Superheroes Around the World

When I was conducting my big research project for my post-doctoral post at Roskilde University with the Virtual Worlds Research Group, I wanted to use the superhero genre as a common content in order to compare how people made sense of different communication technologies.  However, I was over in Denmark, and my colleagues were concerned that superheroes were not as well-known of a genre there as it is in the United States.

In order to answer this question, I conducted a worldwide survey where I asked people to define what a superhero is to them.  Hundreds of people responded, and their responses showed just how globalized the genre had become thanks to decades of movies, television shows, and the Internet diffusing the conventions and big names.  At the same time, I started to notice how different countries and cultures were appropriating the images and ideas of superheroes, either into their own pop culture or public discourse, or by creating their own heroes to reflect their own social and cultural ideals.

This project is a consideration of the globalization of superheroes by studying the reception, appropriation, and glocalization of this inherently American cultural product.

  • This presentation from Denmark relayed the results of how people around the world define a superhero.
  • And this is the paper that is the basis for that presentation.
  • This essay reflects thoughts I have had on how to define a superhero, based on this survey as well as work I’ve done since graduate school.
  • This essay extends on the survey results by considering just how the American superhero has become a global icon through cultural representation and appropriation.
  • This essay takes the idea of defining superheroes a step further by looking into older figures, both of legends and religions, to consider if they meet the definition.
  • By considering what defines a superhero, this presentation also considers what makes them possible role models.
  • And if they are role models, then this essay considers whether or not that is a good thing.
  • Also, I am looking for more examples of people appropriating the superhero genre and idea into their own cultural and national milieu.

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