The battle of good versus evil just got a lot more complicated.
The superhero genre dominates the film industry, with “The Avengers: Infinity War” alone muscling up more than $2 billion in worldwide box office revenue since April.
And while most are hyped as family-friendly flicks filled with positive messaging, a new American Academy of Pediatrics study finds comic adaptations as anything but funny.
A questionable superpower was uncovered in the research: “The Avengers” and “Justice League” saviors that viewers of all ages idolize actually glorify violence more than their villainous counterparts.
Researchers screened 10 superhero films released in 2015 and 2016, then tallied violent acts by the “hero” protagonist versus those of the “villain” antagonist. On average, the heroes committed 23 acts of violence per hour — as opposed to their arch enemies’ 18.
“Children and adolescents see the superheroes as ‘good guys,’ and may be influenced by their portrayal of risk-taking behaviors and acts of violence,” says the abstract’s lead author, Dr. Robert Olympia, a professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine & Pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine.
On the “good guys” mayhem menu: hand-to-hand combat (1,021 fights), use of a lethal weapon (659 shots fired), destruction of property (199 acts of vandalism), murder (168 lives ended) and intimidation (including bullying and torture).
Less shocking was the discovery that male characters enacted nearly four times more violent acts than their female counterparts, who averaged just seven per hour. We see you, Wonder Woman and Black Widow.
Relax, fanboys and fangirls, your beloved heroes aren’t fallen yet.
“Co-viewing these movies as a family can be an effective antidote to increased violence in superhero-based films,” says lead study researcher John N. Muller, a medical student at the Penn State University College of Medicine, in a Phys.org article on the study.
But Muller warns against families watching “passively,” which could suggest to children that the violence is condoned.
“By taking an active role in their children’s media consumption by co-viewing and actively mediating,” Muller says, “parents help their children develop critical thinking and internally regulated values.”
The full research results are set to be presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.
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