Date of Award

Spring 4-26-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mary Magoulick

Second Advisor

Alex Blazer

Third Advisor

Julian Knox


Superheroes have always been used as tools of escapism. From their insurgence into popular culture in the 1930s, to their animation in television programs, and appearance in films in the late 1970s until now, superheroes have allowed audiences an avenue through which they could imagine an alternate, utopian reality. Through the analyses of modern superhero films, audiences are able to connect how the genre reflects larger social and political fears in the wake of such unexpected realities: fear of annihilation after the 9/11 attacks and existing in a potentially unsafe America following the election of Donald Trump. The superhero film has become an exploratory space through which audiences are emboldened to action by the reflections of our own sociopolitical climate. As the genre shifts away from therapeutic intentions, it moves towards criticism of government action. Tracking the movements through some of the most popular adaptations in the genre, a connection can be made wherein audiences’ projected interpretations of the film’s messages implies the predominant sociopolitical fear of the time, despite authorial intent or production timeline of the films. Analyzing modern superhero films in the sociopolitical climate of 2019 reveals a distinct evolution towards representations of marginalized groups. More recent superhero films then act as avenues through which audiences connect their own national consciousness onto the films’ ideologies.