A hero will save us!
Movies and TV shows about superheroes have been popping up everywhere in the last decade: Superman, Captain American, Iron Man, and so many more have taken over our screens. We decided to ask TAU professors from different departments what they think about the trend, what it means and where it’s all headed
Anyone exposed to pop culture in the last decade had no choice but to take note of the superhero phenomenon, which has taken over television and cinema screens. Marvel Comics have put out movie after movie featuring characters such as Captain America, Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, while DC Comics has made movies about Batman and Superman and TV shows about Supergirl and The Flash. On top of that there’s the X-Men movies, and streaming shows on Netflix, such as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
It truly seems like superheroes are the men (and women) of the hour in popular culture, and the targer audience for these stories is no longer comic-reading teenagers but adults as well. We wanted to ask – why is this genre suddenly so successful and most importantly, why now?
Technology – for us or against us?
Erez Dvora, a PhD student at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, is currently writing this doctorate about Sublime Experiences in Science Fiction Cinema. Erez explains that the current popularity of the genre is influenced by the technological advances that have altered our lives. The pace of technological innovations and their influence on our daily routine can sometimes cause anxiety about the future.
“The superhero genre is turning into an important crossroads for examining and defining the relationship between man and technology,” says Erez. “Not only in the plot of the movies (although in some it’s certainly a prominent component, especially with the character of Iron Man), but mostly in the sensual experience of technology that the movies have to offer. Every moviegoer has experienced the massive invasion of digital technologies into his or her life, and the movies make them conscious of the way tech promises a new horizon but on the other hand also threatens mankind. The superhero genre is ambivalent: while it supposedly sounds the alarm about new technology, it’s also a celebration of what technology makes possible.
Despite the ambivalence towards technology within the plot itself, from a production perspective, superhero films are the ultimate application of new technologies in the field of digital recording and computer processing,” Erez explains. “Starting from the 90s, film has gradually moved from a material medium (actual film) to a digital medium. The technological advancement has led to a series of upgrades in digital animation, that have allowed a blurring of the boundaries between the human body that’s placed in a “real” space and the body in a virtual space. Special effects allow the creation of superhero films that are exciting from a sensual standpoint like never before – in the movement of superheroes (and with them, the viewers), in the demonstration of various superpowers, etc.”
Erez’s point can easily be demonstrated through the evolution of movies about the character of Superman over the years. The technological advancement is clear, for example, in the scene where Lois Lane, Superman’s love interest, falls from a great height while the hero attempts to save her.