How Superheroes Continue To Shape Pop Culture

How Superheroes Continue To Shape Pop Culture

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Since comic books first introduced the idea of larger-than-life heroes, they have shaped popular culture and entire generations through messages of selfless actions, inspiring leadership, and tackling even everyday situations with a solid moral compass. One of the newest versions of this phenomenon is DC’s Stargirl, launched initially on the DC Universe platform and recently renewed for a third season. This series builds on the success of the Arrowverse shows and has already established itself with crossovers and a popular first-season release. It follows the journey of high school student Courtney Whitmore who finds Starman’s cosmic staff and decides to suit up.

Leading the Way

As classic comic book heroes have done since the early 1930s, newer superheroes are showing today’s audiences what it means to lead and what it means to be a hero in the current cultural climate. A resurgence of younger and less well-known superheroes is evident in DC’s Stargirl, with Geoff Johns as Executive Producer. In this popular television series, the title character suits up to help track down surviving members of the Injustice Society of America, ISA. They destroyed Starman’s Justice Society ten years prior, the same time Courtney’s dad disappeared.

While the first time Courtney uses the staff is arguably an act of revenge instead of justice, she quickly changes course and motivations. As in the comics of the same name, Stargirl gathers other young heroes and ends up leading the new Justice Society of America, JSA, while maintaining the secret identity of a seemingly typical high school student. One of the ways she demonstrates leadership abilities and a strong sense of right and wrong is by reaching out to classmates in danger of turning evil and trying to convince them to be heroes instead.

Shaping Moral Compasses

Bullying is one of many topics Stargirl and the JSA tackle, with the characters sorted into “bully” and “bullied” fairly early on. While this could easily be dismissed as a popular high school drama topic, the show also confronts the idea that you can break out of abuse cycles and choose to be a good person by reaching out to those who would be shoe-ins for the new ISA. Teaching young people that they are not alone and can find the help they need to break out of the cycle and make amends is a far cry from the slapstick “bullies get what they deserve” lessons from past generations of pop culture shows. This compassion can help shape moral compasses and humanize people on all sides of the situation, showing that both the bully and the bullied should be viewed with empathy because you do not always know the complete picture.

Strong superheroes known for leadership skills and selfless acts are a trademark of DC comics and have shaped cultural expectations for nearly a century. New popularity for the genre in movies and television is sparking more recent and younger heroes, like Stargirl. These shows can tackle social issues such as bullying while delivering larger-than-life action sequences and solid storytelling which appeal to comic book fans of all ages.

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