In our ever-changing society, we are constantly revamping ourselves and our products to fit increasing demands. First the masses are asking for this, and soon after they are asking for that. It is hard to keep up with everything going on around us, so in order to not feel left behind, we identify certain people who seem to be a part of the “in-group” or “popular” with others and then imitate their behavior so as to fit in.
“A hero embodies what we believe is best in ourselves. A hero is a standard to aspire to as well as an individual to be admired.” (14) What attracts us to real-life heroes is that capacity that they have to treat every struggle and obstacle with a smile and an attitude that defies all failure. We admire the fact that others can accomplish something that we either could not, or struggled to do. The same occurs within the fictional realm. “The realm of superheroes is occupied by individuals with fantastic powers, people who fight their battles with advanced technology, or people who are just brave. The possess skills and abilities normal humans do not.” (16-17) These characters give us the possibility to fantasize about possession such magical powers, or such strength. While our real-life heroes are within reach as we all interact within the same society, our superheroes depend on the figment of our imagination.
Addressing the question of why we are so attracted to such superheroic figures, psychiatrists Lauretta Bender and Reginald Lourie “described comic books as modern folklore, noting that the omnipotent superheroes had their parallels in fairy tales; replacing magic with science was simply expressing basic ideas in contemporary terms.” (23) Such studies help emphasize our argument that our idolization and imitation of modern day superheroes and heroes originally stems from the past adoration of mythical figures. As our society evolved, so did our values and beliefs, and our older traditions took on more modern forms to keep up with the times. It is then that we started to idolize real individuals as well as aspire to these superpowers now seem almost possible due to our constant technological advances. Through all of these relationships that appear, we feel closer to these heroic individuals or figures and believe we are one step closer toward that perfection and imitation.
Grunwald, A. & Gutmann, M. & Neumann-Held, E. (2002). On Human Nature: Anthropological, Biological, and Philosophical Foundations. Springer: Germany.

In the Spring of 1999, the European Academy organized a symposium based on “human nature: biological approaches and philosophical reflections”. This book constitutes the main results of this symposium and presents complimentary approaches of certain invited authors. It invokes a comprehensive and inclusive discussion on the modern “concept of humankind”.
As a general source which answers the question “what does it mean to be human?”, this source will prove to be a great transdisciplinary contribution to our research. It provides us with great resources regarding the differences between the spheres of science and morality; contemplating themes such as identity and self-explanation, ourselves and our bodies, and self-image. “We cannot look around in the world and find ‘here’ a self and ‘there’ an identity. But we have a conception of what it is to be a human agent or a person, what it is to be a child, a woman or a man. We have a self-image, and how we conceive ourselves as humans will be highly important for morality and ethics. Our self-image is not installed by nature, rather, what and who we are is open to deliberation.” (44) This deliberation process is highly influenced by our environment. The way we were raised, the people we encounter, and the individuals we honor, respect, and strive to imitate with all have a certain impact of the person we become.
Another important aspect that highly influences our character is culture, “character is by definition acquired during evolutionary transformation. Humans have culture by nature.” (217) This book addresses culture as a character which will be interesting to contemplate in our research because culture is such a high determinant in who we choose to be in life, what we strive to accomplish, and how we want others to perceive us. After lengthy discussion however, we have decided that it may be in the best interest of our project that we exclude this book and include another book about human nature, possibly one we are currently using in class.

Mataric, M. (1997). Learning Social Behavior Robotics and Autonomous Systems. 20, 191-204.

This study was done with the use of robots “initially equipped with a strategy for foraging. [to] learn the following social behaviors: yielding, proceeding, communicating, and listening, which serve to effectively minimize interference and maximize the effectiveness of the group” (191). The study focuses around social learning which involves imitation, and the imitation involved in the experiment was imitation of peers. The study showed that groups using imitation/social rules “consistently outperformed groups with only greedy individual strategies” (199). This experiment shows that imitation is a beneficial trait to have and thus poses the question to us whether or not imitation is a selected trait that is part of our genes as humans. We believe that it is and ask a new question of how imitating heroes/superheroes may benefit us.

Meltzoff, A. & Moore, M. (1994). Imitation, Memory, and the Representation of Persons. Infant Behavior and Development. 17, 83-99.

