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Thinking about Journalism with Superman
Unformatted Document Text:  Thinking about Journalism with Superman 12 of more general American cultural values in that his individualism was tied to consumerist values,” reflecting his increasingly lucrative status as a pop culture phenomenon. A new set of storytelling guidelines stipulated that he could not kill villains (as he had with impunity to that point) or destroy private property. 69 Those guidelines were intended to deflect criticism and censorship of the comics industry, but they did not stop a significant backlash against Superman in the years after World War II. Gershon Legman charged that such characters “invest violence with righteousness and prestige” and that “the Superman formula is essentially lynching.” Marshall McLuhan asserted that Superman employed “the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the immature and barbaric mind.” Most notoriously, Fredric Wertham opined in Seduction of the Innocent that Superman corrupted the nation‟s youth by symbolizing proto-fascism “with the big S on his uniform—we should, I suppose, be thankful that it is not an S.S.” 70 However overheated such criticisms may now seem, they are consistent with more contemporary critical concerns that Superman and other superheroes extol a repressive “vigilante justice.” 71 They are also consistent with criticisms that today‟s corporate press is itself unjust in how it “smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of the owners and advertisers as well as the political aims of the owning class” at the expense of quality journalism and those of lesser means. 72 Such concerns about the news media have at times been addressed in Superman. In the movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a sleazy publisher seizes control of the Daily Planet and fires editor Perry White while imposing tabloid values upon the paper. 73 In a Smallville story line paralleling a similar story that had appeared in the Superman comics, Lex Luthor buys the Planet and kills an exposé that Lois Lane is writing about him. (“You want to bury the truth? Buy the media!” an editor bitterly observes.) 74 As early as 1943 in a Superman comic book that seemed to prophesy late capitalism being taken to its logical conclusion, the arch-villainous

Authors: Ehrlich, Matthew.
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Thinking about Journalism with Superman 12 
 
 
of more general American cultural values in that his individualism was tied to consumerist 
values,” reflecting his increasingly lucrative status as a pop culture phenomenon. A new set of 
storytelling guidelines stipulated that he could not kill villains (as he had with impunity to that 
point) or destroy private property.
69
 Those guidelines were intended to deflect criticism and 
censorship of the comics industry, but they did not stop a significant backlash against Superman 
in the years after World War II. Gershon Legman charged that such characters “invest violence 
with righteousness and prestige” and that “the Superman formula is essentially lynching.” 
Marshall McLuhan asserted that Superman employed “the strong-arm totalitarian methods of the 
immature and barbaric mind.” Most notoriously, Fredric Wertham opined in Seduction of the 
Innocent that Superman corrupted the nation‟s youth by symbolizing proto-fascism “with the big 
S on his uniform—we should, I suppose, be thankful that it is not an S.S.”
70
 However overheated 
such criticisms may now seem, they are consistent with more contemporary critical concerns that 
Superman and other superheroes extol a repressive “vigilante justice.”
71
 
 
They are also consistent with criticisms that today‟s corporate press is itself unjust in how 
it “smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of the owners and advertisers as well as 
the political aims of the owning class” at the expense of quality journalism and those of lesser 
means.
72
 Such concerns about the news media have at times been addressed in Superman. In the 
movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a sleazy publisher seizes control of the Daily Planet 
and fires editor Perry White while imposing tabloid values upon the paper.
73
 In a Smallville story 
line paralleling a similar story that had appeared in the Superman comics, Lex Luthor buys the 
Planet and kills an exposé that Lois Lane is writing about him. (“You want to bury the truth? 
Buy the media!” an editor bitterly observes.)
74
 As early as 1943 in a Superman comic book that 
seemed to prophesy late capitalism being taken to its logical conclusion, the arch-villainous 


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