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Superheros Send Wrong Image to Boys, Kristen Bell's Indie Role, Edie Falco on Sopranos Movie

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood August 16, 2010 at 9:30AM

-The identity of the American male is in flux and current superhero movies are sending the wrong image to boys, say researchers at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. There's a difference between today's movie superheros and the past's comic book heros, says Sharon Lamb, PhD: "Today's superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence, he's aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns." Past comic book heros were characters that boys could "look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes," she adds, "they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities."
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Thompson on Hollywood

-The identity of the American male is in flux and current superhero movies are sending the wrong image to boys, say researchers at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. There's a difference between today's movie superheros and the past's comic book heros, says Sharon Lamb, PhD: "Today's superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence, he's aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns." Past comic book heros were characters that boys could "look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes," she adds, "they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities."

In their research of 674 boys and numerous mall sales clerks, Lamb and her colleagues discovered that marketers target boys' adolescent struggle for identity, and serve up a specific slice of masculinity. The two options are: "player" and "slacker." Boys are learning that "if you can't be a superhero, you can always be a slacker," says Lamb. "Slackers are funny, but slackers are not what boys should strive to be; slackers don't like school and they shirk responsibility. We wonder if the messages boys get about saving face through glorified slacking could be affecting their performance in school." The superhero (or "player") and slacker are certainly frequent types in mainstream and indie films alike. Paging Richard Linklater.

Thompson on Hollywood

- If Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is the high-brow ballet thriller, than Dance of the Mirlitons is its younger, less glamourous (and funnier) little sister. The indie flick was just revived when Kristen Bell signed on to play the overbearing mother of a pudgy ballerina determined to become a star, a la Little Miss Sunshine. Writer/director Evan Greenberg has worked on the story from middle school to NYU film school to the 2005 Blacklist; it's now back in his hands and he's ready to go: "I've never felt about anything like I do about this. It's etched in my psyche," he tells THR, believing the "best projects are the ones that take the most elbow grease to get made." Bell's comedic timing and authenticity give producer Daniel Dubiecki confidence that the 30-year old actress will, along with a yet-to-be-discovered young girl, make the film a success.

Thompson on Hollywood


- THR also spoke with eight-time Emmy nominee (and three-time winner) Edie Falco, whose reign on The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie have made her TV royalty. The two characters she's been nominated for "couldn't be more different," she says, "and I love it. It's thrilling to run the gamut as far as characters are concerned. Jackie is someone I hadn't explored before. Luckily, there's still plenty more to discover." On the myth of a Sopranos feature film: "Stranger things have happened. I would definitely be interested in being involved…I would also love to go back there and see all the people I love again…I'm not the one making the decisions and I would jump at the chance to participate." And on which fellow nominee's character she'd like to step into: "Tina Fey as Liz Lemon. She is such an immense talent. I just want to be on that set."

This article is related to: Awards, Franchises, Genres, Daily Read, TV, Emmys, Transformers, Iron Man, Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, X-Men, Comics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.