This study is done on imitation in infants and asks how memory plays a part in the imitation/progress of imitation abilities. It is in the beginning of this experiment that we get most of our needed information. First, that imitation is indeed a part of our human nature to help us learn motor skills and communication at a very primitive non verbal level. It is also said in this study that “the double significance of early imitation is that it is not only a marker of such a representational capacity, but is itself an important engine in infants’ developing understanding of persons” (95). Perhaps in adults we learn how to understand ourselves and others even more through the imitation of heroes/superheroes.

Reynolds, R. (1992). Superheroes: A Modern Mythology. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, Mississippi.

In the interest of showing the evolutionary relationship between mythological figures and our newly created superheroes, Reynolds states “there has arguably been a tendency for comic creators to legitimize their offspring by stressing their resemblance to legendary heroes or gods: a strategy to give their disregarded medium a degree of moral and intellectual uplift.” (53) This reasserts the connections we have drawn between mythological figures and our new superheroes, also identify those traits that push us to make such connections.
He also defines the superhero genre which can then be used to make comparisons and outline the similarities between the superhero at hand, the traits he or she possesses, and the traits that the individual who has chosen this particular superhero wishes he or she could improve on or excel in. “A superhero is marked out from society, is devoted to justice, will stand out due to the ordinariness of his surroundings and will contrast with the mundane nature of his alter-ego. Their stories are mythical and use science and magic indiscriminately to create a sense of wonder.” (16) He links superheroes to ideals that were present in past mythology such as wisdom, strength, stamina, power, quickness, courage, etc.

Weiner, Stephen. Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel. Nantier Beall Mnoustchine Publishing inc. New York, NY. 2003

“Fiction is like a spider’s web attached ever so slightly perhaps but still attached to life at all four corners.” (Virginia Woolfe, pp. 9) As we will see, comic books were not always as popular as they are today. Looking at comic books from a historical perspective, Weiner discusses the rise of superheroes as he mentions how the “comic book world really exploded, however, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a couple of Jewish kids from the Midwest created Superman, ushering in a new tradition in heroic storytelling” (2). Over the years, comic books have evolved from cheap children’s entertainment to a teenager craze to finally “modified to interest adults.” (29) As shown here, comic books are universally popular with all different age groups. Often, young children will identify and name a particular comic book character, or later, the televised version of that character, as his of her favorite and will either stick with it or their interest will evolve as they grow older. In our study, we chose to look at this particular aspect to see if now, as college students, we still reminisce about our childhood heroes, or whether our likes have evolved or changed as we have matured and become exposed to more life changing experiences.
Around the time of the second world war, the typical characters found in comic strips were patriotic in their wear, their attitude, and their behavior. After the war, however, these characters’ popularity would have died out had it not been for the change that the writers came up with. They began introducing “problems everyday people face as well as the problems that went with battling super-villains.” (9) This new twist relaunched the interest of the audiences and gave a new dimension to the “average superhero”. Our new superhero was now someone that could easily be any one of us during the day, but come nightfall, he or she would endorse a secret identity and perform spectacular and heroic acts. This secret identity and prestige received as a result of endorsing a superhero identity led the masses to dream up their own comic strip; one of which they were the superhero with their own superpower. In our survey, we were careful to include this personal fantasy portion as we asked our participants to choose a superhero name and superpower for themselves.

(2005). Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice and the Socratic Way. Open Court: Chicago Illinois.

“One of the most striking pop culture developments of the present day is the strong resurgence of the costumed superhero as an entertainment and cultural icon.” (ix) Categorized as this “cultural icon”, superheroes are now widely recognized as role model figures that we look to for guidance, fantasy, and escape. They are the characters that allow us to leave our everyday lives and identify with powerful beings who have the world at their fingertips. This little taste of power and strength is enough to ignite a greater desire within us; a desire to be like the superheroes, to imitate them in their powers, accomplishments, and more importantly in their popularity and prestige.
“The basic desire to belong is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Our deepest fear is that we are inadequate. (7-8) Many writers, artists, and other people who are in the superhero business have taken up this interesting task because we believe that the stories of these characters embody our deepest hopes and fears, as well as our highest aspirations. (11)” Once again, by embodying our aspirations, these superheroes represent our highest hopes regarding what we can possibly achieve. We seek to push our limits in everything we undertake. Superheroes, therefore, are very attractive in that they appear to have no boundaries or limits to what they can accomplish.
“Superheroes have powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals. And to a person they pursue justice, defending the defenseless, helping those who cannot help themselves, and overcoming evil with the force of good” (11) By accomplishing all of this, superheroes are adopted by their society and are looked to in times of need. They are an innate part of their society and help in every occasion they can. This “belonging” to a group and being admired is something that is very attractive to an average individual’s eye. There is no greater feeling than that of “belonging”. No one wishes to be alone, and even more importantly, no one likes the feeling that he or she is being marginalized by the society to which they wish to belong. The common belief therefore is that if one were to improve certain aspects of his or her identity, than he or she would be welcomed right back into the “in-group” and would then be “popular” and well-liked.
“Superheroes are considered to be memes. A meme is an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, especially imitation. By this imitation, we hope to reproduce the behaviors and traits that first attracted us to the hero and, in doing so, hope to attract others toward us.

