Superheroes send wrong image to boys: Researchers

MUMBAI: Watching superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviours, according to psychologists who spoke at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. 
Psychologist Sharon Lamb says, "There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday.

"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. "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.
To understand how the media and marketers package masculinity to boys, Lamb surveyed 674 boys aged 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.

Lamb and her co-authors found that marketers 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.

Lamb adds, "In today’s media, superheroes and slackers are the only two options boys have.

"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"

Teaching boys early on to distance themselves from these images and encouraging them to find the lies in the messages can help, said Lamb. "When you crowd out other types of media messages, you promote stereotypes and limit their options."

Boys seem better adjusted when they resist internalizing "macho" images, according to a researcher who also presented at APA’s convention.

Researcher Carlos Santos of Arizona State University, examined 426 middle school boys’ ability to resist being emotionally stoic, autonomous and physically tough — stereotyped images of masculinity — in their relationships. He also looked at how this would affect their psychological adjustment.
Santos looked at whether boys could resist being tough, emotionally unavailable, and detached from their friends as they moved from sixth to eighth grade; whether ethnicity made a difference; whether their relationships with their families and peer group fostered this resistance; and whether resisting these images affected their psychological health.

Participants were from different racial/ethnic backgrounds: 20 per cent were African-American, nine per cent were Puerto Rican, 17 per cent were Dominican-American, 21 per cent were Chinese-American, 27 per cent were European-American and six per cent were of another race or ethnicity.

Boys from diverse ethnic and racial groups were equally able to resist these masculine stereotypes, going against the common belief that certain ethnic minority boys are more emotionally stunted and hypermasculine, said Santos. Few differences were detected and most tended to dissipate over the course of middle school.

He found that boys were more likely to act tough and detached from their friends as they got older. But boys who remained close to their mothers, siblings and peers did not act as tough and were more emotionally available to their friends compared to those who were not as close. However, closeness to fathers encouraged boys to be more autonomous and detached from friendships.

"If the goal is to encourage boys to experience healthy family relationships as well as healthy friendships, clinicians and interventionists working with families may benefit from having fathers share with their sons on the importance of experiencing multiple and fulfilling relationships in their lives" Santos said. He also found that boys who were depressed had a harder time not acting macho in their friendships.

Interestingly, levels of emotional stoicism tended to remain stable throughout the middle school years and boys who did not adopt these macho behaviors had better psychological health in middle school, he found.

The results show that being able to resist internalizing these macho images —especially aggression and autonomy — declines as boys transition into adolescence and this decline puts their mental health at risk. "Helping boys resist these behaviours early on seems to be a critical step toward improving their health and the quality of their social relationships," said Santos.

Latest Reads
Amagi partners with BARC India to offer monitoring of geo-targeted TV ad-campaigns

Amagi Media Labs has entered into a partnership agreement with India’s apex television viewership monitoring body BARC India to help advertisers monitor geo-targeted ad-campaigns of brands across TV channels.

MAM Media and Advertising AD Agencies
iProspect conceptualises unique digital video for ICICI two-wheeler insurance

iProspect India has conceptualized and executed a unique digital video for ICICI Lombard General Insurance in their latest campaign on two-wheeler insurance.

MAM Media and Advertising AD Agencies
eBay engages consumer with live game on FB

MUMBAI: Festive season is a busy time for Indian brands, especially the e-commerce players given the shopping spree the nation witnessed around the time. Thus it becomes important to brainstorm on new and unique ways to get the consumer’s attention; something different from the unbelievable...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Culture Machine & Quaker Oats aim to feed kids

As the festive mood gathers spirit in the country, Culture Machine’s digital channel Being Indian, in collaboration with Quaker Oats, have released a new campaign. Titled "Ek Muthi Sonu ke Naam", the video urges people to pause and spare a thought to the millions of children who go hungry.

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
BTVi unveils new brand positioning

BTVi has unveiled its new positioning, #OpinionsThatCount, aimed at impacting the opinions of the influencers. With this, BTVi will be the voice and choice of the influential. An integrated campaign will be launched primarily catering to influencers, key decision makers and opinion makers.

MAM Media and Advertising People
Cornitos unveils 'Crispy' mascot

Cornitos, the flagship brand of Greendots Health food Ltd, rolled out its new brand campaign announcing the launch of its mascot. With its inception in 2009, it is for the first time that the brand has given a face to its much-loved Nachos category.

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Barbie's 'Power Of Play': Mattel, BBDO remind parents

MUMBAI: Mattel Asia has launched a new video for its Barbie® brand as part of its broader initiative to empower girls. Mattel Asia, takes on the widely held belief in Asia that imaginative play is not important to a child’s development, with the release of, “The Power of Play with Barbie,” a part...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
Zee Mundo hires Steinbranding

MUMBAI: Steinbranding, the international design agency with headquarters in Buenos Aires, responsible for the image of more than 50 channels worldwide, was chosen by the major Indian media group, Zee Entertainment Enterprises to create the brand, naming and on-air & off-air branding for Zee...

MAM Marketing Brands
Exquisite partners with Warner Bros. consumer products

Exquisite, an innovative and experienced player in the EMEA market, has teamed up with Warner Bros. Consumer Products EMEA (WBCP EMEA), on behalf of DC Entertainment, to create the first retail loyalty programmes featuring DC Super Heroes.

MAM Marketing Brands

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories