Friday, July 13, 2007

Superheroes aren't for kids anymore?

Let me begin by saying that I haven’t actually seen Transformers yet.

But Transformers is only the latest in a long line of movies that raise the question of “Who is this movie for, exactly?”

Superman Returns, Spider-Man (1, 2 and 3), Batman Begins, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - the list goes on an on. All of these are movies that I watched and enjoyed. All of them are films that, as a fan of the genre (Ok, sure, Star Wars isn’t a comic-book movie. But if the Jedi aren’t superheroes, they’re certainly close cousins.) I deeply enjoyed. They were high-action, reasonably well acted and had incredible special effects.

1978’s Superman directed by Richard Donner may have made you believe that a man can fly, but Superman Returns made the orphan from Krypton believable as a near-god.

Until, of course, it didn’t, and we saw Kal-El stomped into the dirt by Lex Luthor’s goons.

And here is where I stop and wonder, “Who are these forms of entertainment for?”

As an adult fan, I can appreciate the darker, more violent, and more realistic storylines. The brutality of the fights in Spider-Man show what a superhero fight would really be like. The devastation and mistrust in Marvel’s Civil War make total sense to me.

But as a parent… I worry. My love for Star Wars, superheroes, the Transformers, and even G.I. Joe were formed as a child. And I don’t know that films in this genre which routinely get a PG-13 rating are going to do the same thing for the new generation of kids. More importantly, I don’t know that they should.

I saw Transformers: The Movie when I was nine. But I wouldn’t want a nine-year old seeing Michael Bay’s Transformers. I want to go see it, sure. But there’s a world of difference between seeing an animated Cybertron eaten by Unicron and watching giant robots smash realistic automobiles with people still inside of them.

I don’t know what the answer is, mind you. As an adult fan, I want these “more mature” genre films to be made. What held my interest at twelve may not do so at thirty. But I want a Superman movie I can share with my daughters. I want to be able to take my kids to a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away and let them thrill at the desperate struggles of the Rebel Alliance.

This isn’t about strict adherence to the originals. I don’t want that. Make the spider which bites Peter Parker a genetically modified spider created by Oscorp instead of a radioactive spider. Change the membership of the X-Men. Redesign the Autobots and Decepticons to reflect modern vehicles. That’s fine. Strive for storylines that will engage the original fans of the properties, now adults. But can’t we still have something that the kids of today can enjoy?

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I need to accept that Transformers, and Star Wars, and Spider-Man and Superman and Batman and all the others aren’t for our kids. They were ours as kids, and they’ll remain ours – passing away to obscurity as we grow older and die. And fifteen years from now, some bright director will remake Pokemon for the twenty-somethings of the year 2020. And it will be dark and gritty, and inappropriate for their kids, who will have their own new mythology created for them.

But I kinda hope not.

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Blogger Brandon said...

I think your penultimate paragraph (that is, if you count the last sentence as a paragraph) nails it for my analysis, and I for one am not sad about it. Sure, our kids won't have Transformers (at least, until there 13 or older), but they have some pretty freaking awesome stuff of their own (read: not just rehashes of our fandom): Avatar, Danny Phantom, Fairly Oddparents. Maybe I can't read Green Arrow with "Sesame" for several years, but there's still Ultimate Spider-Man, The Runaways, and others that are available (and The Incredibles on the movie end). And, when s/he's old enough, we can enjoy GA together.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

But herein lies the difference. The science fiction/superhero stories that our parents enjoyed they were able to share with us. And now those same properties aren't going to be something we can share with our children.

That's where my issue is.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

But is that really the case? I'm the statistical anamoly here, having not read my first superhero comic until I was over 20, so I didn't get a lot from my parents. However, I can think of many things I can still share with my children from my "childhood": Gargoyles, Reboot, Spider-Man, and even Transformers (whether it be the new cartoons, the old cartoons or basically anything besides the live action movie). While maybe some of the newest stuff may not be approrpariate for a younger kid (though Incredibles, Static Shock, Teen Titans, and Runaways, among others, I think show that isn't always the case), we still have The Hulk television series, Superman I, Super Friends, most of the Star Wars series, and countless other stuff. What we grew up with we can still share. It hasn't gone anywhere. It's just some of the newer expressions that might not be age-appropriate, and I think that's fine. Sure, I want to wait a few years more before "Sesame" and I sit down to watch "Superman Returns" than with Superman I, but if I were 20 years older, I would have done the same thing with Burton's "Batman".

And that brings up an important point about age we've been skirting. At what point is something no longer able to be considered something we can "share with our children"? Does waiting till your child is 13 (which I would say is the age I would let my kid watch any of the recent comic movies, obviously excepting Sin City and the like) mean it's no longer for him or her? From the other side, how young is it before it's inappropriate for children to interact with superhero stories of any kind, with the vilence that is always a major part of them? I'm not arguing a "seduction of the innocent" or anything, but it seems to me the concept of superheroes has an age limit in and of itself.

So, the question for me becomes what are you looking for? What were the things you saw and read at what ages that you feel are being missed out on by our children? What ages aren't getting the superhero materials we got in our childhood at that age?

11:26 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I think there is a way to keep all the properties somewhat kid friendly. Marvel has Spider-man and Avenger comics written specifically for younger audiences. I'd consider the animated Batman, Teen Titans, Superman, and JLU cartoons to be kid friendly (certainly wasn't any worse than any cartoons I watched as a kid).

However to keep the properties kid friendly, it will require a conscious effort on the part of the comic companies establish separate lines and good sales to justify those lines in order to do so.

4:52 PM  

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