Interdisciplinary Approach:
Ideas about heroes and superheroes have also existed in the disciplines of religion, mythology, and history. Every religion has its heroes. Islam has Muhammed, Christianity has Jesus, Buddhists have Buddha, and Judaism has a myriad of heroic prophets and judges. Mythology which goes along with religion has the great Roman/Greek Prometheus and Aeneas. There, as mentioned above, are all of the great historical figures and pop culture idols. Even all of the technology and media involved in the discipline of communications is used greatly in the perpetuation of heroes in our society i.e. movies, TV. and even comic books. There are also large social and cultural factors closely tied to the idea of heroes and superheroes.
This project is interdisciplinary because it concerns various disciplines across the board. From a social perspective, this project outlines what external factors will influence any individual’s desires. Why aren’t we satisfied with what we have or what we are capable of doing? Do societal trends pressure us into wanting change or do we just feel suffocated by the entire buzz going on around us?
Another social perspective of this project is what makes particular personalities and superheroes more popular than others. Why do women choose to identify with Mother Theresa, Lady Di, or Oprah Winfrey whereas men choose to identify with Batman, Superman, and Flash? This can also be analyzed through a biological perspective which would determine the differences between men and women and what each of them wants respectively. Are these different choices caused by biological differences, or by the demands of gender roles placed on society?
One more perspective is the cultural aspect of this project. Not only do our real-life heroes and fictional superheroes have their own real or created history, but some are more or less embedded with our society’s culture. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. has left a legacy behind him that will never die out over time; one that has created social progress that was once unbelievable. Others, like the heroes of Star Wars have now maintained years and years of reverence by many members of society; people who are willing to camp out in front of movie theaters for weeks on end in order to be the first to reach their heroes. How has our culture become so obsessed by what we see as a fictional reality? What aspects of our culture have allowed us to embrace, idolize, and imitate specific characters?

Materials and Methods:
We chose to use the survey found below in order to gather a large amount of data that could then be pooled together in order to draw various conclusions. The goal of our survey was to firstly determine the qualities our pool believed applied to a “hero”. In this way, we will have a self-created definition of hero on which we can then base the rest of our data. Our survey then includes a section in which our participants are asked to rank certain movies and television shows on a scale of 1 to 5 to determine how much they liked each one. After each section, our participants were then asked a series of questions so as to identify the traits and characteristics from their favorite movies and television shows that made them love them so much. Are our participants attracted by the physical appearance of the main characters, their physical strength, their intelligence, their magical abilities, or their service to others?
Then, our participants were asked to agree or disagree with statements regarding their personal esteem and character. Through questions regarding physical aptitude, creativity, intelligence, and interpersonal relationships, we hoped to identify the main strengths of those filling out our surveys. By formulating our questions in such a way, we avoided asking the dreadful question of having someone identify their own weaknesses. Not only could that question be offensive to some, but it also leaves room for much dishonesty. We hypothesize that there will be some sort of connection or parallel between the traits that an individual found attractive within their favorite main character and the traits they identified as personal strengths.
Finally, our participants were asked to name their real-life hero (someone they know personally), their hero (a famous/historical person), and their favorite superhero. For each they were asked whether or not they considered the person they had named to be a role model. By letting them write in the names of their heroes and superheroes, we receive direct data (compared to the indirect data we were receiving by having them rank things). This direct data should hopefully represent their honest feelings about who they admire and strive to imitate in their everyday life. For this reason, we hope that these final elements will help seal our hypotheses about the links that exist between the aspects of ourselves we would like to improve, the traits we have identified as admirable in the media, and the people we strive to imitate on a day to day basis.


Major:
Age:
Sex/Gender:

When you were a kid:
Most children have a fictional character that they absolutely adore, idolize, and perhaps consider to be their hero. Please think back to when you were about 12 years old or maybe even younger and let us know how much you enjoy/ed or think you might enjoy/ed these movies as a kid (1 being you totally loved it and 5 being it made you miserable)

Loved it Miserable


Superman 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Star Wars 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

The Hulk 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Mulan 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

X-Men 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Harry Potter 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Aladdin/Jasmine 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Are there any movies with heroes that you would like to add? Yes/No

Which Ones?

Which one is your top choice? ____________________

What did you like most about your top choice?:

I liked their physical appearance.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked their strength.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked their intelligence.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked the fight scenes.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked that they help others.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked the magic they possess.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

Did you identify with characters listed above?:

I felt that I have qualities in common with them.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I admired their qualities.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I tried to be like them.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
Please think back to when you were about 12 years old or maybe even younger and let us know how much you enjoy/ed or think you might enjoy/ed these movies as a kid (1 being you totally loved it and 5 being it made you miserable)

Loved it Miserable

Smallville 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Sabrina the Teenage Witch 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Ninja Turtles 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Power Rangers 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Care bears 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Miss America Pageant 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Under Dog 1 2 3 4 5 Have Not Seen It

Are there any T.V. Shows with heroes that you would like to add? Yes/No

Which Ones?

Which one is your top choice? _______________________


What do/did you like most about your top choice?:

I liked their physical appearance.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked their strength.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked their intelligence.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


I liked the fight scenes.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked that they help others.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I liked the magic they possess.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


Did you identify with characters listed above?:

I felt that I have qualities in common with them.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I admired their qualities.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I tried to be like them.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


Did you ever dress up as a Superhero? Yes/No

Which one/s?


Currently:
Please answer the following questions as you currently (at your age today) feel about them.


I consider physical activities (i.e. sports, dancing, etc.) to be one of my strengths.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I consider the arts (theatre, drawing, painting, music, etc.) to be one of my strengths.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I consider my interpersonal relationships (social involvement, friendships, extra curriculars, etc.) to be one of my strengths.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I consider my mathematical/logical intelligence to be one of my strengths.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree

I consider my physical appearance to be one of my strengths.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
Do you believe in God, a Higher Power, or Angels? Yes/No

Do you read comic books? Yes/No

Circle all that applies to a hero:

Rich Strong Attractive Intelligent Graceful Caring Intuitive

Big Tall Fast Generous Self Sacrificing Independent

Dependent Cursed Blessed Small Short Slow

Stern Sexy Nerdy Two Sided Troubled

Courageous Brave Underdog Dedicated Funny

Sad Happy Tough Deviant Crazy Patient

Efficient Unique Weird Stubborn Egotistical Powerful

Who is your real life hero (someone you know personally)? _____________________

I consider this person to be a role model.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


Who is your hero (famous/historical person)? _____________________

I consider this person to be a role model.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


Favorite Superhero: _____________________

I consider this person to be a role model.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree


If you were a Superhero what would be your:


Superhero Name?: ____________________


Superpower?: ____________________

Discussion and Conclusions:
We expect the surveys to confirm that the most popularly desired superpowers are the ability to fly, being invisible, and invincibility. We also hope to determine whether people consider being successful, rich, and intelligent as superpowers or if instead, they are simply other more natural traits that are possessed by many. We also expect that men will desire more powers that have to do with physical attributes such as strength, whereas women will desire more powers regarding mental attributes such as intelligence. These results would confirm the common stereotypical beliefs regarding gender roles and gender attributes that society portrays currently.
We believe that while everyone possesses strengths and weaknesses, all participants will not choose to recognize their weaknesses or even their real strength because there is a conscious aspect of not wanting to appear too “pompous” or “weak”. On the other hand, we believe that everyone will name a real-life hero which will probably be a close relative, a highly respected friend, or a popular figure. Also, people will name a fictional hero, probably one that they have followed for a good portion of their life; a childhood hero.

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